Holy Rule for Dec. 8
Prayers for the eternal rest of an elderly Christian couple,Hikmat Sammak and his wife, Samira, who were stabbed to death in their Baladiyat neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite area.
The couple had sold their house and gone to live in Ainkawa-Erbil in the north. They had returned to Baghdad days ago to finalize the transaction and sell their furniture.
Prayers, please, for the United States, on this Solemnity of the Immaculate
Conception, our patroness and for all under her patronage. We could sure use the prayers! May we do God's will
and reflect His Kingdom.
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
April 8, August 8, December 8
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren
For bedding let this suffice:
a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a pillow.
The beds, moreover, are to be examined frequently by the Abbot,
to see if any private property be found in them.
If anyone should be found to have something
that he did not receive from the Abbot,
let him undergo the most severe discipline.
And in order that this vice of private ownership
may be cut out by the roots,
the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles:
cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt,
knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets;
that all pretext of need may be taken away.
Yet the Abbot should always keep in mind
the sentence from the Acts of the Apostles
that "distribution was made to each according as anyone had need"
In this manner, therefore,
let the Abbot consider weaknesses of the needy
and not the ill-will of the envious.
But in all his decisions
let him think about the retribution of God.
This chapter may appear to have little to say to Oblates until one
gives a more evangelical twist to it: "where your treasure is, there
your heart shall be also." The monastic who has separate sources of
income has a safety net, a way to ask for things (or get them without
asking!) that would otherwise unlikely be available. Not only is this
bad for the common unity, it is bad for the monastic, too. It
scatters one's focus and diminishes one's dependency on God. It
leaves dangling threads of control all over one's life.
Oblates in the world, have to have some source of income, whatever
that may be, but they can readily and profitably examine where their
treasure lies. They can also make sure that those who depend on them
have all they truly need, yet keep them from getting spoiled or
carried away with consumerist fluff. Especially at this holiday
season, when the television is filled with a horrendous glut of
materialist orgy, our Benedictine hearts should say: "Enough really
But do we say that, or are we to some degree sucked into the lunacy
of a secular winter fest? (One can no longer even say "pagan" of the
secular winter fest. At least the pagans, whatever their lacks may
be, believe in SOMETHING and worship. That can no longer be said of
much of the world's hoopla at this time of year.)
As Christians and as Benedictines, we have an awesome
responsibility to be witnesses against that secular falsehood,
against the extremes of consumerism which rob so many of life and
maim our planet which we must share with all. Not only is the planet
harmed, but goods are distributed with such glaring inequity and even
the hapless consumers are often left with debts (and credit rates!)
that enslave them years into the future. All in the name of what?
Surely not the kind of "honor" Jesus would have sought for His birth
Benedictine attitudes toward poverty are not deprivation, but they
are not excess, either. Always, always moderation. For us, virtue
truly does stand in the middle way!
Love and prayers,
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Prayers for Fr. E., discerning a vocation to religious life.
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
April 11, August 11, December 11
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.
After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.
If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.
Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.
The most important thing that St. Benedict asks of all of us on
entrance into the monastic way is whether we truly seek God. Whether
Abbot Primate or newest Oblate novice, that is what we are asked by
the Holy Rule. It is a question we shall be asked for the rest of our
lives, and one to which we must strive (and often struggle!) to say yes,
again and again, day after day.
"Quaeremus inventum," said St. Augustine: "Let us seek Him Whom we
have found." In truth a certain "finding" of God is necessary to whet
our appetite, to lead us to seek Him more deeply. Once that happens,
however, we can go on seeking God for the rest of time and eternity
and never get to the end of His infinite love and mercy. Even in
heaven the journey will go on, with us always being creature and Him
always loving Creator. We will never end our quest, but we will love
it, we will never reach the essence of God, but that will never
frustrate us in heaven. It's an adventure we shall love.
If we do not seek God, there is no point whatever in becoming a monastic.
St. Bernard once said something to the effect that, if one is going to go to
hell, one should choose the broad way of the world, where at least there
is comfort of a sort on the way, not the narrow way of the monastery, where
one would go from hard life to hell. I haven't paraphrased him too well, but
I hope it is clear enough. No one should waste time with monastic life if
are not seeking God, seeking to go deeper into Him. To do so would be
After novitiate, our commitment to conversion of manners obliges us to
ever seek, to ever try to improve, to never give up the quest
entirely. A Benedictine who has stopped trying to be better and
stopped seeking God is in deep, maybe even fatal trouble. We always
seek and strive. It is the very stuff of our lives as monastics.
This chapter, by the way, led to the traditional division we now have
of the Holy Rule into dates that will result in it all being read
three times a year. The novices had to hear it three times anyway and
elsewhere St. Benedict had asked that all in community hear
it "frequently." Hence, this system was devised to cover both fronts!
Love and prayers,
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