Holy Rule for Dec. 30
Prayers for Sr. Lany Jo, ASCJ, recovering from knee and torn cartilage surgery.
Prayers for the happy death of Mrs. Service, she has cancer in her lungs and breasts and has been sent home to die. Prayers for all her family, too.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 30, August 30, December 30
Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which They Ought to Have
Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness
which separates from God and leads to hell,
so there is a good zeal
which separates from vices and leads to God
and to life everlasting.
This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice
with the most fervent love.
Thus they should anticipate one another in honor (Rom. 12:10);
most patiently endure one another's infirmities,
whether of body or of character;
vie in paying obedience one to another --
no one following what she considers useful for herself,
but rather what benefits another;
tender the charity of sisterhood chastely;
fear God in love;
love their Abbess with a sincere and humble charity;
prefer nothing whatever to Christ.
And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!
This chapter, full of self-evident and beautiful prose should serve
as a short rule of life, a summary of all that has gone before it.
Live this one, and you're all right: the details from the other
chapters will take care of themselves. Little wonder then that its
principal points are love, obedience and humility, practiced in the
chastity of wholeness. (Chastity, it must be recalled, is proper to
every state in life. It is the well-ordered, balanced and wholesome
use of sexuality.) Even less wonder that, to call Scripture in to witness
here, "the greatest of these is love." Merton's one-line Holy Rule
summary also applies: "Love is the Rule."
The beauty here is so great that we often do not spend enough time
looking at its opposite: "the evil zeal of bitterness." What a great
turn of phrase! Like many of us, St. Benedict seems to have known
some whose bitterness turned into an energetic zeal, a way of life, a
broken power line in a windy world that could strike others or
themselves without warning.
And "zeal" is precisely the word! People can put such frighteningly
zealous levels of effort into self-loathing bitterness. It becomes a
full-time job, one which requires so much energy that it's a marvel
that they continue.
Bitter anger, self-hatred, ill-will towards many,
these are viciously involuted cycles, cancers of the soul. They turn
on the self, malignantly. They injure and alienate others to make
one's twisted world view remain correct. They never rest, the fist
is always clenched, the hand never open.
I have known two monks with this dreadful problem, both now long
dead. Thank heavens, they both persevered to the end and one hopes
that was enough, because, frankly, little else could be said for
them. They both guaranteed that their own lives were hell and pretty
much ensured smaller doses of hell for the rest of us living with
When I was much younger and living with those embittered monks, it
was hard to look at them with much pity or calm. It isn't now, thank
God, and I have spent considerable time praying for both of them, as
well as for a few of their "runners-up"! While all things are
possible with God, the terrible thing is that this self-hatred never
gets fixed in some people. It can be a life sentence. Then, prayer is
the only answer.
In any situation, but perhaps worse when the sufferer is one's spouse
or parent or child, this bitterness is a terrible cross, for both the
sufferer and those around her. It might seem cold comfort to say that
it can make us all saints, but it truly is not cold comfort at
all. Being saints is the only thing, ultimately, that matters. I hope
by now some of my crosses of the past are praying for me, protecting
me, by their prayers, from what once ailed them and forgiving me for
the times I provoked them!
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,