Holy Rule for Dec. 20
April 20, August 20, December 20
Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess
In the constituting of an Abbess
let this plan always be followed,
that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen
either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God
or else by a part of the community, however small,
if its counsel is more wholesome.
Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine
should determine the choice of the one to be constituted,
even if she be the last of the order of the community.
But if (which God forbid)
the whole community should agree to choose a person
who will acquiesce in their vices,
and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity,
let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked,
and set a worthy steward over the house of God.
They may be sure
that they will receive a good reward for this action
if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God;
as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.
Monasteries can forget sometimes that they are not their own, one of
the unavoidable risks of Benedictine autonomy. While it was usual, in
St. Benedict's day, for monasteries to be under their local bishop
(and still is usual in the East today,) St. Benedict says something
even more telling. The local laity should intervene if the monastery
conspires to elect a loser! Now THAT is going a long way!
Monasteries become dear to those around them, and a sense of
ownership for their local monastery arises in many hearts. St.
Benedict actually endorses that. The monk is not his own, but neither
is the whole community. We belong to the Church, we belong to our own
locale, we belong to the people in a very special way. It entitles
them to warn us that we may have gone amiss and it obliges us to
always recall that our monasteries have ripple effects!
Many of us in the workplace or school, some of us even in marriage,
are forced to deal with people who were NOT chosen for their "merit
of life and wisdom of doctrine." That can be very tough, but grace
and the Holy Rule are there to strengthen us.
The single most important thing the one governed can do to thwart bad
government is NOT to mirror the behavior which is at fault. Two
wrongs can never make a right. All too often, for whatever reason,
people push our buttons and get exactly the sick response from us
that they sickly need. Try not to let that happen. Put a control on
your buttons. Never stoop to the level that annoys you, and believe
me, that stooping is easy to do.
Hard and perennial truth, but most of the things which annoy us most
in others are our own sins, in one form or another.We might reflect those
faults in different areas, in different ways, but this can only help
us in denial. Look, look very carefully at the person who makes you
the most angry. Most of us will not have to look honestly for very
long to see why we are affected strongly.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers for Pluscarden Abbey, on the feast of St. Andrew, one of its patrons, and for all of Scotland, whose patron is also St. Andrew.
On this last day of November, please remember the Holy Souls, the whole month is dedicated to prayer for them, and remember to pray for them throughout the year! Ask them to intercede for you, too, they are great friends to have and they are so very grateful to us for our prayers and help for them.
Prayers for the safety all the people, property, buildings and animals threatened by extreme fires in Tennessee. Many fires are being fought, prayers for those fighting them and trying to help.
Prayers for the people of Mosul and Aleppo, and for all in danger and crisis from fighting and war in these areas.
Prayers for Ann, who has a possible detached retina, that it can be treated successfully. She is also praying to accept God’s will, whatever that may be. The troubled retina is in the better of her eyes, so retaining vision there is very important.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Fr. Andrew and for all his family and all who mourn him.
Prayers for the recovery of the 11 injured in the Ohio State University attack, one of whom is critical. Prayers, too, for the repentance and conversion of the attacker, who was killed, and prayers for his eternal rest and for the families of all.
Prayers for Val, who fell and broke her hip. She is recovering from surgery but is not doing well with uncontrolled blood pressure and is in ICU. Also prayers for her family.
Prayers for Ron, for whom we've prayed, who had open heart surgery postponed. His condition is not great and this surgery needs to happen as soon as possible.
Prayers for Chiara's return to the Church. She is doing so much helping others that she doesn't need to look far to discover Christ's presence in those she helps.
Prayers for Bev and Erika. They are Jehovah's Witnesses. Prayers that they discover the fullness of the faith and truth in the Catholic Church. Also that Bev finds full time work soon.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent. Alleluia!
Thanks so much. JL
March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
"with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
Because we read St. Benedict's 1500 year old Holy Rule with modern
eyes, it often seems harsh. To balance our perspective, we need to
see the radical nature of the Rule when written. Face it, folks, this
was most definitely a gentler Rule for European wannabes who could
never hack it in the Egyptian desert in their wildest dreams. His
introductory paragraph points out his plan of adaptation: "...since
few have the virtue for that..." Our founder was most certainly writing
for the struggling plodders of monasticism and he knew it. Keeping
that uppermost in our minds can be informatively humbling.
St. Benedict's fatherly heart was
with the underdogs, the also rans, the strays and those that others
could not be bothered with. He must have felt at some point that
there HAD to be a way for the spiritually challenged to become
monastics. A millennium and a half later, we are still benefiting
from his attempts.
Hence, for us Benedictines, when the Evil One tempts us with his lies
like: "You could never do that! You could never be THAT holy!"
our reaction must be to ignore him totally. We have no clue
of how holy we can be. God alone knows that and God alone will lead
us and show us in ways we are quite unlikely to ever understand.
Whenever the demon of discouragement tells us we are far beneath this
Rule for beginners, we must shrug indifferently and move on, briefly
impressed for once with the Father of Lies' firm grasp on the obvious.
Of *COURSE* we are beneath this Rule, beneath any of the earlier
ones. Duh?!? We're Benedictines. Our Order was founded for people
like us. That should never, ever be a cause to stop trying, to give
up or quit. On the contrary, that fact should be a heartening
confirmation that we are EXACTLY where we belong, in the best
possible remedial education program for slow learners like us, right
where God wants us.
Like a mother to a crying child, devoid of hope, who moans "But I
CAN'T, I just can't!" St. Benedict is softly saying, "Well,
just do what you can and that will be OK." Get the picture? OK! Then
go out, play nice and do what you can today... Don't be surprised if
you find that God is increasing, sometimes imperceptibly, that "what
you can" little by little to heights of great holiness, which we will
achieve all but unawares and only with His help. Someday, we really
SHALL "run in the way...with hearts enlarged."
Love and prayers,