Holy Rule for June 5
Prayers, please, for our Abbot Hugh Gilbert, of Pluscarden. He has been named Bishop of Aberdeen, Scotland, the Diocese in which Pluscarden is situated. It will be a great boon for the Church there to have him, and we rejoice at that, but he has been Abbot since 1992 and we will sorely miss him. Prayers, please, for Abbot Hugh, his future ministry and for Pluscarden and Petersham and whomever is elected to succeed him.
Prayers for one who was hopeful about a romantic relationship which seems to have encountered obstacles, for the perfect will of God in this matter.
Prayers for the happy death of Bishop Ambrose, OSB, apparently very weak now.
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
February 4, June 5, October 5
Chapter 7: On Humility
The seventh degree of humility
is that he consider himself lower and of less account
than anyone else,
and this not only in verbal protestation
but also with the most heartfelt inner conviction,
humbling himself and saying with the Prophet,
"But I am a worm and no man,
the scorn of men and the outcast of the people" (Ps. 21:7).
"After being exalted, I have been humbled
and covered with confusion" (Ps. 87:16).
"It is good for me that You have humbled me,
that I may learn Your commandments" (Ps. 118:71).
So many people get blown away arguing against the line: "I am a worm
and no man..." that they completely miss a crucially important fact.
Very ancient interpretation of this Psalm has the Suffering Servant,
Jesus, as its focus. Jesus Himself quoted its opening line from the
Cross: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" There are numerous
allusions to the crucifixion in this Psalm, casting lots for
garments, piercing hands and feet and the derision of the crowd, to
name a few.
OK, so if we dare to put these wormy terms in the mouth of Christ,
how come we get upset about saying the same of ourselves? Good
question! If HE can say it, even metaphorically, we surely should
have no problem!
But many seem to have a big problem there, so let's look at the
matter from a different angle. We absolutely cannot know that others
are worse than us. It's not possible, because we cannot see into
their hearts, we cannot know every factor in their guilt or lack
thereof. We cannot know that they are not better than us.
God alone can know all those things.
OK, one argues, so if we can't know anyone is worse, we sure can't
know if they're better, either. Quite right! Our God-given natural
assessment abilities allow us to be sure of no one's wickedness or
goodness, not even our own state of grace. But we have more facility
in self-judgement than we have in regard to others. We have more
parts of the puzzle there, even though we still don't have them all,
we have windows into our own hearts and minds that we have in no
So, with all this ironclad uncertainty, why would Scripture and the
Holy Rule ask us to think ourselves less than anyone else? For two
very important reasons. First, it is the safest position to take.
Even without full knowledge of ourselves, we have more information
there than we have anywhere else. Secondly, it is the most profitable
position for learning and spiritual growth.
If we think someone is less than ourselves, there is little chance we
will learn anything from her: we're so busy with patronizing
condescension that only now and then will the woman's REAL words come
through to us. On the other hand, if we think everyone has something
to teach us, knowledge and growth start popping up all over the
place, in some very unlikely locations! This attitude is part of
listening, really listening.
And after all, "Listen" is where our Rule begins!
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,
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