Holy Rule for Mar. 2
Continued prayers for Anne, who is not out of the woods yet and may have a long recovery ahed, also for her husband, John.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Jim, who died suddenly of a heart attack. Also his family, his large extended family, particularly his brother Tim, and their elderly parents who are suffering with this loss and for all who mourn him.
March 2, July 2, November 1
Chapter 25: On Weightier Faults
Let the brother who is guilty of a weightier fault be excluded both
from the table and from the oratory. Let none of the brethren join
him either for company or for conversation.
Let him be alone at the work assigned him, abiding in penitential
sorrow and pondering that terrible sentence of the Apostle where he
says that a man of that kind is handed over
for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in
the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5). Let him take his meals alone in
the measure and at the hour which the Abbot shall consider suitable
for him. He shall not be blessed by those who pass by, nor shall
the food that is given him be blessed.
Justice demands that the punishment fit the crime, and St. Benedict
gives the two points between which a spectrum of other methods may
be employed. He does not want a one-size-fits-all system of
correction and clearly says so more than once.
Think of any parent or authority figure you have ever heard
criticized. If punishment was in any way involved, it is most
likely that the fault was in doing too much or too little. A cruel
person can make employees or children or monastics live in terror.
Punishment is relentless and swift and often comes without warning.
This may result in slavish compliance or outright rebellion, but it
never results in a healthy self, for authority or subject. We are
not called to live in dread of unwittingly angering some
intransigent despot, whose whims may be dangerous, indeed. We are
called to live
in peace and mercy: to receive it and to give it to others. That is
true of all monastics, superiors and those governed.
But we are not called to peace at any price whatsoever, which is
the fault of those who do too little to correct. Fear of the
governed is as stupid and pointless as fear of the governor and
neither helps anyone. While too much control may lead the community
to fear the
Abbess, too little will leave them equally afraid of each other!
Note carefully that the missing ingredients in either extreme are
love, real charity, as well as a trusting prayer for grace and
guidance. If we are not showing
His love to all, something is very wrong. If mercy does not temper
justice (and justice does not temper total inaction!) something is
Really peaceful people do not avoid confrontation at all costs, if
they do, even they will never have peace. They will have nothing
more than an uneasy truce or more or less perpetual fear. That is not
the loving way to deal with a problem.
The Benedictine way is, as usual, the middle way. Some would put
down the middle way, call it weak, but, as we have seen, it takes a
tremendous amount of guts and grace to do it well. Our way is quite
the reverse of a cop-out: it requires genuine courage and grace, to
say nothing of its chief component, a lot of very frank and
truthful LOVE! Ah, yes, and that mercy which is a mirror of the
Divine Mercy, too!
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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