Holy Rule for Apr. 1
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of Jean, he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and for all his loved ones and all who take care of him.
Prayers for the people of the Ivory Coast, internal warfare may lead to civil war. Prayers for the eternal rest of the many dead and for the relief of the 100,000 or so refugees.
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 1, August 1, December 1
Chapter 50: On Sisters Who are Working
Far From the Oratory or Are on a Journey
Those sisters who are working at a great distance
and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time --
the Abbess judging that such is the case --
shall perform the Work of God
in the place where they are working,
bending their knees in reverence before God.
Likewise those who have been sent on a journey
shall not let the appointed Hours pass by,
but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can
and not neglect to render the task of their service.
Here's a chapter that speaks loud and clear to Oblates in the world.
We have all been sent on our journeys by God, so the journey is good,
but in the midst of it we must carry our monastery and, to a certain
extent, even its choir, in our hearts. It is a fact that we are away
from the monastery most of the time. We may wish it were otherwise,
God, for His own reasons, may not.
Hence, we need to study with special attention the means to carry not
just the monastery and choir, but the entire Holy Rule and all of our
Order in our hearts. There must our cloisters be built. The reins of
obedience for us come not from walls and stones, not from the
constant presence of a community to help us, but from our free will
and loving gift, from the mindful vigilance of our hearts. This
cloister of the heart, if nurtured, can become in truth a "paradisus
claustralis", a cloistered paradise! But it does take time!
A perennial concern of Oblates is how to say the Office in the world,
or how much of it to say. Actually, that concern is SO perennial that
one can easily get bogged down in it, spinning one's wheels! Satan
doesn't care whether you get caught by temptations to murder or by
other temptations, so long as you get caught!
The answer here is loud and clear, both terribly simple and (like the
perfection of so many simple things,) not a little daunting: "as well
as they can." Now look at this precept, really look at it. That means
that you will never be able to solemnly intone the Hours in many, if
not most of the places you live and work. Which also means that God,
of all the most merciful and loving, clearly understands the limits
of your life.
I hesitate to mention depression too often, but because it is my
personal experience and I know that it has tremendous connections to
the spiritual life for good or ill, I'll risk it! Ever hear about one
of the symptoms of depression being trouble concentrating? Let me
tell you, beloveds, when I can deny any other sign, I can never deny
Twenty minutes of memorized prayers and Psalms takes an
hour or more. And certainly NOT because one is swept up into the
seventh heaven! Quite the reverse! One's mind jumps everywhere, like
an agile monkey on speed leaping from tree to tree in the canopy of
an endlessly confusing jungle. The words are just repeated, with so
little attention, feeling or meaning. And even that is a crushing
effort at times. Sigh...
If you are at all like me, you will feel badly about that: "Oh, no!
I've been distracted at prayer again..." Don't make it any worse than
it already is: God fully knows WHY we are distracted, why we are
limited by anything within or without. So long as you didn't deliberately
intend and set out to pray mindlessly, don't worry. (And no one, I hope, does
God may actually permit those distractions to humble us. Just calm
down and do the best you can.
I have long since resigned myself to ruefully chuckling that
often I am no better at all than a mindless, mechanical prayer wheel,
like those spun in Tibet. I hope God accepts all our prayer wheel
days and I really think He does! So long as we are not deliberately
slovenly or careless about prayer, it delights God, and, as one of
the Fathers observed, even distracted prayer makes the devil mad!
A quick suggestion as a way to bring monastery and choir into our
busy day. This is one of my favorites, one of two prayers proper to
the morning hour of Prime. It is easily memorized and therefore VERY
portable! It can sneak into the tiniest of places in a busy day and
carry the heart right to God and its cloister of peace and truth.
" O Lord God, King of heaven and earth, be pleased this day to direct
and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, our thoughts,
words and deeds according to Your law and in obedience to Your
commandments. Now and forever may we attain salvation and freedom by
Your help, O Savior of the world, Who lives and reigns forever and
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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