Holy Rule for Jan. 8
Prayers, please, for thee spiritual and physical welfare of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
George, standing in great need of prayer.
All the many folks with special intention's on Fr. Ralph's list
Ann Marie, upset that she lost her cool when dealing with a neighbor and for discernment.
A close relative of Susan, depression and away from the Church.
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 8, May 9, September 8
Chapter 1: On the Kinds of Monks
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks.
The first kind are the Cenobites:
those who live in monasteries
and serve under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits:
no longer in the first fervor of their reformation,
but after long probation in a monastery,
having learned by the help of many brethren
how to fight against the devil,
go out well armed from the ranks of the community
to the solitary combat of the desert.
They are able now,
with no help save from God,
to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh
and their own evil thoughts.
The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord's.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful.
The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak.
Passing these over, therefore,
let us proceed, with God's help,
to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks,the Cenobites.
What are the two major things that St. Benedict dislikes about the
bad types of monk? They have no stability and they follow their own
wills. Obedience is the essence of monastic struggle, and we will be
touching on it throughout the Holy Rule. Stability, while getting
lots of mention, deservedly takes a lesser role in the Rule, even
though it has become a vow for Benedictines, so it might pay to take
a closer look at stability right at the beginning of our reading of
The Desert Fathers said: "Stay in your cell and your cell will teach
you everything." Real cinch, right? Wrong! Don't picture staying in
one's cell like a personal day from work, when you sleep as late as
you like, get dressed at noon (if then!) and decide you can eat for
the day without leaving the house to go to the store or, for that
matter, without leaving the couch. That's not what this is about.
Monastics could tell you
that the cell can be paradise, but it can also be hell, a
furnace of nearly impossible heat. In fact, for many of us, it has
been both at one time or another, and maybe, just maybe, it isn't
done switching roles yet! Times of paradise are nice, they can swell
the heart with gratitude and love, but every religious knows that we
cannot stay on the mountaintop forever, like Peter, we may not pitch tents
The furnace, now there's a fetching little image! But it is
essential, too. Benedictine life seeks to lead us to God. For every
single one of us, that means cleaning out a lot of imperfection. We
may start out eagerly wanting to be like "gold tried in the furnace,
seven times refined," but it's a safe bet that early on, after a time
or two in that inferno, we'll be trying to bargain for less, maybe
four or five times refined at most! It's no debutante's ball in
Hate the furnace/gold imagery? Can't blame you there, especially if
you live in the North and furnaces are tricky and expensive worries!
Try a sauna. Still hard, still challenging, still sweats a LOT of
gunk out. However, make sure you jump in the cold water right after
the sauna, just so you don't think all this stuff is REALLY a spa!
The fact is, for Benedictines, stability, whether of cloister or
geography or of heart, is a major piece of the puzzle. It's the
ability to stick with it, stay in there, keep trying. It is the
fixedness, not just of place, but of heart and will. It is more than
just not moving around.
A consumerist society is fueled by desire, change and variety. Small
wonder that it encourages us to be always moving, always seeking the
novel, always distracted: it's profit base depends on that and,
whatever else may be said, consumerism is a greedy little devil.
Stability flies in the face of all these falsehoods. It tells us
that "rut" and routine are two very different things for us. The
routine, the mundane, the everyday and predictable are precisely the
arenas in which we must strive and win in the spiritual life.
Stability teaches us that. Our fleeting hells have heaven within them
and our Edens can turn into Dead Seas in a flash. Stability forces us
to stick with it, to weather those changes, to know EVERY side of
life and love and heart and place. No wonder St. Benedict loved it
so! It is the courage of which monastics are made!
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,