Prayers, please, for John, who has cancer, and for his sister,
Kathleen. Prayers, too, that a house may sell. Several people are
counting on that for their financial welfare. God's will is best. All
is mercy and grace. Thanks so much. JL
March 1, July 1, October 31
Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be
The measure of excommunication or of chastisement
should correspond to the degree of fault,
which degree is estimated by the judgment of the Abbess.
If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults,
let her be excluded from the common table.
Now the program for one deprived of the company of the table
shall be as follows:
In the oratory she shall intone neither Psalm nor antiphon
nor shall she recite a lesson
until she has made satisfaction;
in the refectory she shall take her food alone
after the community meal,
so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance,
that sister shall eat at the ninth,
while if they eat at the ninth hour
she shall eat in the evening,
until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon.
Let's face it, St. Benedict has a lot to say about excommunication- a
clumsy term, perhaps, because people often assume it means
excommunication from the Church, which is the only sense of the word
we commonly have today. It does not, of course mean that, just a
punishment of exclusion from certain community functions.
Let's face something else, at least in this chapter. Fasting an extra
three hours might not be lovely, but no intoning in choir? What bad
news! Gosh... Even many of us who CAN sing would look at that as a
And eating alone? Well, the extra fast was a drag, but I
sure missed that droning reader and the tedious book we've been
reading. What awful luck!
See the difference in perception a millennium or so can make? That
may be a large part of why the penal code is not followed today: some
of its punishments simply make little sense to modern monastics, some
seem mean, and others (as above,) seem like downright vacations.
The rest of this applies with great ease to family situations,
marital situations and the workplace. Something must be gleaned from
all this legislation for punishment: the one at fault must be told
when something is wrong. That, after all, is the only reason for
punishment, to be a wake up call to the less than brilliant.
Unfortunately, the monastic hatred of personal confrontation endemic
in our ranks assumes (because it is easiest to do so,) sufficient
brilliance for all to sooner or later figure out that they are amiss.
It just ain't so, folks, sorry! Things fester when they go ignored
for years. Things that someone should have dealt with gently, but
firmly and even summarily, in formation or childhood, torture the
family in later years.
Look, it is hard, VERY hard, to confront a predictably stubborn or
difficult child or monastic or spouse or employee on a bad day. It's
easy to see why one would rather not do so. But the Holy Rule asks
many things that are difficult of us, and this one is unquestionably
for the good of all, both the offender and the offended. The false
charity, (really just cowardice in polite drag,) that omits to make
these difficult corrections goes a long way to making everyone's life
hellish in the future.
Also, in workplace especially, bear in mind that the authority figure
here is the abbot, not the rank and file. One dare not assume all
those prerogatives as a peer and equal. Fraternal correction will get
a chapter of its own later on, but it is not a mantle to be assumed
lightly. We must beware of the other extreme: becoming universal
policing agents for all and sundry. A tiny spark of Gestapo flickers
in many, if not most human hearts. Do nothing to fan the flame!
Love and prayers,