Holy Rule for Aug. 27
Please pray for all in the path of Hurricane Irene, including us at Petersham. Thanks so much.
Prayers, please, for the happy death and full embrace of the Divine Mercy for Bp. Donald, very near death.
Prayers for Anne P., maxiallry sinus hemorrhages, Doc performed some procedures which hopefully will stem them.
Prayers of thanks and Deo gratias for Shane, some exams he needed to take for work and he passed them!
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
because it may give rise to most serious scandals. But if anyone
breaks this rule, let him be severely punished.
In one of his tapes of lectures given to formation classes at
Gethsemani, Merton speaks of a loneliness at the core of each
monastic that cannot be touched and OUGHT not to be touched. In
saying that, he articulated one of those sensed things that one
learns (hopefully!) by osmosis in monastic community. Hearing him I
had both the sense of "Wow! I never heard that before!" and also
knowing that I knew exactly what he meant, just had never talked
about it. It's just one of those things we rather "know" without
putting into words very often. Goes with the territory.
In every monastic struggler, from newest Oblate to Abbot Primate,
this place of aloneness- and sometimes loneliness- exists. It must
exist. It must be protected. It is at the very root of our
name: "monos" alone, solitary. (Yes, I am aware that "monos" is
sometimes rendered more in the sense of single-minded, having one
purpose, in the sense of purity of heart, but I think the more
general opinion holds with "alone.")
This is a breathtakingly sacred place of solitude, where, like
Jacob, we wrestle with God and with ourselves. It is the place
where all those unlovely things we have to confront in ourselves
are first displayed. It is part and parcel of the original monastic
It is what we have retained of the Desert. It may be the only place
left to many of us where we are like St. Antony the Great,dwelling
alone in the tombs. It can often be no less smelly and scary than
the tombs, too! Sigh... the place where we gradually meet our
true selves is not always a cloistered paradise!
Preserving this necessarily inviolate solitude is what this chapter
is all about. No matter how much one loves another monastic, one
must know to leave this place alone. This is the place where every
monastic must be a stand-alone grown up before God, with no
defenders, no co-dependency, no illusions on the part of those who
may think they are doing a favor by taking one's part. I think most
of us dwelling in monasteries know this almost by instinct. We
know, somehow, the place beyond which one must not go. To go there
imperils both parties in many, many ways.
This does not impoverish relationships, though it does limit them.
We can have very, very dear friends who are married and know fully
well that there are places in their hearts and lives we must not go.
So it is with monastics. In each of us there is this (pardon the
imagery,) "married" place where others dare not meddle.
This is the love of realism. I cannot "love" my brother by taking
from him the very arena from which monastic growth springs. If I do
so, I am defeating him and defeating myself. No, we must love in
truth, and that is not always easy. We must desire firmly the best
for those we love, and it is so easy for the self to get in the way
of those desires.
Married people, no doubt, could also attest that in a healthy
couple, there are still places like this, places of adulthood all
alone which are not touched, cannot be touched. It is the
existential one-on-one with God that we all have to one degree or
another. What monasticism hopes to do is to teach us the frightening
boon that we have in such solitary adulthood. It is the time we get real.
It is the moment of Truth. And Jesus did, after all, say: "I am the Truth."
What an encounter both terrifying and sublime!
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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