Holy Rule for Jan. 22
Continued prayers, please, for Martin, as he recovers from his knee replacement surgery.
Say a prayer, please for me, on the 54th
anniversary of my Confirmation and for my Dad, Jerome, whose name I took first
in that Sacrament.
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 22, May 23, September 22
Chapter 5: On Obedience
The first degree of humility is obedience without delay.
This is the virtue of those
who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ;
who, because of the holy service they have professed,
and the fear of hell,
and the glory of life everlasting,
as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior,
receive it as a divine command
and cannot suffer any delay in executing it.
Of these the Lord says,
"As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17:45).
And again to teachers He says,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
Such as these, therefore,
immediately leaving their own affairs
and forsaking their own will,
dropping the work they were engaged on
and leaving it unfinished,
with the ready step of obedience
follow up with their deeds the voice of him who commands.
And so as it were at the same moment
the master's command is given
and the disciple's work is completed,
the two things being speedily accomplished together
in the swiftness of the fear of God
by those who are moved
with the desire of attaining life everlasting.
That desire is their motive for choosing the narrow way,
of which the Lord says,
"Narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matt. 7:14),
not living according to their own choice
nor obeying their own desires and pleasures
but walking by another's judgment and command,
they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them.
Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord
in which He says,
"I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
Ever wonder what was so great about obedience? What is so hot about
dumping our own wills? Sometimes our wills are innocent, sometimes they're even
downright good. Let's be truthful, sometimes our own wills seem even
BETTER than the choices presented to us by other circumstances. What
Good rhetorical question, that one: what GIVES. Genuine obedience is
a gift, to God and to all His people. Make the monastic better and
you have made the home or monastery better, and so the neighborhood,
the city, the state and onwards to the whole world. We forget the
ripple effect, because we cannot clearly see it. We are not giving
that gift to falsehood, but to truth. If we look at particle physics, it is
very true that what we do with our hearts really DOES affect the whole
Our self-gift of obedience heightens truth in the world, and Jesus
is the Truth. There is a very incarnational aspect of obedience. Like
Mary, we are, in our own halt and lame, partial ways, birthing God.
In our actions Christ today can become visibly human in us, in our
tiniest drop of fresh water, the sea becomes less salty, the desert,
less dry. No one can make the Sahara a rain forest alone, and God
knows that, but He wants us to try, to be part of the solution, not
the problem. Enough drops together WOULD make the Sahara bloom.
Obedience and humility are conjoined twins which share one heart:
both will die if they are separated. Humility, in its healthiest
perfection, is truth and that truth births bits of God into the
world, confetti mosaics that the wind of the Spirit can blow into
fuller, more accurate portraits. Yes, humility is the most often
mentioned of connections, but the root of humility is truth and the
root of truth is God. Obedience without humility would be no
better than a Nazi lockstep.
All of us spend large portions of our lives carefully building a
false self, who lives in a false world, with matching false
imperatives. Merton speaks of this false self again and again. The
goal of monastic struggle is to uncover and nurture the TRUE self,
the true world view and values. We often cheerfully ignore the real
imperatives of God and life, substituting our own and elevating them
to a level they truthfully (literally!) do not deserve. It's a moral
displacement activity. We fail altogether in one area, so we
compensate by raising another. Trouble is, the other one raised is
so often false, or made false by its unjust elevation. Sigh...
It becomes a vicious circle.
Give a good parent a critically ill child and you will find out
what's true or important in a hurry. Everything gets dropped at once,
without hesitation or care. Everything. Give a single person a really
bad case of the flu and you will soon find imperatives pared to very
few. (The flu or any illness is a superlative teacher: if it doesn't
matter when you're that sick, it often doesn't matter, period!)
See what obedience points us toward? Obedience says: here is Jesus, the
Truth. Embrace Him now, don't wait for the threatened child or the
ghastly flu to scare you into appropriate action. The Truth Whom
we only sometimes see in crisis is here all along. Keep what you have learned
from crisis. Live it all the time. Make it a gift, because it is one
that will enrich others AND yourself!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers for the at least 37 killed and 15 injured in a plane crash in Kyrgyzstan. For the eternal rest of the dead, the recovery of the wounded and for the families of all. Prayers, too, for those who lost homes or property, half of the village was destroyed by the crash.
The Salesians invite all to join them in praying a novena to Mary Immaculate, Help of Christians, for the release of kidnapped Fr. Tom in Yemen. The novena is from January 15-23.
Prayers for the eternal rest of JP. For whom we prayed, and for all his family, especially his son, and all who mourn him.
Prayers for John, facing two hours of dental implant surgery on Tuesday, may all go well and may he recover quickly.
Prayers for Donna, on her birthday, graces galore and many more, ad multos annos!
Prayers for the eternal rest of Br. Augustine, 58, of the Maronite monks in Petersham, Holy Trinity Monastery, and for his Community, family and all who mourn him.
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 is anywhere 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
frequently have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into that compliance!
Love and prayers,