Holy Rule for Mar. 29
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Deo gratias, MEH may have found housing. Also, thanks to her for alerting me to the earthquake in Burma, so add them to our earthquake prayers.
the people of Canada, going through a difficult election time.
Melinda, emergency surgery to amputate both legs due to blood clots. Melinda has MS. For her husband Bernie and the family as they go through this.
Pat, undergoing knee replacement surgery.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is
and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
March 29, July 29, November 28
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
From the Calends of October until the beginning of Lent,
let them apply themselves to reading
up to the end of the second hour.
At the second hour let Terce be said,
and then let all labor at the work assigned them until None.
At the first signal for the Hour of None
let everyone break off from her work,
and hold herself ready for the sounding of the second signal.
After the meal
let them apply themselves to their reading or to the Psalms.
On the days of Lent,
from morning until the end of the third hour
let them apply themselves to their reading,
and from then until the end of the tenth hour
let them do the work assigned them.
And in these days of Lent
they shall each receive a book from the library,
which they shall read straight through from the beginning.
These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.
But certainly one or two of the seniors should be deputed
to go about the monastery
at the hours when the sisters are occupied in reading
and see that there be no lazy sister
who spends her time in idleness or gossip
and does not apply herself to the reading,
so that she is not only unprofitable to herself
but also distracts others.
If such a one be found (which God forbid),
let her be corrected once and a second time;
if she does not amend,
let her undergo the punishment of the Rule
in such a way that the rest may take warning.
Moreover, one sister shall not associate with another
at inappropriate times.
Lectio divina, sacred reading, is the Benedictine form of
contemplation, more ancient than many later forms, both Carmelite and
Athonite. Being so ancient, it comes with very few directions. Much
of its "method" has been developed and handed down by monastics over
the centuries since St. Benedict. Even in that embellished form, it
remains a very, very simple and efficient means to contemplative
prayer. One simply reads Scripture or the Fathers (or Mothers!)
slowly, reflectively, ruminating (like a cow chewing its cud!) on
each word and verse. As St. Romuald later observed, one waits like a
chick for whatever its mother gives it. One does not read to get
through the book. One reads to see if and when the Holy Spirit calls
us to higher prayer with a word or phrase that strikes the heart. At
that point, one should follow one's heart and not worry about
finishing the page! Cleared for takeoff!
It is interesting that St. Benedict weaves all these schedules of
contemplative reading and prayer together with his manual labor
concerns, without any ado. There's another example of the dignity and
holiness of work in a Benedictine theology. Our work, too, is prayer.
It must be. We must, somehow, learn to be all prayer. That same
ruminative mindfulness that colors our lectio must color our labor as
well. It is a different form of attention, a different form of
prayer, but it is prayer nonetheless! Just ask any gardener or cook
with a mystical heart or, for that matter, any toilet cleaner or
diaper changer of the same ilk!
The Carmelites prescribe mental prayer, which should, with
recollection, spread throughout one's day. The hesychasts of Mount
Athos, Romania and Russia stress the Jesus Prayer, said vocally until
it becomes automatic in the heart at all times. Both of these are
more explicit methodologies, but the Benedictine aim is the same:
prayer without ceasing, prayer in choir and garden and cell, prayer
at reading and prayer at work. Mindfulness of God at all times is the
contemplative goal of all these systems.
This is just my own opinion, but I am inclined to think that the
Dominican concept of contemplation comes closest to our own, largely
because of their love of study. Study, for the Dominican, is often
very similar to lectio in the Benedictine scheme of things. Why?
Because the Dominican seeks Truth, and Jesus said: "I am the Truth."
A Dominican could be reading just about anything and still know that every bit
of real, objective truth garnered from that reading would be yet
another shard, no matter how small, in the infinite mosaic of the
face of Christ. That is a mosaic none of us shall ever complete in
this life, but oh, how much more familiar He shall seem to us when we
meet Him because of it!
Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I think that a Dominican education,
such as I had, is a wonderful preparation for Benedictine life. Prayers,
please, for all the Dominicans who taught me.
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,