March 19, July 19, November 18
Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink
"Everyone has her own gift from God,
one in this way and another in that" (1 Cor. 7:7).
It is therefore with some misgiving
that we regulate the measure of others' sustenance.
Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak,
we believe that a hemina of wine a day is sufficient for each.
But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain
should know that they will receive a special reward.
If the circumstances of the place,
or the work
or the heat of summer
require a greater measure,
the superior shall use her judgment in the matter,
taking care always
that there be no occasion for surfeit or drunkenness.
it is true,
that wine is by no means a drink for monastics;
but since the monastics of our day cannot be persuaded of this
let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety,
because "wine makes even the wise fall away" (Eccles. 19:2).
But where the circumstances of the place are such
that not even the measure prescribed above can be supplied,
but much less or none at all,
let those who live there bless God and not murmur.
Above all things do we give this admonition,
that they abstain from murmuring.
"Above all...abstain from murmuring." The murmuring here (and
everywhere it is mentioned in the Holy Rule,) is mean-spirited
griping about people or conditions. Never for an instant think that
Benedictine standards require one to be blind to real problems.
Abbots can be removed and have been. The process is neither simple
nor a great deal of fun, but it has been done. Real evils ought to be
addressed and usually are.
It's hard to write about this, because a certain unwritten law (well,
written in the hearts of monastics!) governs what is and isn't
murmuring. It's an intuitive sort of principle that one learns by
living among and observing other monastics. All I can say is that the
Benedictines I have known and know today do NOT blindly accept BS at
any price. There are healthy levels of opposition and resistance in a
healthy community, but their boundaries most not be violated. In
fact, any superior or community which mercilessly destroys ALL
disagreement or opposition is in serious danger. Part of community's
efficacy is that vastly different people live together in peace.
Maybe peace is the key to assessing a lot of murmuring. The meanest,
most hateful monk I ever knew- now dead and buried some years in the
Florida hills- had a life of nearly non-stop murmuring. Everything
was wrong, everyone was wrong and he reported such things with an eye
to harm. I heard another monk refer to this guy as "diabolical" and
that was not an adjective he used lightly.
Virtually nothing and no one at all measured up to Br. X's standards.
He was hell to live with and I feared him when I was a novice. But
there is the catch: he was hell to live with, even for himself. His
self-hatred was masked by murmuring, by putting forth to the world
high standards which he himself could in no way match and frankly,
didn't. He was filled with anger and pain and sought to make the
world around him match. What a convoluted mess!
Listen up, m'dears, I cannot know what another's pain is or how they
should seek help for it, but I do know that the Benedictine way is
NOT to pass that on and not to stand idly by and watch another do so.
Horrible to say, it took me years to get over Br. X's meanness. When
I came here it took me years to learn that I no longer had to cover
my flanks or look over my shoulder: no one here is mean, nor would we
accept someone who was.
Poor Br. X, I often pray for his tortured soul. However, it was not
his fault alone. There was an Abbot who listened, there were monks
who did, too. A united refusal to listen to such crap might have
helped him, or it might have actually driven him out, but in fact
that didn't happen until far, far too late. We all bear a two-sided
obligation to mean murmuring: don't start it, and don't listen to it.
Venom doesn't have any effect if it doesn't get in the bloodstream.
See to it that you never help it on it's way.
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Petersham, MA