Holy Rule for Jan. 23
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Linda Ann, starting over, a new life in another State.
Brian, severely sprained his ankle and cracked the fbula in his leg, due to get a cast on Monday, and for Ginger, his dear wife and his many friends who have offered to help while he is recovering.
John, who is starting his Novitiate at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas.
Prayers for Kasey, on her birthday, graces and blessings and many more.
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 23, May 24, September 23
Chapter 5: On Obedience
But this very obedience
will be acceptable to God and pleasing to all
only if what is commanded is done
without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection.
For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God,
since He Himself has said,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will,
for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
For if the disciple obeys with an ill will
not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart,
then even though he fulfill the command
yet his work will not be acceptable to God,
who sees that his heart is murmuring.
And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this,
he will incur the punishment due to murmurers,
unless he amend and make satisfaction.
Trust me, folks, I am not second-guessing St. Benedict on this one, I
just think there is a chance that he is often misread and that
something not at all contrary to his precepts needs to be emphasized.
Few who share my cynical bent would fail to chafe at a reading of
this passage which implies that we must all be cheerful
optimists, blithely smiling automatons. Yes, we are told not to
murmur, and to put the very best face on our obedience that we
possibly can. Often the real miracle of grace is that we can just
barely obey in silence, without any comment at all. No doubt that is
a tender mercy to those who live with us! We must not read St.
Benedict harshly, even less so God. We must keep the loving parent
image ever before our eyes in both instances.
I want to expand the image of the non-murmuring heart a bit. Some
days one's heart cannot murmur, because it is numb and paralyzed,
unable to do much of anything more explicit than ache. After being racked
and tortured brutally in prison, St. Edmund Campion's keeper asked him
how he felt. He replied: "Not ill, because not at all."
Some days everything seems like another trip to the rack, some days
one's heart is Ground Zero, and everything coming at it seems to be
just one more horrible plane. A brave face or even a blank
expressionless one may be all one can muster. We are asked to try, to
do our best, to be as brave as we can. We may be able to offer nothing more
than the good will of obedience that St. Benedict links to the cheerful.
How very great is the love of God for us at such times. A favorite
image I have used before is very apt here: the heart of God is like a
Mother's refrigerator door, plastered with children's bad, even
ghastly art. (OK, I KNOW it may be age-appropriate art, but bear with
me on this one....) God is bursting and beaming with pride at our
struggling efforts. He cares not a wit that we are not beaming with
strained cheer ourselves. With all that mud on our faces, who could see
the forced smile anyhow? We must obey with good will, but I think
sometimes that is nearly all we can do.
God loves us so deeply when we are fallen, crawling toward Him on
all fours and still barely hanging on. The effort, always the effort
is what God sees.
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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