Nov 14 All Souls of Our Order
A blessed feast of All Souls OSB to all! Whatever your Church's
feelings about prayers for the dead, this is the day when we remember
all the courageous monastics in history who have gone before us. What
a family of richness and tradition and HUMANITY we truly have!!
Granted, for those who do believe in prayer for the departed, a lot
of that should be going on, but for those who do not, well, think of
it as a kind of supernatural Veterans' Day! We owe deep thanks to all
who kept the Order alive and thriving through 15 centuries or so.
Without them, it would never have been here for us to join. We owe
our deepest thanks of all to God, Who strengthened them with His
infinite Love and Mercy!
And please say a little prayer for Dr. Jean Ronan, whose teaching
helped me write today's reflection.
March 15, July 15, November 14
Chapter 36: On the Sick
Before all things and above all things,
care must be taken of the sick,
so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person;
for He Himself said, "I was sick, and you visited Me" (Matt 25:36),
and, "What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me"
But let the sick on their part consider
that they are being served for the honor of God,
and let them not annoy their sisters who are serving them
by their unnecessary demands.
Yet they should be patiently borne with,
because from such as these is gained a more abundant reward.
Therefore the Abbess shall take the greatest care
that they suffer no neglect.
For these sick let there be assigned a special room
and an attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous.
Let the use of baths be afforded the sick
as often as may be expedient;
but to the healthy, and especially to the young,
let them be granted more rarely.
let the use of meat be granted to the sick who are very weak,
for the restoration of their strength;
but when they are convalescent,
let all abstain from meat as usual.
The Abbess shall take the greatest care
that the sick be not neglected by the cellarers or the attendants;
for she also is responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.
Visitors quite characteristically remark on the peace of Benedictine
monasteries. They surely ought to be able to notice something very
different from the world at large, something would probably be very
wrong with the house if none could. On the other hand, no matter how
politely we may respond to those who exclaim how peaceful things are,
I'll bet that most monastic hearts- and maybe all- sinkingly
say: "Yeah, but you don't LIVE here..."
My dear theology professor, Dr. Jean Ronan, used to always say: "The
mills of God grind slowly, yet exceeding fine...." She meant that in
a karma sort of way, what goes around comes around sooner or later.
However, today's reading and life in community have taught me to see
an additional meaning. The mills of God truly DO turn very slowly.
Sometimes their windmill blades are barely stirred by a hesitant
breeze. No wonder that outsiders and first-time visitors cannot
notice them grinding the wheat!
Ah, denied the fall-into-the-ground-and-die brand of outright
martyrdom, our grains of wheat must be ground into flour, a process
of immolation no less complete, but most uncomfortably slower! (St.
Teresa of Avila said that the martyrs "bought Heaven cheaply" winning
with one swing of the axe what we must struggle on many years to
acquire.) Don't make the mistake of looking only at the beauty of the
ripe wheat swaying gently in the breeze and sunlight and the
smoothness of a sack of pre-sifted flour. Between those two comes a
LOT of the grindstone! To say nothing of the sickle at first...oh,
yeah, and that winnowing part- I almost forgot.
What on earth does all this have to do with care of the sick? Ah, you
have been patient and that is commendable. Take heart, the point of
all this is at hand.
The borders between sickness and meanness and evil are often blurred
to indistinguishable levels. One age posited demons for epilepsy, our
own sees exculpating psychological illness or impairment behind all
manner of skullduggery. We have too little time, in many cases, to
waste a lot of time with thorny and perhaps impossible diagnoses. In
charity, we are usually obliged to assume that the meanest of people
are simply not well. We do, after all, have to think the best of
That can be damnably maddening. We WANT to ascribe blame when hurt or
wronged. Every flawed human nerve in our body can begin to cry: "No
quarter, no mercy!" Gee, in a flawed human way of speaking, wouldn't
it be nice if we could! But we can't, we simply cannot. If we do, we
become so unlike the mercy of Christ, the love of God, that our souls
are in very great peril. This can sabotage our spiritual struggles in
Hence, the care of the sick comes very much into play with the way we
deal with those who hurt or harm us. This is a far different affair
from doormat policy. Any who have ever worked in health care could
readily attest that the sick must often be treated with a lot of less
than lovely stuff: cautery, surgery, pumps and tubes and even, yes,
at times, amputation. (I had catheterized probably hundreds of people
before I was ever catheterized myself. It was most informative. How I
wish my training had started with that procedure being done to me. I
never did it to a patient the same way again.)
Hey, all of us are nice, good people in our own eyes much of the
time. Our biggest gaffs are usually those to which we are all but
completely blind. We must realize that this is not just true of
ourselves, but of others as well. And, perhaps most difficult of all,
we must see that sometimes WE are the ones who really need to be in
the waiting room for cautery or amputation... Sigh... Ain't life and
Hence, whenever a relationship or person truly does require
remediation, we must behave as we would like to be treated in the
same circumstance. Compassion, love and gentle kindness, not
patronization or scorn or abrupt roughness must rule the day. Many of
us have experienced both the kind of nurse one loved and the kind
that one would gladly forget if one could! Which sort of treatment do
you wish to give?
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Petersham