Holy Rule for Dec. 30
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Noella, health crisis, a night in the hospital and new meds, some problems with the latter, may she return to health.
Linda, special intention.
Andrew, upper GI x rays and under a lot of stress.
Belated feastday prayers for David and all our Davids. Graces abounding and many more! Ad multos annos.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 30, August 30, December 30
Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which They Ought to Have
Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness
which separates from God and leads to hell,
so there is a good zeal
which separates from vices and leads to God
and to life everlasting.
This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice
with the most fervent love.
Thus they should anticipate one another in honor (Rom. 12:10);
most patiently endure one another's infirmities,
whether of body or of character;
vie in paying obedience one to another --
no one following what she considers useful for herself,
but rather what benefits another;
tender the charity of sisterhood chastely;
fear God in love;
love their Abbess with a sincere and humble charity;
prefer nothing whatever to Christ.
And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!
This chapter, full of self-evident and beautiful prose should serve
as a short rule of life, a summary of all that has gone before it.
Live this one, and you're all right: the details from the other
chapters will take care of themselves. Little wonder then that its
principal points are love, obedience and humility, practiced in the
chastity of wholeness. (Chastity, it must be recalled, is proper to
every state in life. It is the well-ordered, balanced and wholesome
use of sexuality.) Even less wonder that, to call Scripture in to witness
here, "the greatest of these is love." Merton's one-line Holy Rule
summary also applies: "Love is the Rule."
The beauty here is so great that we often do not spend enough time
looking at its opposite: "the evil zeal of bitterness." What a great
turn of phrase! Like many of us, St. Benedict seems to have known
some whose bitterness turned into an energetic zeal, a way of life, a
broken power line in a windy world that could strike others or
themselves without warning.
And "zeal" is precisely the word! People can put such frighteningly
zealous levels of effort into self-loathing bitterness. It becomes a
full-time job, one which requires so much energy that it's a marvel
that they continue.
Bitter anger, self-hatred, ill-will towards many,
these are viciously involuted cycles, cancers of the soul. They turn
on the self, malignantly. They injure and alienate others to make
one's twisted world view remain correct. They never rest, the fist
is always clenched, the hand never open.
I have known two monks with this dreadful problem, both now long
dead. Thank heavens, they both persevered to the end and one hopes
that was enough, because, frankly, little else could be said for
them. They both guaranteed that their own lives were hell and pretty
much ensured smaller doses of hell for the rest of us living with
When I was much younger and living with those embittered monks, it
was hard to look at them with much pity or calm. It isn't now, thank
God, and I have spent considerable time praying for both of them, as
well as for a few of their "runners-up"! While all things are
possible with God, the terrible thing is that this self-hatred never
gets fixed in some people. It can be a life sentence. Then, prayer is
the only answer.
In any situation, but perhaps worse when the sufferer is one's spouse
or parent or child, this bitterness is a terrible cross, for both the
sufferer and those around her. It might seem cold comfort to say that
it can make us all saints, but it truly is not cold comfort at
all. Being saints is the only thing, ultimately, that matters. I hope
by now some of my crosses of the past are praying for me, protecting
me, by their prayers, from what once ailed them and forgiving me for
the times I provoked them!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]