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Brother Jerome's Reflection: Oct 31

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  • michael_oblate (aka carmelitanum)
    +PAX The computer network for St. Mary s in Petersham is temporarily shutdown in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy so I am posting today for our good Brother
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 30, 2012
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      The computer network for St. Mary's in Petersham is temporarily shutdown in
      anticipation of Hurricane Sandy so I am posting today for our good Brother
      Jerome. Please pray they will not lose power because that also means they lose
      water and heat.

      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

      March 1, July 1, October 31
      Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be

      The measure of excommunication or of chastisement
      should correspond to the degree of fault,
      which degree is estimated by the judgment of the Abbess.


      If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults,
      let her be excluded from the common table.
      Now the program for one deprived of the company of the table
      shall be as follows:
      In the oratory she shall intone neither Psalm nor antiphon
      nor shall she recite a lesson
      until she has made satisfaction;
      in the refectory she shall take her food alone
      after the community meal,
      so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance,
      that sister shall eat at the ninth,
      while if they eat at the ninth hour
      she shall eat in the evening,
      until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon.

      REFLECTION

      Ever run over something unintentionally with a lawnmower? Most of us
      have. If you personally have never done such a thing, it would be
      far less upsetting to me if you never said so... LOL! Think about it.
      Who, in their right mind, would deliberately take a mower that is
      costly to repair or replace and aim for an obstacle in the grass?
      Face it, while there could be malevolence here, it is very unlikely.

      Yet the only case of this lighter excommunication of which I have
      personal knowledge was just this dumb. In the 1960's, a junior
      monk I knew ran over a water sprinkler while mowing. The guy
      didn't mean to do it and, as far as I know, admitted his guilt,
      turned himself in. He got this light excommunication for a
      while as punishment.

      That was one of the problems with "excommunication" (which, by the
      way, refers only to communal life, not to the Church or its
      Sacraments.) It could be used for silly, innocent mistakes,
      unintentional accidents. In cases like the one I noted, it often
      stressed the material above the personal. Obviously, the greatest
      treasure of the monastery was the monastic, not the water sprinkler!
      It could, as such, lack mercy and fall far short of the Gospel,
      something the Holy Rule, rightly interpreted, will never call us to do.

      As so often happens, we abandon one extreme only to flee madly to its
      opposite extreme. We went from too much to too little, sometimes
      nothing at all. In the last 35 years or so, I have heard of only one
      threat of excommunication and it did not have to be carried out,
      thank heavens. Still, we have abandoned the good that was in the
      practice: a clear, codified way to let someone know they were out of
      line, that something was wrong, that they needed help or reform or
      both.

      We replaced this (allegedly,) with talking to the individual, a sane
      enough response, except that some superiors find this hard
      to do well. That's not surprising, given the monastic
      aversion to conflict and confrontation. But it is CONFLICT we should
      avoid, not loving confrontation. We're called to a lot of the latter. It is
      the stuff of which reform and conversion is often generated. The
      Rule's system gave a "language" and an idiom to a
      superior who may not have been able to "say" it any other way. It
      eased the road for the timid.

      Take that away, and you have no means of correction in some settings.
      Both these extremes are founded on the same false assumption. Both
      ascribe to offenders more control over their actions than may
      actually be the case. Small wonder neither extreme works terribly well.

      Just talking to someone is fine as an alternative, but one has to
      actually do it. Some problems in people will neither identify nor
      repair themselves. It is folly to think that they will, to presume
      that all people have a level of clairvoyance or maturity that many,
      in fact, do not.

      Not only that, but as the Rule itself points out, some people cannot
      understand or "hear" a verbal correction. Things have not changed
      as much in the intervening 15 centuries as we might like to think they have.
      Some still can't hear. We still need a humane middle point between
      nothing and something very extreme.

      Parents take warning. Embrace either of these extremes and your
      children will be talking about you many, many years later, to
      therapists or in bars, or both! Ditto bosses and superiors. Your job
      is the exact and complete opposite of ignoring major flaws, of
      letting things like that go. If your head is in the sand on any
      significant count, everyone in the family suffers including,
      eventually, yourself.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      www.stmarysmonastery.org
      Petersham, MA
    • carmelitanum
      +PAX Please pray for the continued recovery of our good Brother Jerome. Lord, help us all as You know and will. God s will is best. All is mercy and grace. God
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 30, 2014
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        +PAX


        Please pray for the continued recovery of our good Brother Jerome.
         

        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

        March 1, July 1, October 31
        Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be

        The measure of excommunication or of chastisement should correspond
        to the degree of fault, which degree is estimated by the judgment
        of the Abbess.

        If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults, let her be excluded
        from the common table. Now the program for one deprived of the
        company of the table shall be as follows: In the oratory she shall
        intone neither Psalm nor antiphon nor shall she recite a lesson
        until she has made satisfaction; in the refectory she shall take
        her food alone after the community meal,
        so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance, that sister
        shall eat at the ninth,
        while if they eat at the ninth hour she shall eat in the evening,
        until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon.

        REFLECTION

        Let's face it, St. Benedict has a lot to say about excommunication-
        a clumsy term, perhaps, because people often assume it means
        excommunication from the Church, which is the only sense of the
        word we commonly have today. It does not, of course mean that, just
        a punishment of exclusion from certain community functions.

        Let's face something else, at least in this chapter. Fasting an
        extra three hours might not be lovely, but no intoning in choir?
        What bad news! Gosh... Even many of us who CAN sing would look at
        that as a nice break!

        And eating alone? Well, the extra fast was a drag, but I sure
        missed that reader and the tedious book we've been reading.
        What awful luck!

        See the difference in perception a millennium or so can make? That
        may be a large part of why the penal code is not followed today:
        some of its punishments simply make little sense to modern
        monastics, some seem mean, and others (as above,) seem like
        downright vacations.

        The rest of this applies with great ease to family situations,
        marital situations and the workplace. Something must be gleaned
        from all this legislation for punishment: the one at fault must be
        told when something is wrong. That, after all, is the only reason
        for punishment, to be a wake up call to the less than brilliant.

        Unfortunately, the monastic hatred of personal confrontation
        endemic in our ranks assumes
        sufficient brilliance for all to sooner or later figure out that
        they are amiss. It just ain't so, folks, sorry! Things fester when
        they go ignored for years. Things that someone should have dealt
        with gently, but firmly and even summarily, in formation or
        childhood, torture the family in later years.

        Look, it is hard, VERY hard, to confront a predictably stubborn or
        difficult child or monastic or spouse or employee.
        It's easy to see why one would rather not do so. But the Holy Rule
        asks many things that are difficult of us, and this one is
        unquestionably
        for the good of all, both the offender and the offended. The false
        charity that omits to make
        these difficult corrections goes a long way to making everyone's
        life awful in the future.

        Also, in workplace especially, bear in mind that the authority
        figure here is the abbot, not the rank and file. One dare not
        assume all those prerogatives as a peer and equal. Fraternal
        correction will get a mention of its own later on, but it is not a
        mantle to be assumed lightly. We must beware of the other extreme:
        becoming universal policing agents for all and sundry. A tiny spark
        of Gestapo flickers in many human hearts. Do nothing
        to fan the flame!

        Love and prayers,
        Jerome, OSB
        http://stmarysmonastery.org
        Petersham, MA


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