Holy Rule for Dec. 28
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Allen, admitted to the hospital with fluid on his lungs and possible heart problems.
Sue, brest cancer surgery.
Continued prayers for M, about to be evicted Jan. 4.
Continued prayers and Deo gratias for B. and W., her mentally ill husband. He seems to be a bit less in denial that he has an illness and the visit went well.
He will visit again in the summer and hopefully will come to grips with why he abandoned his wife and daughter.
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 28, August 28, December 28
Chapter 70: That No One Venture to Punish at Random
Every occasion of presumption
shall be avoided in the monastery,
and we decree that no one be allowed
to excommunicate or to strike any of her sisters
unless the Abbess has given her the authority.
Those who offend in this matter
shall be rebuked in the presence of all,
that the rest may have fear.
But children up to 15 years of age
shall be carefully controlled and watched by all,
yet this too with all moderation and discretion.
All, therefore, who presume
without the Abbess' instructions
to punish those above that age
or who lose their temper with them,
shall undergo the discipline of the Rule;
for it is written,
"Do not to another what you would not want done to yourself" (Tobias
"Every occasion of presumption should be avoided in the monastery."
This is about a lot more than saying who can punish whom. This is
pointing out that, whenever there are more than one to be considered,
absolute freedom cannot exist. This is about central authority, yes,
but it is also about the total way one conducts oneself in a home or
group that others share.
Ever think about your first home away from your parents house? It was
probably different in a lot of ways, especially if you lived there
alone. Heady freedom that! I recall my own first place very well and
fondly. However, I can assure you, I could not have lived as I did
there had I been in a family, with younger siblings at home. (OK, it
was 1969, so go figure...)
Even alone, however, I was not free to play my stereo at undue
volumes at 3 AM. We live on a common planet, at some point ALL of our
lives touch others. When they do, control of some sort is necessary
if people are to live in peace.
There is a great and treacherous myth of individualism among
Americans and, to a lesser extent, I think, among all Western
European cultures. Non-western cultures often have a much more highly
developed sense of sharing and commonality. The American nonsense
of "God-bless-the-child-that's-got-his-own" does justice to neither
God nor the child!
Schweitzer pointed out that Europeans found the Africans lazy,
because they would not work to a point of exhaustion without need.
They worked all right, but when the work was done, they quit. They
had a casual and natural attitude to work, proper to their own
economic system, that drove the Europeans nuts, because the latter
had more of a 40-hours-a-week-and-then-you-rest notion. Both
Schweitzer and I tend to side with the natives on this one!
That myth of total freedom, of self-sufficiency being able to buy one
the right to any activity is totally wrong. Even at 20, in my richly
bohemian digs that I called "Shackri-la", I was not totally free. I
didn't know it well enough back then, but I wasn't. I had no right to waste
water or leave lights on all night or drive drunk. My fantasy might have
been chronologically appropriate as Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco,
but hey, even there, even then, people were not totally free. None of us are.
Every presumed domain of our control exists on a planet shared by
billions. No one of us is an island. Our complete interdependence is
not only objective fact, it is our only hope. You might never have
read this chapter as an ad for ecological consciousness, but look at
the first line again. We are ALWAYS in this with others and that
always means responsibilities to "...not do to another what one would
not have done to oneself."
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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