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]
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,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]