Holy Rule for Mar. 22
Prayers, please, for the eternal rest of Qamar David, a Pakistani Christian who was jailed for life for blasphemy last year and has been found dead in his prison cell. Prayers, too, for his family and all who mourn him and, if there was foul play, for the repentance and conversion of the perptrators.
March 22, July 22, November 21
Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table
At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.
If at the Night Office
anyone arrives after the "Glory be to the Father" of Psalm 94 --
which Psalm for this reason we wish to be said
very slowly and protractedly --
let him not stand in his usual place in the choir;
but let him stand last of all,
or in a place set aside by the Abbot for such negligent ones
in order that they may be seen by him and by all.
He shall remain there until the Work of God has been completed,
and then do penance by a public satisfaction.
the reason why we have judged it fitting
for them so stand in the last place or in a place apart
being seen by all,
they may amend for very shame.
For if they remain outside of the oratory,
there will perhaps be someone who will go back to bed and sleep
or at least seat himself outside and indulge in idle talk,
and thus an occasion will be provided for the evil one.
But let them go inside,
that they many not lose the whole Office,
and may amend for the future.
At the day Hours
anyone who does not arrive at the Work of God
until after the verse
and the "Glory be to the Father" for the first Psalm following it
shall stand in the last place,
according to our ruling above.
Nor shall he presume to join the choir in their chanting
until he has made satisfaction,
unless the Abbot should pardon him and give him permission;
but even then the offender must make satisfaction for his fault.
For too many years, I have read this chapter as just one more outline
of punishments for offenses. I missed completely the message to be
found in its title and I suspect many others have, too. The Work of
God and Table are lumped together. They are not exactly equal, but
they have many similarities and are, in some instances, nearly equal.
Now, this is not something most people would have guessed, especially
with all the details about times of fasting and amounts of food and
drink, but it is true nonetheless. St. Benedict links the places and
times where body and soul are nourished because he esteems both. Like
any truly orthodox monastic, he escapes the heretical trap of making
body and matter evil and spirit alone good. Because we sometimes
unconsciously fall into that trap ourselves, it is easy to misread
Neither St. Benedict nor monastic life itself hates the body. Both
wish to discipline and control it, to remove the obstacles it
presents to our spirits, but neither can hate the body, because God
created it and God Himself assumed it. Our bodies are sacred
temples of the Holy Spirit.
Talk all you will of bodily mortifications, but the bottom line is that
nobody (quite literally, "no body",) is getting to the spiritual banquet without
atruck to take them and that truck is the body. Kill it and you will
not only have no means of allowing the soul to grow in time, but may
have violated the 5th commandment, as well, thereby fouling up
your total efforts rather messily. I am aware that some saints seem to have had
vocations to extremely penitential lives, but most of us do not. Dangerous
austerity should be undertaken only when there is a clear call for it, confirmed by a
wise spiritual director or confessot wh knows one well.
Monastic reforms over the centuries have frequently proclaimed a
return to the "full rigor of the Rule." Whoops! Missed something
there, folks. The Rule ain't rigorous. Says so himself, right in the
Prologue: "...nothing harsh or burdensome." Being observant is one
thing, but rigorous is quite another. To go beyond the Holy Rule in
laxity OR austerity is a perilous mistake. Our Rule is balance and
moderation. Take those away and the critter you are left with is no
Rather than alienate the entire camp of those with Cistercian
leanings in one fell swoop, I will give examples of failure on this
count on BOTH sides at the time of the Cistercian reform in 1098.
Cluny, remembered by some Benedictine historians with a bit of pride
that is embarrassing, was WAY off the mark liturgically. Gee gaws and
doo-dads and little Offices and devotions for days. Ruined the
balance. One abbot over literally hundreds of daughter houses and
thousands of monks. Ruined local autonomy. Not surprisingly, a lot of
other unlovely stuff crept in. Given the lack of Benedictine balance
to hone their vision, the fact that they overlooked the mess they
were in is hardly shocking. Lots of pruning was in order.
Along come the first Cistercians who point out (maybe a teeny bit
self-righteously?) that those slimy Benedictines are not only failing
to abstain from "the flesh of four-footed animals," but are dining
quite nicely on just about anything within reach. Well, there is a
point there, then and now!
But there is a point against the reforms of Citeaux and La Grande Trappe,
too. Want to get literalist? The Holy Rule says meat from quadrupeds.
If it meant all meat, period, that would have been easier to say; it would
have even saved some ink and parchment, in an age when neither were
that easy to come by.
But it didn't say that. That left fish and poultry wide open. The early
Trappists didn't think so: meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese ALL got
banned.. Okaaay..... But if you have only one oar in the water, you
are quite likely to wind up going in circles...
If the literal Rule is what you want, then take it, but always,
always remember that the literal Rule cuts a LOT of slack and demands
a lot of balance. Miss that and you might miss the boat entirely.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers for Pluscarden Abbey, on the feast of St. Andrew, one of its patrons, and for all of Scotland, whose patron is also St. Andrew.
On this last day of November, please remember the Holy Souls, the whole month is dedicated to prayer for them, and remember to pray for them throughout the year! Ask them to intercede for you, too, they are great friends to have and they are so very grateful to us for our prayers and help for them.
Prayers for the safety all the people, property, buildings and animals threatened by extreme fires in Tennessee. Many fires are being fought, prayers for those fighting them and trying to help.
Prayers for the people of Mosul and Aleppo, and for all in danger and crisis from fighting and war in these areas.
Prayers for Ann, who has a possible detached retina, that it can be treated successfully. She is also praying to accept God’s will, whatever that may be. The troubled retina is in the better of her eyes, so retaining vision there is very important.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Fr. Andrew and for all his family and all who mourn him.
Prayers for the recovery of the 11 injured in the Ohio State University attack, one of whom is critical. Prayers, too, for the repentance and conversion of the attacker, who was killed, and prayers for his eternal rest and for the families of all.
Prayers for Val, who fell and broke her hip. She is recovering from surgery but is not doing well with uncontrolled blood pressure and is in ICU. Also prayers for her family.
Prayers for Ron, for whom we've prayed, who had open heart surgery postponed. His condition is not great and this surgery needs to happen as soon as possible.
Prayers for Chiara's return to the Church. She is doing so much helping others that she doesn't need to look far to discover Christ's presence in those she helps.
Prayers for Bev and Erika. They are Jehovah's Witnesses. Prayers that they discover the fullness of the faith and truth in the Catholic Church. Also that Bev finds full time work soon.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent. Alleluia!
Thanks so much. JL
March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
"with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
Because we read St. Benedict's 1500 year old Holy Rule with modern
eyes, it often seems harsh. To balance our perspective, we need to
see the radical nature of the Rule when written. Face it, folks, this
was most definitely a gentler Rule for European wannabes who could
never hack it in the Egyptian desert in their wildest dreams. His
introductory paragraph points out his plan of adaptation: "...since
few have the virtue for that..." Our founder was most certainly writing
for the struggling plodders of monasticism and he knew it. Keeping
that uppermost in our minds can be informatively humbling.
St. Benedict's fatherly heart was
with the underdogs, the also rans, the strays and those that others
could not be bothered with. He must have felt at some point that
there HAD to be a way for the spiritually challenged to become
monastics. A millennium and a half later, we are still benefiting
from his attempts.
Hence, for us Benedictines, when the Evil One tempts us with his lies
like: "You could never do that! You could never be THAT holy!"
our reaction must be to ignore him totally. We have no clue
of how holy we can be. God alone knows that and God alone will lead
us and show us in ways we are quite unlikely to ever understand.
Whenever the demon of discouragement tells us we are far beneath this
Rule for beginners, we must shrug indifferently and move on, briefly
impressed for once with the Father of Lies' firm grasp on the obvious.
Of *COURSE* we are beneath this Rule, beneath any of the earlier
ones. Duh?!? We're Benedictines. Our Order was founded for people
like us. That should never, ever be a cause to stop trying, to give
up or quit. On the contrary, that fact should be a heartening
confirmation that we are EXACTLY where we belong, in the best
possible remedial education program for slow learners like us, right
where God wants us.
Like a mother to a crying child, devoid of hope, who moans "But I
CAN'T, I just can't!" St. Benedict is softly saying, "Well,
just do what you can and that will be OK." Get the picture? OK! Then
go out, play nice and do what you can today... Don't be surprised if
you find that God is increasing, sometimes imperceptibly, that "what
you can" little by little to heights of great holiness, which we will
achieve all but unawares and only with His help. Someday, we really
SHALL "run in the way...with hearts enlarged."
Love and prayers,