Holy Rule for Apr. 27
Please pray for Lisa who is having surgery to remove a melanoma from behind one of her eyes.
Urgent prayers requested for D&T, were to be married in June but T questioning whether to stay together at this point. For direction, peace, and that their son's needs will not be forgotten as they decide what to do.
Asking peace for M as he prepares to move into a new living situation more noisy and active than he is used to.
Shirley, 87 years old and the cornerstone of the tiny Quaker meeting in Gonic, NH. She's been back and forth between hospital and rehab for pneumonia and congestive heart failure for at least a couple of months. Prayers that she gets well enough to come home and is able to come to Meeting, even just one more 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 27, August 27, December 27
Chapter 69: That the Monks Presume Not to Defend One Another
Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground
to defend another monk in the monastery,
or as it were to take him under his protection,
even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship.
Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever,
because it may give rise to most serious scandals.
But if anyone breaks this rule,
let him be severely punished.
We are all supposed to bear one another's burdens. That should be
more than enough help for anyone, if we actually keep that principle.
A big problem with becoming the protector of another, self-appointed
or otherwise, is that it destroys one's peace needlessly.
This isn't just about monasteries, it's about any human group. Taking
someone under our wing can result in all sorts of false assumptions.
It can fool us into thinking we can really control events more than
we can. It can lead us, a la Mother Hen, to seek to control the one
under wing in very unnecessary and unhealthy ways. Its most common
error is also one of its most dangerous ones: it leads us to think in
terms of "us-and-them." There is no "them" in a healthy monastery,
only an "us".
A further problem is that God wills or permits things for a person's good
that may seem awful to us. Whatever befalls us, God can and does use
to our ultimate salvation, our greatest good. When our own limited and
false view of things decides to protect another from such workings as are
truly of God, we have placed ourselves in a downright horrible position.
What galling nerve on our part to assume we know better than God, that
it is our "providence" and not His that ought to triumph.
As usual, what the Holy Rule insists we avoid is an extreme. This
chapter is NOT saying we should not look out for one another, just
that no one should presume that the job is hers or his alone. Good
families protect all their members, but it is a corporate activity, something
in which all participate. Destroy that balance and the others will
notice quickly. It upsets the inner peace, both of the individual and
Part of any monastic's struggle, in cloister or in the world, is the
painful facing up to ourselves, that confrontation with our own
flaws. This difficult self-knowledge is essential to the monastic
way. Trying to protect someone from this process is counter to the
very reason they came. It not only harms them, it harms us, by
keeping us so busy with another's affairs that we can avoid looking
within at our own failings.
Merton once told his junior monk students that there is an
existential place of loneliness in every monk that no one can touch,
and that this is the way it's supposed to be, that no one should try
to reach it. That's where the struggle goes on, that's where there is
only God and the self. That's the arena in which the action happens.
Every person, every employee, every spouse and child has a similar
place: it is the place of potential learning and growth. Our deep
respect for one another must stand away from that space. Becoming
self-appointed guardians of another violates that space.
Love and prayers,
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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]