Holy Rule for May 29
Prayers, please, for Bishop Ambrose, OSB, given two months to live, for God's perfect will for him, be that a cure or a happy death.
Prayers for Ruth, in dire financial straits after her sons fraudulently cleaned out her bank account.
Prayers for the happy death of Philip, Joy's Dad, renal failure and hospice care now and special prayers for Joy and all his family, too.
Deo gratias! Pat's tumor is shrinking, continued prayers, please
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
January 28, May 29, September 28
Chapter 7: On Humility
As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."
And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37:10).
Revolutions usually have several things in common: they respond to a
need, they go too far in some areas, not far enough in others and
they tend to brand those not agreeing with them as criminal or
psychotic. Look at Soviet Russia for most of the 20th century and you
will see all of these. Look further back at the French Revolution and
you will find that 1917 in Petrograd offered nothing new, perhaps new
names for certain aspects, but nothing else.
The last decades of the 20th century saw a tremendous psychological
revolution in the West. Its effects were perhaps greatest in some
religious circles, where those once wary of psychology now embraced
it more or less wholesale.
Pieces of our psycho-spiritual world view definitely needed change and
correction. Unfortunately, like the Bolsheviks and French before them, the
revolutionaries shot the Imperial family and guillotined a lot of otherwise
very fine people. Their zeal went a bit too far and they were often followed
unquestioningly. If one did question one was either totally discounted or
"enlightened" as to the new way of things post haste, yet again like the
revolutions in Russia and France- frighteningly so!
In those years, a close and scathing look was taken at religious
obedience and the personal will. It certainly was necessary. A lot
of accumulation under the accept-without-any-question syndrome
needed examination and sometimes, change.
Sadly, but predictably, the pendulum swung in a
very un-Benedictine fashion to the opposite extreme: question
everything and accept nothing. Personal will, formerly maligned as a
foolish, worthless and even dangerous entity was now elevated to
lofty, noble heights that it frankly did not deserve. Not
astoundingly, both extremes missed the middle road of truth.
Human will is at once both potentially noble and flawed.
Without God and grace assisting, the prognosis is not good. For
Christians, however, God's grace and aid ARE available, but they come
at the price of cooperation and cooperation demands a certain
sacrifice of our own wills, often even a total sacrifice of them.
It is perhaps harder for us to see the necessity of abandoning our
wills than it has been for many before us. We are traipsing through
the spiritual road with all kinds of extraneous, late 20th century
baggage about autonomy and maturity and self-actualization carried to
Balance, always balance, always moderation in the
Benedictine way! Our wills can be good and wonderful. It is, after
all, with our wills that we answer God's call. But part of His call
is to forget the self and forget its willful tantrums.
A good superior will keep one from being too easy on oneself, but
will also protect one from being too hard on oneself. I cannot tell
you the number of times submitting a matter to my superior has
resulted in something FAR less gruesome than what I had obsessively
planned for myself! Obedience can and does protect us!
Some of the wonderful things said about personal will are true, to a
point, but the revolution failed to emphasize the fact that our wills do
NOT come with gyroscopes or guarantees. As such, their trustworthiness
as compasses is far from absolute. The superior, the Rule, the Gospel,
these are the gyroscopes that enable us to will true North! Without these
helps, our journey could very easily make the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
(or the maiden voyage of the Titanic, if one prefers...) look like a Sunday
afternoon swan boat ride in Boston's Public Gardens.
Finally, St. Benedict supports his argument with Scripture. It's a
clever way of saying: "Hey, you want to argue this? Take it up with
God." That's where he threw the gauntlet, all those years ago. No one
in their right mind would dare pick it up.
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]