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,
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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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