Holy Rule for Dec. 18
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of Kelly, who turned septic after a gall bladder operation and is now in ICU, prayers, too, for all her loved ones and all who take care of her.
Lord, help us all as you know and will. God's will is best. All is mery and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 18, August 18, December 18
Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community
Let all keep their places in the monastery
established by the time of their entrance,
the merit of their lives and the decision of the Abbot.
Yet the Abbot must not disturb the flock committed to him,
nor by an arbitrary use of his power ordain anything unjustly;
but let him always think
of the account he will have to render to God
for all his decisions and his deeds.
Therefore in that order which he has established
or which they already had,
let the brethren approach to receive the kiss of peace and Communion,
intone the Psalms and stand in choir.
And in no place whatever should age decide the order
or be prejudicial to it;
for Samuel and Daniel as mere boys judged priests.
Except for those already mentioned, therefore,
whom the Abbot has promoted by a special decision
or demoted for definite reasons,
all the rest shall take their order
according to the time of their entrance.
Thus, for example,
he who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day,
whatever be his age or his dignity,
must know that he is junior
to one who came at the first hour of the day.
Boys, however, are to be kept under discipline
in all matters and by everyone.
St. Benedict, who has stressed fairness in so many ways, even
equality, also insists on order, hence the title of this chapter. But
it is an order which is largely established by God: the time of
entrance. God calls when He chooses, whomever He chooses. When that
person responds, that, for the most part, is going to determine their
place in community.
Families, too, need order.
We are used to hearing sibling rivalry horror stories that traipse
far into adult life as psychological baggage. How many of them might
have been avoided if, as St. Benedict prescribed for his family,
order was never decided by capriciousness and affection was equal.
Children cannot understand favoritism and rightly so. But a child
could be a bit more comfortable with rewards for good behavior, or for
the merit of their siblings' lives. That might annoy them, true, but at
least it is something they, too, can work towards. Arbitrary
affectional preference is not.
Note that St. Benedict leaves the Abbot free to advance anyone for
his own reasons, but immediately tacks on a warning that the Abbot
must not disturb his flock and that he must give an account of his
stewardship. Abbots are human, not infallible. Human affection can
enter into their choices and St. Benedict warns them against that.
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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