Holy Rule for Nov. 3
Some newer and more tragic numbers have emerged from the Baghdad Syrian Catholic Cathedral hostage taking: 37 are dead, including all of the attackers, one of whom activated a suicide bomb, and 56 wounded. Hopefully no more will be added to the killed list, which alas, includes three priests who were celebrating the Liturgy. Prayers for them all and for the brave libertors who stormed the Church to end the crisis.
Prayers for Meredith, Jared and Jordan who are preparing for Confirmation. May the Holy Spirit touch them and lead them!
Prayers for the eternl rest of Maureen, who passed away suddenly on the Feast of All Saints. Bless her and her family who are in mourning.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace, God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
March 4, July 4, November 3
Chapter 27: How Solicitous the Abbot Should Be for the
Let the Abbot be most solicitous in his concern for delinquent
brethren, for "it is not the healthy but the sick who need a
physician" (Matt 9:12) And therefore he ought to use every means
that a wise physician would use. Let him send senpectae, that is,
brethren of mature years and wisdom, who may as it were secretly
console the wavering brother
and induce him to make humble satisfaction; comforting him that he
may not "be overwhelmed by excessive grief" (2 Cor. 2:7), but that,
as the Apostle says, charity may be strengthened in him (2 Cor.
2:8). And let everyone pray for him.
For the Abbot must have the utmost solicitude and exercise all
prudence and diligence
lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him. Let him know that
what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls and not a tyranny
over strong ones; and let him fear the Prophet's warning through
which God says, "What you saw to be fat you took to yourselves, and
what was feeble you cast away" (Ezec. 34:3,4). Let him rather
imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-
nine sheep in the mountains
and went to look for the one sheep that had gone astray, on whose
weakness He had such compassion that He deigned to place it on His
own sacred shoulders and thus carry it back to the flock (Luke 15:4-
This is the chapter that makes the entire penal code (as it is
usually termed,) of the Holy Rule clear. Drop this one and it DOES
become mean. The Abbot (or parent or teacher or boss or spouse,) is
actually called to exercise super concern for the fallen. Hence, it
is clear that the whole purpose of punishment in the Holy Rule is
only to heal, to reform. It is an action of great hope, not a cop
out of exclusion, not simply writing a person off because of the
How often do we "punish" another, or even ourselves, as a means of
write-off, of abdication of our responsibility to love? Both the
Gospel and St. Benedict teach us that is wrong, it is not a
Christian response and not at all the way we should "conveniently"
unload ourselves of a troubled human being in our lives.
All of us charged with the care of others must pay close attention
to this chapter. It is so easy to love the "perfect" child or the
whiz kid student. It is so easy to heap acceptance and confident
affirmation on the types of employees who least need it, while the
strugglers and the strays have their feelings of inferiority
confirmed. People of any age quite often stoop to the level that
others expect of them. We must offer them the best chance we can to
do and be all that they can.
The world will offer all the empty praise that is necessary to the
successful. It is the shallow way of the world to do so. Christians
and monastics, however, are called to be OTHER than the world.
There has to be something topsy-turvy in the way we love that
becomes puzzlingly apparent. We have to love the underdog, even
when the underdog is driving us slowly nuts. This doesn't mean we
don't love the holy and good ones, it means we never, never fail to
love the plodders. It means that we always remember that we are
in many ways ourselves.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
******Somehow I skipped Nov. 28 and ran the 30th yesterday, so here's the
reading for the 28th to catch up.
March 29, July 29, November 28
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
From the Calends of October until the beginning of Lent,
let them apply themselves to reading
up to the end of the second hour.
At the second hour let Terce be said,
and then let all labor at the work assigned them until None.
At the first signal for the Hour of None
let everyone break off from her work,
and hold herself ready for the sounding of the second signal.
After the meal
let them apply themselves to their reading or to the Psalms.
On the days of Lent,
from morning until the end of the third hour
let them apply themselves to their reading,
and from then until the end of the tenth hour
let them do the work assigned them.
And in these days of Lent
they shall each receive a book from the library,
which they shall read straight through from the beginning.
These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.
But certainly one or two of the seniors should be deputed
to go about the monastery
at the hours when the sisters are occupied in reading
and see that there be no lazy sister
who spends her time in idleness or gossip
and does not apply herself to the reading,
so that she is not only unprofitable to herself
but also distracts others.
If such a one be found (which God forbid),
let her be corrected once and a second time;
if she does not amend,
let her undergo the punishment of the Rule
in such a way that the rest may take warning.
Moreover, one sister shall not associate with another
at inappropriate times.
Lectio divina, sacred reading, is the Benedictine form of
contemplation, more ancient than many later forms, both Carmelite and
Athonite. Being so ancient, it comes with very few directions. Much
of its "method" has been developed and handed down by monastics over
the centuries since St. Benedict.
Even in that embellished form, it remains a very, very simple and
efficient means to contemplative prayer. One simply reads Scripture
or the Fathers (or Mothers!) slowly, reflectively, ruminating (like a
cow chewing its cud!) on each word and verse. As St. Romuald later
observed, one waits like a chick for whatever its mother gives it.
One does not read to get through the book. One reads to see if and
when the Holy Spirit calls us to higher prayer with a word or phrase
that strikes the heart. At that point, one should follow one's heart
and not worry about finishing the page! Cleared for takeoff!
It is interesting that St. Benedict weaves all these schedules of
contemplative reading and prayer together with his manual labor
concerns, without any ado. There's another example of the dignity and
holiness of work in a Benedictine theology. Our work, too, is prayer.
It must be.
We must, somehow, learn to be all prayer. That same
ruminative mindfulness that colors our lectio must color our labor as
well. It is a different form of attention, a different form of
prayer, but it is prayer nonetheless! Just ask any gardener or cook
with a mystical heart or, for that matter, any toilet cleaner or
diaper changer of the same ilk!
The Carmelites prescribe mental prayer, which should, with
recollection, spread throughout one's day. The hesychasts of Mount
Athos, Romania and Russia stress the Jesus Prayer, said vocally until
it becomes automatic in the heart at all times. Both of these are
more explicit methodologies, but the Benedictine aim is the same:
prayer without ceasing, prayer in choir and garden and cell, prayer
at reading and prayer at work. Mindfulness of God at all times is the
contemplative goal of all these systems.
This is just my own opinion, but I am inclined to think that the
Dominican concept of contemplation comes closest to our own, largely
because of their love of study. Study, for the Dominican, is often
very similar to lectio in the Benedictine scheme of things. Why?
Because the Dominican seeks Truth, and Jesus said: "I am the Truth."
A Dominican could be reading virtually anything and still know that
of real, objective truth garnered from that reading would be yet
another shard, no matter how small, in the infinite mosaic of the
face of Christ. That is a mosaic none of us shall ever complete in
this life, but oh, how much more familiar He shall seem to us when we
meet Him because of it!
Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I think that a Dominican education,
such as I had, is a wonderful preparation for Benedictine life.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]