Holy Rule for Dec. 27
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All ismercy and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 27, August 27, December 27
Chapter 69: That the Monks Presume Not to Defend One Another
Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground
to defend another monk in the monastery,
or as it were to take him under his protection,
even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship.
Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever,
because it may give rise to most serious scandals.
But if anyone breaks this rule,
let him be severely punished.
We are all supposed to bear one another's burdens. That should be
more than enough help for anyone, if we actually keep that principle.
A big problem with becoming the protector of another, self-appointed
or otherwise, is that it destroys one's peace needlessly. When I was
a novice, there was one other novice I really did not want to lose.
He was not the brightest bulb on the tree and I went out of my way to
protect him from himself. In time, he came to resent this and I was
so busy worrying about covering or preventing his foibles all the
time that I spent little time focusing on my own novitiate. Of
course, he left. He was supposed to leave. I, however, could not see
that at the time.
This isn't just about monasteries, it's about any human group. Taking
someone under our wing can result in all sorts of false assumptions.
It can fool us into thinking we can really control events more than
we can. It can lead us, a la Mother Hen, to seek to control the one
under wing in very unnecessary and unhealthy ways. Its most common
error is also one of its most dangerous ones: it leads us to think in
terms of "us-and-them." There is no "them" in a healthy monastery or
family or Christian community, only an "us".
As usual, what the Holy Rule insists we avoid is an extreme. This
chapter is NOT saying we should not look out for one another, just
that no one should presume that the job is hers alone. Good families
protect all their members, but it is a corporate activity, something
in which all participate. Destroy that balance and the others will
notice quickly. It upsets the inner peace, both of the individual and
Part of any monastic's struggle, in cloister or in the world, is the
painful facing up to ourselves, that confrontation with our own
flaws. This difficult self-knowledge is essential to the monastic
way. Trying to protect someone from this process is counter to the
very reason they came. It not only harms them, it harms us. It
keeps us so busy with another's affairs that we can avoid looking
at our own failings: a distraction we may perilously cherish!
Merton once told his junior monk students that there is an
existential place of loneliness in every monk that no one can touch,
and that this is the way it's supposed to be, that no one should try
to reach it. That's where the struggle goes on, that's where there is
only God and the self. That's the arena in which the action happens.
Every person, every employee, every spouse and child has a similar
place: it is the place of great potential learning and growth. Our deep
respect for one another must stand away from that space. Becoming
self-appointed guardians of another violates that space.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day to all in the US who are celebrating today. God be thanked for His many blessings to us all. Prayers for all and especially for the safety of those travelling.
Prayers for Cas, who has gastrointestinal cancer. Prayers, too, for Bev, his wife, and Gabrielle, their daughter. Bev is a classmate of mine from Tampa Catholic High.
Prayers for Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, OSB, newly appointed Prior of the Benedictine community at Norcia, Italy, and continued prayers for them as they recover from the catastrophic damage the earthquake did to their monastery and basilica.
Prayers for Christopher, 13, in hospice care at home with brain cancer and thought to be very close to death. Prayers for his family, too, and for all who will mourn him.
Prayers for Daniel, had an injection for knee pain, knee reduced to bone on bone and will eventually need a replacement.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Greg, and for all his family and all who mourn him.
Prayers for the eternal rest of Stella, 92, a Benedictine Oblate, and prayers for her family and all who mourn her.
Prayers for B., for her return to the Faith.
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 25, July 25, November 24
Chapter 45: On Those Who Make Mistakes in the Oratory
When anyone has made a mistake
while reciting a Psalm, a responsory,
an antiphon or a lesson,
if he does not humble himself there before all
by making a satisfaction,
let him undergo a greater punishment
because he would not correct by humility
what he did wrong through carelessness.
But boys for such faults shall be whipped.
Calm down, we don't whip anybody anymore. It has too often been my
experience that such lines push all the buttons of some readers these
days and blind them to the rest of the good stuff there. We don't
whip now, they did 1,500 years ago, everyone else did, too. Let's not
get so mired in the sensitivities of our own time that we forget how
terribly recent some of them are.
As I have mentioned before, in our house we do kneel in the center
when late for choir, then bow to the superior and go to our
place. We also kneel when we make audible mistakes in Church. And
yes, those things, as I pointed out, can be very useful.
But most Oblates do not have a choir to kneel in, so
what's here for the majority of us? There is the grace of humility,
without which communal life on any level, in monastery, workplace, market or
home would be unlivable.
Every single human community or whatever sort is going to have its
share of kinks, strays and crosses. Every one without fail
will mirror in some sense the fallen brokenness of humanity. The
gamut of human flaws exists in microcosm, in at least some mitigated form,
in every human group.
Even more annoyingly, most, if not all, pieces of our OWN broken
humanity will be modeled, much to our distaste, by others around us. It is,
alas, our own sins and faults in others that tend to annoy us most. Never
forget to check for that. He or she may REALLY tick you off because
of the great similarities between you!
Our job is to see to it that we are part of the solution, not part
of the problem. When, through whatever means, we become part of the problem,
we must own up to it at once and smooth it over as best and as
quickly as we can.
If you can't say "I'm sorry," for heaven's sake- quite literally- start
practicing alone in front of a mirror until the words can somehow
tumble out in public. Until they can, try some useful (though not
perfect,) substitutes, like "Excuse me," or "It was my fault." Work
on words of forgiveness, too, like: "It doesn't matter," or "Oh,
Strive to make light of things. There will never be any
shortage whatever of people who will explode and magnify things out
of all rational proportion, so don't duplicate services! Join the
minority and try to prevent hurricanes in teacups, rather than
Most outrage, most lack of apology, most tempests in teacups stem
from a distorted an unhealthy view of the self. Humility corrects
that imbalance. While you're in front of the mirror practicing
apology, why not try a bit of self-interview?
WHY do these things or persons upset you so? What do you have in
common with those who annoy you most? Most important, just who the
heck ARE you that your perceived slights are such a big deal? Try
reminding yourself that He is God and you are not. Honest reflection on these
points may be a big and promising start.
Love and prayers,