Non-Leap Year catching up
Since this year is not a Leap Year, a reading got skipped that
should have been appended to the 28th. Here it is:
February 29, June 30, October 30
Chapter 23: On Excommunication for Faults
(If there is no 29th of Feburary, append this entry to the previous.)
If a brother is found to be obstinate,
or disobedient, or proud, or murmuring,
or habitually transgressing the Holy Rule in any point
and contemptuous of the orders of his seniors,
the latter shall admonish him secretly a first and a second time,
as Our Lord commands (Matt. 18:15).
If he fails to amend,
let him be given a public rebuke in front of the whole community.
But if even then he does not reform,
let him be placed under excommunication,
provided that he understands the seriousness of that penalty;
if he is perverse, however,
let him undergo corporal punishment.
It is sad, indeed, that a chapter like this ever had to be written,
sad in St. Benedict's time, sad in our own. How little human beings
change in some ways! Why on earth would anyone come to a monastic
struggle with an attitude that says: "I know better. I'm right and
they're wrong."? Why would anyone persist in staying with such an
Because they are blind. It's another favorite trick of Satan.
or clouded assessments of the reality at hand are his forte.
Especially when these phony lenses get applied to religious matters,
the obstinacy and self-righteousness can go to extremes.
Look, beloveds, every single one of us, from the newest Oblate
candidate to the Abbot Primate, came to the monastic life, to the
Holy Rule, to be CHANGED. We came to learn, not to teach. We came to
reform ourselves, not the monastery. We not only arrived with that
attitude, we must keep it all of our lives. We came to surrender,
That's why this chapter is both so very sad and so very important.
The monastic at any point in life who has renounced that attitude of
discipleship has abandoned the struggle. We must hope it is a
temporary abandonment, because it can be fatal to one's vocation. It
can undo all the good work we have behind us. It can delude us into
thinking we are persevering when we have actually long ago quit.
Superiors and community (or family!) can be a big reality check here
and that is what this chapter seeks to provide. Gentleness, love and
tact are in order, but something must be done. One must be very
careful at such times not to lord it over another smugly. But one
must also be very careful not to do nothing at all, especially if
is in authority. The risk to the falling member is too great to
If, alas, you find yourself to be that falling member, for heaven's
sake (quite literally!) LISTEN. That is such a Benedictine trait,
Holy Rule begins with that word. If others are that upset, there may
well be something wrong. Don't deny it. Check it out with all the
humility you can muster, but be very aware that your humility may
well be the thing that is currently terribly impaired. Be as honest
as truthful as you can. Try, try with all your strength, to let
yourself always be changed for the good, and strive to see that
even when it is hard.
If you are one of the lucky ones not in this leaking boat, be deeply
humbled and grateful to God. Pray every day for all of those in the
Order, the Church, the world, who are sinking. They need our prayers
badly. Think how different the Titanic might have been with enough
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]