Holy Rule for Dec. 15
Prayers, please, for Mark, 47, and Gregory, 57, both of whom took their own lives: for their eternal rest, for their families and all who mourn them.
Prayers, please, for Br. Vincent on his birthday, graces and blessings and ad
multos annos, many years!
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 15, August 15, December 15
Chapter 61: How Pilgrim Monks Are To Be Received
If a pilgrim monastic coming from a distant region
wants to live as a guest of the monastery,
let her be received for as long a time as she desires,
provided she is content
with the customs of the place as she finds them
and does not disturb the monastery by superfluous demands,
but is simply content with what she finds.
If, however, she censures or points out anything reasonably
and with the humility of charity,
let the Abbess consider prudently
whether perhaps it was for that very purpose
that the Lord sent her.
If afterwards she should want to bind herself to stability,
her wish should not be denied her,
especially since there has been opportunity
during her stay as a guest
to discover her character.
One of the Desert Fathers (forgive me for not recalling which one,)
said that there is nothing so careful as a monk not living in his
native land. That's very true for most of us, though part two of this
chapter makes it clear that it's not true for everyone. When we
visit, we want people to think the best of the home, the family, the
land from which we came. It is this nobility of striving, this
mindful courtesy that the Desert Father wished to praise. In fact, if
I read it correctly, the implication was that it might even be better
to be a monastic AWAY from one's native land for just those reasons.
There is something striking here. Remember how badly the gyrovagues
and Sarabaites were painted in the types of monks? Well, these were
the wandering ones, and St. Benedict knew very well that a pilgrim
monk at the door could be one of these sorts. He doesn't even mention
He wants them to have a chance to do better, to be healed by
community. If they louse it up, fine, he's not going to lose a lot of
sleep over it, but he does insist they be given a chance to improve.
Given what the monastic world thought of gyrovagues and the like,
that says a LOT for St. Benedict's tolerance and clemency.
Not all of us are in cloisters, but all of us have doors. The people
who come to those doors may be gyrovagues and Sarabaites, but they
may not, too. We have to give them a chance to prove or reveal
themselves. This is true of anyone we encounter. Snap judgments are
not wise, they cheat us out of many gifts. Being too much or too
little on the side of caution are both traps. Tread the middle way,
always the middle way.
This doesn't mean we have to dupe ourselves into perpetual
vulnerability, but it does mean we have to be open, mindful and
listening, really listening to all comers. Listen first, sift later.
Do both, always both.
We can get so used to our lives that we are blind to areas that could
be improved. We can get so used to doing things one way that anything
better is beyond us. Our routines which become sacrosanct are often
not at all that holy!
An outsider's objective view can let us see a good deal about
ourselves. Some things we may want to change, some we may realize are
fine as they are. Either way, the visitor can be a reality check of
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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