Holy Rule for Apr. 3
Deo Gratias! The director of Caritas Abidjan, Father Richard Kissi, has been released unharmed after being kidnapped by an armed group two days earlier. Fr Richard Kissi was released April 1. He is doing well and has already reached the parish of Notre-Dame de Treichville where he is based.
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Johanna, her eye problem has become critical again. To add to the pain and uncertainty, she has been trying to qualify for a teaching certificate. She is suffering over the loss of time and tuition and the prospect of not being able to take the necessary tests.
Shane, back in formal studies at 41 and finding it hard to return to school and focus. Prayers for his sstudies and his perseverance.
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 3, August 3, December 3
Chapter 52: On the Oratory of the Monastery
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer;
and let nothing else be done there or kept there.
When the Work of God is ended,
let all go out in perfect silence,
and let reverence for God be observed,
so that any sister who may wish to pray privately
will not be hindered by another's misconduct.
And at other times also,
if anyone should want to pray by herself,
let her go in simply and pray,
not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart.
She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore,
shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory
when the Work of God is ended,
lest another be hindered, as we have said.
Would to God that the oratories of our hearts were as easy to keep
clean as those of our monasteries! Having been sacristan, in my
youth, of the large and lovely Abbey Church at St. Leo, FL, I can
assure you that Benedictines tend to be very good about this part of
the Holy Rule. One usually gets a Church in good condition and it is
not too hard to keep it that way. In fact, doing so was only one of
my several charges at the time!
Ah, but those cardiac oratories! How easily they can get cluttered
and more or less stay that way! God alone knows how many times I have
written books or articles, essays or posts in mid-prayer, how many
times I have "capably and completely" reformed Order or monastery,
Church, liturgy or world! I certainly hope He isn't counting too
closely, and I have a fair certainty that He isn't. One of the Desert
Fathers said that, if God counts distractions in psalmody, no one
could be saved!
The aim is good, beloveds, but about the time I envision my heart
dancing in pure prayer like Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in the
moonlit park, Jerome's Jezebel of a heart petulantly clumps out in a
sleazy mini-skirt, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels. My jaded
streetwalker of a heart is the easy and willing prey of a wide field
of distractions and infidelities! Jerome's Jezebel is a harlot
But, m'dears, and hopefully to lesser degree than my own, ALL of our
hearts have that Jezebel lurking within, dying to be asked to dance,
dancing alone, if need be! No smooth sophistication of a fox trot to
Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter for us. Nope! Many times, the
best we can do is stumble about disorientedly to a musically barren
gangsta rap, whose harsh dissonance and strident attacks of
percussion all too closely mirror our chaotic world.
Calm down! The Divine Aim of our poor hearts is their Author and
Maker. Better than anyone and FAR better than ourselves, He knows the
limitations of His creations! How often God must be like a tender and
loving and delighted mother who tries with all her might to keep from
laughing at a child's graceless attempts at being exquisite grace.
Truly, in many a stumbling child there is GREAT poetry in motion, but
not at all in the way that the child THINKS there is! So it is with
God and ourselves. Relax, therefore, and rejoice! Again I say,
rejoice! Our great and merciful God flat out delights in our efforts
and knows from the start that we shall be far more like funny home
videos than the best and most tasteful films ever produced. Funny how
we often lack the humility to see that ourselves! If we seek to gain
it, Satan, who loves to see us despondent and discouraged, will be
trounced but good.
It is our efforts which delight God, not our results. He knows that
the results we seek are far beyond many of us. The more clearly we
come to know that, the more adequate our sense of our own abject
poverty of skills, the greater our peace shall be. And in that peace
we shall find God, the loving parent on Whose long-suffering insteps
we tiptoe and dance, in Whose tender arms we swoon like children
dreaming of a grand ballroom with mirrors!
Oh, yeah, ESPECIALLY the mirrors part!!
Love and prayers and a fox trot or two!
[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,