Holy Rule for Mar. 4
Prayers, please, for the eternal rest of Shahbaz Bhatti,42, assainated for his protest of the Pakistani anti-blasphemy law. Prayers, too, for his family and all who mourn him and for all Christians sufferimng persecuation in the Muslim nations.
Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, and for ll their loved ones and all who take careb of them:
Vince, having surgery.
Dr. Jim, who has been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer, and for his wife, who is a cancer survivor.
Rita, who is having a lumpectomy on the 11th for breast cancer.
Janet, who will be getting the results of tests on an abdominal mass tomorrow.
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
March 4, July 4, November 3
Chapter 27: How Solicitous the Abbot Should Be for the Excommunicated
Let the Abbot be most solicitous
in his concern for delinquent brethren,
for "it is not the healthy but the sick who need a physician" (Matt
And therefore he ought to use every means
that a wise physician would use.
Let him send senpectae,
that is, brethren of mature years and wisdom,
who may as it were secretly console the wavering brother
and induce him to make humble satisfaction;
that he may not "be overwhelmed by excessive grief" (2 Cor. 2:7),
but that, as the Apostle says,
charity may be strengthened in him (2 Cor. 2:8).
And let everyone pray for him.
For the Abbot must have the utmost solicitude
and exercise all prudence and diligence
lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him.
Let him know
that what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls
and not a tyranny over strong ones;
and let him fear the Prophet's warning
through which God says,
"What you saw to be fat you took to yourselves,
and what was feeble you cast away" (Ezec. 34:3,4).
Let him rather imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd
who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains
and went to look for the one sheep that had gone astray,
on whose weakness He had such compassion
that He deigned to place it on His own sacred shoulders
and thus carry it back to the flock (Luke 15:4-5).
Here it is. The good part to all this penal code, the loving Father!
If you remember the Prologue, the kindness and enthusiastic, loving
zeal that St. Benedict showed there, you will find the more difficult
things he has to write easier to read: because you will see them
always through the lens of his loving concern, his gentle compassion.
In this chapter, that compassion has full rein! This will have a lot
to say to parents and others in authority, too.
Notice at once the difference between Benedictine punishment and the
penal system of the world- in Benedict's day and our own. The secular,
warehousing view of punishment gives little more than idle lip-service to
rehabilitation or genuine conversion. It is pretty much reducible to
punishment for its own sake, a fact that should leave us far less than
surprised at its ineffectiveness. It fails because it does not love
the offender, nor seek to heal. Offenders are quick to grasp this fact.
Benedictine punishment has no reason OTHER than healing, conversion
and love. This chapter makes that perfectly clear. It is a collective
human striving to better image the perfect will of God, Who "desires not
the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live." Its
entire rationale is love for and healing of the erring monastic.
I find it interesting that St. Benedict does not stress in these
preceding chapters the harm done to a community in dealing with
offenses. Obviously, it sometimes happens that all are harmed, or at
least shaken by one's actions. It would have been easy enough to
include this as a rationale for punishment, even as a secondary one,
but he does not. It leaves us with a pure view of loving concern for
the guilty one.
Look at the senpectae- the old, wise ones St. Benedict would send, as
it were "secretly" to console the afflicted one. They are a cherished
monastic tradition, because they point clearly to the kindness
involved in the whole process. In a sense, St. Benedict is telling
the Abbess to play an acceptable form of "good-cop-bad-cop" to help
the guilty one to conversion, to a return to spiritual health.
Parenting styles that miss this Benedictine balance and ideal are
likely to produce angry, maladjusted kids. We have all seen examples
of this, both in hindsight and in the noise of public places. I have
been on trains with mothers who so abused their children with their
yelling that *I* wanted to scream back at those mothers, small wonder
the children did.
Parental love is the only rationale for correction.
If one adds to that list, one is risking one's child and one's whole
vocation. There are too many traps in power of any sort, traps to
serve oneself and not the ones governed.
We confuse the stewardship of authority with the selfishness
of mere power. St. Benedict urges us to never do that, because
he knows it will fail. Love, only love and the mercy which attends
it triumphs! Mercy and love burnish the image of God in ourselves
to a wondrous sheen. So polish up, folks, polish up!
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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