Holy Rule for Apr.6
Continued ardent prayers, please, for the suffering people of the Ivory Coast. In one town alone 1,000 people are suspected deador mising, churches and shools are being looted and burned and refugees are fleeing the country. Prayers for an end to the violence and for all its victims and perpetrators.
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
April 6, August 6, December 6
Chapter 54: Whether a Monastic Should Receive Letters or Anything Else
On no account shall a monastic be allowed
to receive letters, blessed tokens or any little gift whatsoever
from parents or anyone else,
or from her sisters,
or to give the same,
without the Abbess's permission.
But if anything is sent her even by her parents,
let her not presume to take it
before it has been shown to the Abbess.
And it shall be in the Abbess's power to decide
to whom it shall be given,
if she allows it to be received;
and the sister to whom it was sent should not be grieved,
lest occasion be given to the devil.
Should anyone presume to act otherwise,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.
*[I come down rather hard on the ownership of things. I don 't deny that folks
can own things, I just affirm that all goods are from God and given to us with
an eye to the common good of all. Private ownership is not an absolute right: it
comes with responsibilities to others.]
At first glance, it might seem that there is little or nothing for
Oblates in the world in this chapter. Not so! However, we shall have
to look a bit deeper and pick about a bit...
OK, remember the Abbot holds the place of Christ in the community.
Now look again. The monastic is to rely on and look to no one but
Christ, and to receive nothing more or less than what is needed,
unless the Abbot, in Christ's place grants it. Remember the chapter
about no monastic defending another, taking another into their
special protection? One can easily see that this is covered here,
too. No one should ever be able to say: "I am well-off and secure
because Sister X. is my ally." Sister X. takes care of zero. God
takes care of all!
We can have such a distorted of view of our own income and property.
We can think we have "earned" what we have and can therefore use it
with impunity. Not so, and not Christian teaching, either. All goods
are held with stewardship for the common good of all. No ownership is
outright and exclusive, except for the sad ownership of our sins.
No matter what our skills or gifts or how we have developed them, no
matter if we were born with inherited comfort, no matter at all! ALL
of that came from God, every bit. We are literally nothing at all but
beneficiaries. All that we have or hope to have is nothing more or
less than a windfall from God and His mercy.
Now that is what this chapter is really all about, and it applies to
everyone within the cloister and without. St. Benedict wanted to use
these principles to focus his disciples on the truth that everything,
utterly everything comes from Christ, not from Sister X. or the lucky
stroke of having wealthy family or friends elsewhere, or even from
our own work. The job or business itself came from God, so did the
strength to be productive in any way.
Every Benedictine heart, beloveds, must examine itself by what we
learn from this passage in the Holy Rule. Absolutely nothing
whatsoever is ours, everything comes from God. Never take more than
we need, never share less than we ought to share. Freely, fully have
we all received all that we have from God. No less freely should our
hearts let it go, spread it around to others.
Make no mistake that there are at least two ways to react to the
array of God's giftings. One is grateful largesse, a truly holy
detachment from things as we honestly desire others to share in our
blessings. (This is as true of the spiritual goods as it is of the
The other, a most pathetic one, is stinge and miserliness,
a panicky, insecure fear that another might get more or have it
easier than oneself. Nothing I can think of is more unbecoming to any
who have received magnificently, yet we can all think of tragic
examples of just such reactions. Guard very, very carefully against
this last pitfall. I have seen it ensnare monastics,
no one is exempt, and it will throw a dreadful cancer into one's very
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,