Holy Rule for Nov. 29
******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]
Prayers for the healing of Layla, 5, who broke two bones in her arm while skating, and for her family, who are wooried about her.
Prayers that E. will return to Confession after many years.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Catherine, and for her family, especially her daughter, Eliza, and all who mourn her.
Birthday prayers for Kathy and Fr. Patrick, graces galore and many more, ad multos annos!
Prayers for the eternal rest of Ernest and his sons Ernest and, Sean, they died at different times a while ago. Prayers for all their family, esp. Maria and Rosemary, and for all who mourn them.
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
February 10, June 11, October 11
Chapter 8: On the Divine Office During the Night
In the winter time,
that is from the Calends of November until Easter,
the sisters shall rise
at what is calculated to be the eighth hour of the night,
so that they may sleep somewhat longer than half the night
and rise with their rest completed.
And the time that remains after the Night Office
should be spent in study
by those sisters who need a better knowledge of the Psalter
or the lessons.
From Easter to the aforesaid Calends of November,
the hour of rising should be so arranged that the Morning Office,
which is to be said at daybreak,
will follow the Night Office after a very short interval,
during which they may go out for the necessities of nature.
In St. Benedict's time, and for centuries afterwards, life on a self-sustaining
farm, which monasteries were supposed to be, was far more difficult and
time consuming than it would be today. The simplest things that we now do
with the flick of a switch were big deals, involving lots of human workers and
every available daylight hour.
Hence, the monks got up early, very early, to get in much of their monastic day
before the sun (and the critters!) rose for the day. There was, of course, a
penitential aspect to this early rising, too, and the ancient Christian practice
of the night vigil.
There's at least a possible hint for Oblates of today in all this. Get up a bit
earlier if you can, and devote those silent and dark morning hours or minutes to
your monastic endeavors. Knock off a late TV favorite and go to bed a tad
earlier. We always find time for what we love most. If, however, one is married
and has a spouse that doesn't want one to blissfully retire at 7:30 or so, this
will not work. Marriage is a primary, sacramental vocation and demands
Two very human glimpses into the personality of St. Benedict here. He
is thoughtful and kind, making sure the monastics have time for a
bathroom run and he is not prudish about mentioning it. Its part of
the human and part of family life. As casually as a Mother asks young
children if anybody "has to go" before a trip, he throws out mention
of the fact that not everyone could make it through two long services
without great discomfort!
Love and prayers,