Holy Rule for Dec. 26
Prayers for William, intestinal mass and treatment not yet decided on.
Prayers for Rev. Victoria and her Church. Her Church was burglarized badly just before Christmas.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Oh Jang Kyun, who died after being in a coma for a month folwing a car accident. None of the family has any religious faith, apparently neither did Oh Jang.
Why not this year make a new tradition: pray for your "Christmas list", that is
all people with whom you exchanged Christmas greetings, all through
Christmastide. It is a warm and loving custom.
Prayers, please, for all who have lost someone dear over the holidays. It
can be so awful for them and then the pain can recur year after year. Prayers,
too, for all those addicts for whom this season of feasting in food and drink
can be a particularly trying time of temptation. May God bless and strengthen
them all. 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 26, August 26, December 26
Chapter 68: If a Sister Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things
If it happens
that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a sister,
let her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority
with all meekness and obedience.
But if she sees that the weight of the burden
altogether exceeds the limit of her strength,
let her submit the reasons for her inability
to the one who is over her
in a quiet way and at an opportune time,
without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
And if after these representations
the Superior still persists in her decision and command,
let the subject know that this is for her good,
and let her obey out of love,
trusting in the help of God.
Buried in chapters whose names may throw us off there are usually
gems, one just has to dig a bit more carefully. Granted, impossible
tasks are rarely asked of anyone these days, much less Oblates who
live outside the monastery, but there is a beautiful method given
here which has the widest of applications.
Most interpersonal conflict arises from one being or feeling wronged.
Escalation often follows when one tries to express their displeasure
to the offender. Even people who are truly wrong do not enjoy being
humiliated or treated as if they were nothing. Upset by another's
actions, it is easy to lose one's cool. When both parties blow up, a
relentless cycle of discord is born.
The method given here for approaching one's superior is a masterpiece
of crisis intervention and prevention for almost any situation in
"...in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride,
resistance, or contradiction."
We ought to carve that on the walls of every mediation center in the
world, on the doors to every marriage counselor and above every
complaint desk (or, as they euphemize them these days, "Customer
Service," but what's in a name?)
Look at what is called for here: composure and calm, timing, respect
for the other person (Gandhi would even say love for the foe,) non-
violence and non-contentiousness. Use this approach with
disagreements and many of them will melt away. One reason Gandhi's
non-violence worked was that he employed all of these things, the
opponent was never denied her worth or dignity. When his followers
pared the list, they failed. This is the recipe for lasting results,
not for a temporary subjugation.
Jesus, of course, gives us a three step process to redress wrongs: go
to the person alone, if that doesn't work go with a witness, if even
that fails, then haul them up before the whole assembly. We can
consider ourselves absolved if we follow all those steps and may feel
justified, but if we undertake ANY of those steps, especially the
first one, without the calm prescribed by St. Benedict, our effort is
all but guaranteed to fail. We can sputter out: "I went to her and I
got NOWHERE!" Ah, yes, but HOW did you go? "He wouldn't even listen
to the whole community!" Neither would you, if made to feel that
small and worthless in public.
Very often our manner of dealing with others says a great deal about
how we esteem ourselves. A balanced dignity and self-love is shown in
the Holy Rule's approach. It will go a longer way toward ending
conflict than a "wronged prima donna" move. Sometimes prima donnas
of either gender are filled with angry self-hatred.
Watch people fight and it will be easy to see that many consider any
slight or offense against themselves to be THE original sin. Sigh...
Give people like that a lot of room. Being wrong is not a capital
offense, everybody does it at one time or another. People who
demonstrate anything else by their actions damage their own standing
in the group as well, and rightly so.
Remember that every disagreement hurts the whole group. A family at
dinner with two not speaking is a tense affair. You cannot calm a
child by saying "This is between your Father and me! It has nothing
to do with you." But it does, it really does. A community in choir
after a huge blow-up between two members is not an exquisite taste of
mystical prayer. Everybody suffers. That's why fixing these fender-
benders is so important and why St. Benedict gave us a way that is so
very likely to achieve results.
Now THAT'S creative peacemaking!
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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