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,
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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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