Holy Rule for Mar. 28
We have had so many earthquakes in the world over the last year and two months, that it is easy to forget one while praying for the newest one. Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, now Japan. I think Turkey figures in the roll, too. Let us pray for all who have been impacted by earthquakes or tsunamis, for the eternal rest of the dead and the the well-being of the survivors, as well as all those trying to help.
Lord, help us all as You know
will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise
Him! Thanks so much. JL
March 28, July 28, November 27
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
Idleness is the enemy of the soul.
Therefore the sisters should be occupied
at certain times in manual labor,
and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.
To that end
we think that the times for each may be prescribed as follows.
From Easter until the Calends of October,
when they come out from Prime in the morning
let them labor at whatever is necessary
until about the fourth hour,
and from the fourth hour until about the sixth
let them apply themselves to reading.
After the sixth hour,
having left the table,
let them rest on their beds in perfect silence;
or if anyone may perhaps want to read,
let her read to herself
in such a way as not to disturb anyone else.
Let None be said rather early,
at the middle of the eighth hour,
and let them again do what work has to be done until Vespers.
And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.
With one of our several mottos, Ora et Labora, Pray and Work,
Benedictines have developed a marvelous theology of work. Our
centuries of reflection on the relationship of prayer and work, and
on the dignity of work itself have been shared with the Church at
large and have gone a long way to flesh out the Christian theology of
There's a beautiful glimpse of St. Benedict's tenderness here,
wrapped in one of his frequent exhortations to moderation. Here we
have a very important "WHY" of moderation: it is done "for the sake
of the faint-hearted." Got that? The median road of monastic
observance is not gauged by the strong, but by the weak among us.
Herculean ascetics that might quench the smoldering ember or break
the bruised reed are not for us. In a very real way, God Himself
decides the observance of a given house by sending those whom He does
to join it.
Neither my community nor your family nor workplace is an accidental
fluke. (Tempting to think so at times, but they aren't!) God sent
those other people who drive you nuts there and He then placed you in
the midst of them. Odd sense of humor He has! But He knows what He is
Some monasteries are the only place in the world a particular member
of that house could ever be a monastic. Don't scorn that, reverence
it! What a great and tender mercy of God is there! We are a huge
Order with rooms and slots for everybody on a very, very wide
spectrum. Some work more, some pray more, but all must try to balance.
We work AND pray: Ora et Labora. Carry either too far and the results
will not be pretty. Too much work can wear a community out, make them
all but useless for prayer. If this continues for too long a time, it
can kill monastic life entirely. On the other hand, pray too much and
work too little and you will wind up with a lot of spoiled, pampered
lap dogs and lounge lizards of prayer, weak and soft and not much
good for anything- INCLUDING prayer! See how important balance is?
Oblates here are at a disadvantage. They don't usually have a
superior living right with them to tell them when they have gone
around the bend, off the top and over the falls. That's why those
objective people who ARE placed around the Oblate, like spouses,
parents, friends, employers or co-workers, are voices we should
listen to carefully.
Note I said "objective." The advice of others is not always and
everywhere good, but sometimes they can very clearly
see things to which we are completely blind. That's too important a
gift to be written off or ignored. Besides, listening is a very
Benedictine act and so is respect for and attention to authority, as
well as fraternal obedience.
The world of the Oblate is full, would we only look, with checks and
balances to keep us moderate and on course.
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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