Holy Rule for Nov. 26
I rarely use last names, for privacy's sake, but someone asked if the Pat we have beeen praying for is Pat Ciavarella, and it is. She is a former member of our nuns' community and known to some of you. Continued prayers for her happy death. She had hoped to join us again, if she had beaten the cancer.
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 27, July 27, November 26
Chapter 47: On Giving the Signal for the Time of the Work of God
The indicating of the hour for the Work of God
by day and by night
shall devolve upon the Abbot
either to give the signal himself
or to assign this duty to such a careful brother
that everything will take place at the proper hours.
Let the Psalms and the antiphons be intoned
by those who are appointed for it,
in their order after the Abbot.
And no one shall presume to sing or read
unless he can fulfill that office
in such a way as to edify the hearers.
Let this function be performed
with humility, gravity and reverence,
and by him whom the Abbot has appointed.
Like it or not, for good or ill, the buck stops with the Abbot. This
is true of many, if not all authority figures, so if you fall into
such a group, know that when the Holy Rule speaks of the Abbot, it
speaks of any Benedictine in authority, with a charge or
responsibility, whether in the monastery, the family or a job in
There is a down side to the authority given here. Abbots are human.
They can make bad choices, they can listen to bad advice, they can
empower the wrong people. None of these things will, in and of
itself, absolve us from obedience, but they often have some pragmatic
use in helping us realize with whom (and what!) we are dealing.
I have known at least two abbots who were blind to the faults of
people they empowered to dangerous lengths. Virtually everybody else
in the community knew, and, though risky, I would say that's a fairly
safe rule of thumb: all of the monks are rarely wrong about someone.
Oh, there may be the terribly occasional genuine saint who is
misunderstood, but usually, when the common opinion was that bad,
there was a reason for all that smoke somewhere!
Which reminds those of us who do have authority to listen to those
who disagree. Sometimes they are very, very right and we are wrong.
Sometimes the person we think is so wonderful is not so hot to
others, has a dark side that we never see, because the individual
wishes to impress the source of empowerment. Sigh...
Except for the rare above-mentioned saint, it is uncommon for someone
in a monastery to be that disliked because they are doing wonderfully
well. I'm not saying that NEVER happens, but at least in my monastic
experience, doing a job terribly well is not usually what earns
disfavor. Being a terror, on the other hand, readily does.
If the Abbot misses the fact and enables one who IS a terror, his
flock will be overdriven in nothing flat. As Scripture suggests, they
may all die in one day and rest assured, those of them who don't will
wish they'd been able to!
What I NEED to be is a monk. For some, sadly, the need-to-be thing is
to be in power. Tragic and very, very sad... I have never known such
an individual in monastic life of whom I was the least bit envious.
They are pathetically sad creatures.
But this is also true of ALL walks of life. All we really NEED to be
is Christ's, to be holy. That means to do our VOCATION well, whatever that may
be. The rest is all fluff. Every Christian and especially those
who choose the Benedictine path, need to examine this and our own
attitude to jobs or power VERY, very closely
Love and prayers,
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Prayers, please, for Kathleen, 92, having esophageal surgery, many problems, badly needs prayers.
Prayers, please, for Adolfo and his wife, Mary Carmen.
Prayers for Chris, on his 42nd birthday, graces galore 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 17, May 18, September 17
Chapter 3: On Calling the Brethren for Counsel
In all things, therefore, let all follow the Rule as guide,
and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it.
Let no one in the monastery follow his own heart's fancy;
and let no one presume to contend with his Abbot
in an insolent way or even outside of the monastery.
But if anyone should presume to do so,
let him undergo the discipline of the Rule.
At the same time,
the Abbot himself should do all things in the fear of God
and in observance of the Rule,
knowing that beyond a doubt
he will have to render an account of all his decisions
to God, the most just Judge.
But if the business to be done in the interests of the monastery
be of lesser importance,
let him take counsel with the seniors only.
It is written,
"Do everything with counsel,
and you will not repent when you have done it" (Eccles. 32:24).
The key here is not to contend insolently; there is no proscription
against telling the Abbot one feels something is amiss, so long as it
is done respectfully and humbly. We are Benedictines, not fascists;
we have a Father, not a Fuhrer.
Human nature being what it is, people are usually more prone to cite
the Abbot's responsibility to seek counsel than they are to cite the
equally important proscription against contending with one's Abbot!
There's a cure for that and many other ills buried within this
chapter, a telling phrase whose observance promises peace. That
little gem urges the monastics not to follow their "own heart's
Follow that gem and peace abounds! For one thing, whether abbot or
monastic, parent or child, boss or employee, the focus of the
relationship ceases to become self. None of us are anywheres near the
big deal we'd either like to be or think ourselves to be! Much of
what seems earth-shattering to us is really small stuff, indeed.
This is so important to monastic struggle because it is so intricately
interwoven with detachment and holy indifference. We must learn how
to hold onto our inner peace, how to safeguard it from damage at the
hands of trivia. An abject TERRIBLE day for us, one when we are so
hurt or angry that the world seems to have stopped, is just another average
day for the rest of the community. Until, of course we decide we ARE
the center of the universe and ruin it for them... Cling to that
knowledge of trivia and less will suffer!
At that point of recognizing trivia, truth and therefore, humility
enter into the equation. We need very good "trivia
detectors" and their default setting must be aimed at ourselves,
rarely cast elsewhere except in cases of really great need. We can
keep those detectors more than amply busy just in our own hearts
and wills! We need to know deception, falsity, trivia, but it is
essential to know them first in ourselves.
If these good tools of detection are aimed only at others, the result
will be pride and a fall, not humility and truth. Jesus said "I am
the Truth," and to Him we must prefer nothing. Hence, our first
desire must always be the truth and the truth is that the earth does
not revolve around us as an axis!
Our age, particularly, has embraced the idea of "Follow your bliss!"
Well, maybe...sometimes.... but maybe not, too. Our "bliss" is no
guarantee of infallibility. Years ago, and for many years of my life,
I thought my "bliss" would be very different from where I finally wound up.
As a handy rule of thumb, I would say that the will of God quite
often looks nothing like bliss at first. Hence, confusing bliss with
the divine will can be very risky. The will of God often BECOMES
bliss when we are in the midst of following it, or in hindsight, but we
have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into that compliance!
Love and prayers,
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