Holy Rule for Jan. 2
The Christmas Octave is over, but the season of Christmastide lasts till the
Baptism of the Lord, later this month, so keep on praying for those you have
exchanged greetings, cards or gifts with. Make your intentions include those of
years past, too, a nice way to include in prayer thosse dear ones no longer with
Prayers, please, for vocations to St. Mary's Monastery. Please ask God to send
us some good men in 2013.
Lord, help us 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 2, May 3, September 2
Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 13:11).
Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94:8).
"Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
And what does He say?
"Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33:12).
"Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).
Check out the similarities of this section, at the beginning of the
Holy Rule, and the readings of early Lent, which stress that "now is
the acceptable time." It brings to mind St. Benedict's later chapter
which says that the monastic life ought always to have some semblance
That perpetual Lent chapter is the source of a lot of grumbling about
austerity from one camp and cheering about it from another. Both may
have missed a salient point. Perhaps the greatest element of
perpetual Lent has less to do with austerity- even the monastic fast
did not last all year. What IS perpetually in style is wakefulness
Monastic life withers in either smugness or a rut. What St. Benedict
wants us to do is always to try and stay at that serious moment of
taking inventory that many of us feel at Lent's beginning. We need to
always be checking what needs to be cleaned up and we need to be
prepared, even a bit eager, to start working on it.
This is why a daily examination of conscience is so necessary.
Compline, the traditional liturgical place for such examens, is a
very apt place for same. As we prepare for sleep, which prefigures
death, we prepare also for death, by examining our faults and asking
The Holy Rule, like Lent, is by no means the gateway to an easier
life, but to a holier one. As we actually grow in holiness much of it
will become easier, more natural to us. But until that time, it is a
struggle and, in unconquered areas, it remains something of a
struggle for all of our lives. What's hard about that struggle isn't
fasting or penance, but changing ourselves. Austere practices are
just a means to that end, not ends in themselves.
The whole idea of Lent and the Holy Rule is lasting change for the
better. Lent is a seasonal construct to get us to begin anew, the
Holy Rule says that beginning anew must be a daily thing. Lent is an
attempt to get us to do for forty days what we ought to have been
doing all year. The Holy Rule is a way to do what we ought to do all
year, every day.
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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