Prayers, please for Steve Vaughn, who has died, also for Mary Jane,
50's and newly diagnosed with leukemia, on a marrow transplant
search, and for Robin, terminally ill with lung cancer, and her
friend Mara, and all her family. Prayers, too, for Carol, severe
headaches of unknown origin, and for Doug, having a bit of a low
point while struggling with asthma AND diabetes meds. God's will is
best! All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
January 16, May 17, September 16
Chapter 3: On Calling the Brethren for Counsel
Whenever any important business has to be done
in the monastery,
let the Abbot call together the whole community
and state the matter to be acted upon.
Then, having heard the brethren's advice,
let him turn the matter over in his own mind
and do what he shall judge to be most expedient.
The reason we have said that all should be called for counsel
is that the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.
Let the brethren give their advice
with all the deference required by humility,
and not presume stubbornly to defend their opinions;
but let the decision rather depend on the Abbot's judgment,
and all submit to whatever he shall decide for their welfare.
However, just as it is proper
for the disciples to obey their master,
so also it is his function
to dispose all things with prudence and justice.
We elect our abbots, which may make obedience a bit easier for us
than living under an appointed superior, but we are not a pure
democracy. This is so hard for Americans in particular to learn, let
alone value!! In terms of civil government comparisons, we may not be
an absolute autocracy, but we are far from a constitutionally diluted
monarchy! The abbot has a lot of power. In fact, in most cases, he
has, as this chapter indicates, the last word.
St. Benedict was far too wise to leave all power to an elective
community. That would frustrate any abbot's efforts to upgrade the
life of his flock. Monastics tend to resist change, let alone reform.
They'd simply vote him down and be done with it. Communities, like
St. Peter, must sometimes be girded by another and led where they
would not go! Pure democracy would make that impossible.
There is a great reminder in this chapter that either the community
or the abbot can be wrong. That is so important for both to remember.
Indeed, if either forgets that fact, the danger to humility is
extreme and we are nothing if not humble. There is also the lesson
here of mutual respect. Even though the abbot actually has the
authority to ignore the community's suggestions, he is bidden to ask
for input and receive it with prudence and justice, neither terrified
by every passing whim of the body nor terrifying the body with every
passing whim of his own!
So, if you will, the concept of mutual obedience and fraternal love
and respect is writ large over the whole of this chapter. Letting
anyone have that much power is scary if the group as a whole is not
constrained to virtue, but we are. Sure, the ideal can be failed, we
are human, but the ideal is there and it is under the conditions of
that ideal that so much is entrusted with faith to the abbot.
Love and prayers,