Holy Rule for Apr. 25
Prayers, please, for the eternal restof Eileen, 91, and for the eternal rest of her husband. Cecil, who predeceased her, and for all who mourn them.
Prayers, please, for Fr. Mark of Pluscarden and for all our Marks on their
patronal feastday. Graces and blessings and many years!!!
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 25, August 25, December 25
Chapter 67: On Brethren Who Are Sent on a Journey
Let the brethren who are sent on a journey
to the prayers of all the brethren and of the Abbot;
and always at the last prayer of the Work of God
let a commemoration be made of all absent brethren.
When brethren return from a journey,
at the end of each canonical Hour of the Work of God
on the day they return,
let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory
and beg the prayers of all
on account of any faults
that may have surprised them on the road,
through the seeing or hearing of something evil,
or through idle talk.
And let no one presume to tell another
whatever he may have seen or heard outside of the monastery,
because this causes very great harm.
But if anyone presumes to do so,
let him undergo the punishment of the Rule.
And let him be punished likewise who would presume
to leave the enclosure of the monastery
and go anywhere or do anything, however small,
without an order from the Abbot.
Lay people, in St. Benedict's time and for centuries afterward, were
more cloistered in the sense of media isolation than most religious
are today, especially so in rural areas. We have to put ourselves
into their perspective to see what St. Benedict is saying here. There
was no postal service, let alone electronic media of any sort.
Couriers and outriders, official or self-appointed were the only
sources of news. Gossip and hearsay were the only news media
available to most. It was, in comparison to our own day, a rather
Today's active Benedictine educator or health care provider or parish
minister could ill afford being so out of touch, much less Oblates in
the world with jobs and families. Still, it is important to see that
St. Benedict stressed this value as strongly as he did and try to
find out why he did so.
Fast forward to a Benedictine value we haven't mentioned much lately,
but a central one: purity of heart. Purity of heart is the focused,
singular monastic way of searching for God, of the spiritual
struggle. Purity of heart, as Kierkegaard said, really IS to will one
thing. For the Benedictine, that one thing is God, union with God.
A very old monastic principle, one more alive in the East today than in
the West, held that whatever did not help one in the monastic quest
was actually harmful. Under that theory, there was no middle ground
of neutrality. It helped you become a better monastic or it didn't.
If it didn't, it wasn't considered extraneous, it was considered
harmful, even evil. Since St. Benedict doesn't say that things heard
from outside "can" cause great harm, but rather that they flat out do
cause it, it may be to this earlier concept that he refers.
We live in a world so flooded with media, with input, that it would astound
a person of St. Benedict's time, even one with no taste for monastic life!
Let us frankly face the fact, beloveds, that ALL of that information is not
even good, let alone useful. We are so immersed in the barrage that we have
often become indiscriminate, indifferent to it. We must develop and
hone and reclaim that skill to sift and avoid the useless or harmful.
We must be mindful and examine the amount and genuine worth of media
exposure we allow ourselves. The sky is not the limit here.
Our lives and vocations are so varied and our differences are so
wide, but our quest is the same. Somehow, each of us, in every
milieu, has to find a way to carve out a little bit of that isolation
for ourselves. I love Ann McPhillips' phrase: "gatekeepers of our
hearts." Face it, we live in an age where we can easily be in touch
with virtually everything and that is not always good for us.
It's about focus, it's about the times in one's life that one must
carve out for oneself, times in which "only one thing is needful."
When a cacophony of things become needful, purity of heart is drowned
out. Maybe we have noisy families or lives, maybe we honestly cannot
get the respite we seek. That's when we have to really struggle to
build it in our hearts, to find God, as St. Teresa of Avila did, among
the pots and pans.
Our hearts may, in truth, be the only monasteries we have, the only
gates we shall ever keep, but that does not matter. God knew from all
eternity exactly the environments and times in which we would have to
seek Him and He tailor-made them for us, even though in the midst of them,
that may be hard to see at the time. "He knows what He is about," as Cardinal
Newman said. We need to build that "one thing needful" as a place within us. For
of us, that will be the only desert to which we can ever fly.
One last pointer for the news you DO watch or listen to or read: do so
with prayer, make it lead to prayer. We have become more or less
immune to horrible tragedy unfolding before us. Lose that immunity. Saying
"Tsk, tsk..." helps no one. Say a prayer, say lots of prayers for those
whose horror becomes the grist of news mills.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
A blessed Easter to all! Christ is risen, truly He is risen!!
Prayers, please, for the spiritual and temproal welfare of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Luke, house sale - his house has been on the market for over a year and he really needs to sell it and downsize after the end of a long-term relationship.
Deo Gratias, V. has been offered and very limited place next year on the post-graduate course of his dreams...now he needs the money to pay for it.
Funding for D. to further his studies, or inspiration for something even better.
Continued prayers for baby Grace and her family. She is stable but still on oxygen in the house 24/7, and is waiting to see a specialist.
Jual, young mother of three battling breast cancer. Nodules found in her lung. Having surgery Sunday.
Prayers for safe journey, and back, for an extended family going on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for almost 2 weeks, and prayers for a wonderful time.
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 8, August 8, December 8
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren
For bedding let this suffice:
a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a pillow.
The beds, moreover, are to be examined frequently by the Abbot,
to see if any private property be found in them.
If anyone should be found to have something
that he did not receive from the Abbot,
let him undergo the most severe discipline.
And in order that this vice of private ownership
may be cut out by the roots,
the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles:
cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt,
knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets;
that all pretext of need may be taken away.
Yet the Abbot should always keep in mind
the sentence from the Acts of the Apostles
that "distribution was made to each according as anyone had need"
In this manner, therefore,
let the Abbot consider weaknesses of the needy
and not the ill-will of the envious.
But in all his decisions
let him think about the retribution of God.
There is a tendency, both within the cloister and without, to hunt
for dramatic ascetic practices, while ignoring the truly more
difficult matters that lack the fanfare. Lights! Camera! Action! We
must always be wary of the Nora Desmonds of our hearts, who are
always willing to say, a la Sunset Boulevard: "I'm ready for my close-
up now, Mr. DeMille." How we do love to star, even at self-
Well, there's two bad pieces of new for Ms. Desmond et al. First the
penances we choose are usually not the most effective ones. The
best ones are imposed by God or our situation of daily duty and they
become tremendous means of grace when we patiently embrace them.
Second, the ones we do choose can be terrible risks for pride, which
undoes our efforts so insidiously.
What on earth does this have to do with the current chapter? Easy-
and very, very hard, too! The great ascesis here is to aim at
limiting ourselves to "all the necessary articles." There is a
challenge here for everyone from Abbot Primate to newest Oblate
novice. It is a challenge we shall likely never meet fully in life,
so it is something we can always be profitably picking at!
Do you know anyone at all, in any vocation, who has absolutely
nothing beyond what they need? I have known a few; alas I cannot
say it of myself. I think this is an area where we can all look at a challenging
grace-filled ascetic struggle that is placed on us by the Holy Rule.
Down-sizing actually feels great, once one gets over the consumerist
terror of doing so! One will quickly find that, in this area, less
really *IS* more, (unlike poetry and art, architecture and liturgy,
alas...! Minimalism there gets old fast...) We become freer when we
let go of things which hold us more than we realize.
We can get buried in things we are saving to complete unfinalized
plans that will never come to fruition, and while we save them, we
are disheartened by our own failure to use them. Jettison, m'dears,
jettison. As the one Desert Father used to say to the brethren,"Flee,
brothers, flee!" so do I say: "Jettison!"
This has the further charm of fitting well into a depressive's sofa
paralysis, too. Recall how I told you about that resolution to make
three things, no matter how tiny, better each day? Works here, too!
And you will often find to your delight that the trip to dumpster or thrift
shop donation includes 7, 8, or more things!
Keep chipping away and the mountain of our false hearts' desires,
beloveds. And one day may all those chips be ground to sand and may
we stand together on level, smooth quartz
sand, confronted by nothing but the dazzling ocean of God's
unfathomable mercy and love!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]