Holy Rule for Mar. 30
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
March 30, July 30, November 29
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
On Sundays, let all occupy themselves in reading,
except those who have been appointed to various duties.
But if anyone should be so negligent and shiftless
that she will not or cannot study or read,
let her be given some work to do
so that she will not be idle.
Weak or sickly sisters should be assigned a task or craft
of such a nature as to keep them from idleness
and at the same time not to overburden them or drive them away
with excessive toil.
Their weakness must be taken into consideration by the Abbess.
The greatest mentor in my monastic life was Brother Patrick Creamer,
OSB, of St. Leo Abbey in Florida. I learned more from Brother Patrick
than I have from any other monk. He had more influence on my life
than any man other than my father. He died September 14, 2004, two weeks
short of his 90th birthday. Say a prayer for him. My debt to him is great and
of what I pass on to you I received from Patrick first. I have long
hoped that even in the slightest and most occasional of ways, I could
be a Patrick now and then to someone else.
Years ago, Brother Patrick told me: "Never judge yourself by others-
there will always be people who will do more than you and people who
do less." There's a very obvious corollary to that maxim: never judge
others by yourself, either! I have struggled for years to learn both.
I still have not succeeded, but I keep trying. Every time I remember
those words I am shamed at how many more times I forget them. I hope
and pray all of you are much better students of life than I am!
The Abbot is not the only one who has to see, really see weakness and
allow for it. All of us do. That's what it means to bear one
another's burdens as well as we can. If and when so-and-so finally
gets their act together, it is highly unlikely that they will be an
exact clone of someone so utterly perfect as ourselves! We can be so
self-centered that we unwittingly actually expect that to happen. If
we stop to look at how ludicrous such a thing is, we'll have to
laugh, because if we didn't, we'd cry.
God made individuals, tons of them. Their optimal state is going to
be just as individual, just as different , one from another. Hey,
that's the beauty of the mosaic, which would, after all, have all the
charm of a tiled floor if all the pieces were the same color and
It is not just the weakness of others we have to see. We have to see
our own, as well. How many people there are who are thinking: "When
Jerome gets his ducks in a row, he'll be just like me." Sorry, y'all.
Ain't gonna happen, no more than you all are going to wind up (God
forbid!) looking frighteningly like me. Strengths and weakness are
the only tools we have to work with. If we don't even see them, they
won't be much good.
I confess that I do not know 20% of what my computer can do. I'll
probably never know most of its ability. That's often the case with
computers, but how tragic it is if we allow that to happen with
ourselves. That's why the monastic struggle points us to even deeper
self-examination, self-knowledge and humility.
Hey, a hard drive is neither here nor there in many senses, but a human
soul needs a LOT of disk scanning and defragmentation. There'd better
be a good anti-virus program, too, as well as lots of extra memory!
Fortunately, these things cost nowhere near what software does. They were all
bought for us at a tremendous price. Just ask the Guy Who did that
and He'll give you all the free downloads you could ever need!
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,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]