Holy Rule for Jan. 28
Prayers, please, for the spiritual and physical welfare of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Martin, in a lot of pain after knee replacement surgery.
Seamus, going through a spiritual crisis.
Lauren, 41, who is dealing with alcoholism and depression and the constellation of negativity; Lauren is divorced but is plagued by an ex-husband who won't leave her alone.
Maria, 34, who is having brain surgery on Thursday to remove a tumor; Maria is a wife, mother of 2 year old, and a teacher.
John, seeing his cardiologist on Monday.
Kay, elderly, suffering from some painful wounds in her foot and a compression fracture in her spine. The doctors are giving her some heavy narcotics to ease the pain, but those depress her appetite and thus contribute to a more general weakness.
Roechelle, 19, is having surgery for a blood clot twisted around her lower spine. She cannot walk now. Very delicate surgery, prayer for wisdom for the Dr.
Mary Ellen, an Oblate who is recovering from recent successful cancer surgery.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent, prside Him! Thanks so much. JL.
January 28, May 29, September 28
Chapter 7: On Humility
As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."
And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37:10).
Revolutions usually have several things in common: they respond to a
need, they go too far in some areas, not far enough in others and
they tend to brand those not agreeing with them as criminal or
psychotic. Look at Soviet Russia for most of the 20th century and you
will see all of these. Look further back at the French Revolution and
you will find that 1917 in Petrograd offered nothing new, perhaps new
names for certain aspects, but nothing else.
The last decades of the 20th century saw a tremendous psychological
revolution in the West. Its effects were perhaps greatest in some
religious circles, where those once wary of psychology now embraced
it more or less wholesale, and not always with the best of tool kits in
either theology or psychology.
Pieces of our psycho-spiritual world view definitely needed change
and correction. Unfortunately, however, like the Bolsheviks and the French
before them, some ardent revolutionaries shot the Imperial family and
guillotined a lot of otherwise very fine people. Their zeal went a bit too
far and they were often followed unquestioningly.
In those years, a close and scathing look was taken at religious
obedience and the personal will. It certainly was necessary.
Sadly, but predictably, the pendulum swung in a very un-Benedictine
fashion to the opposite extreme: question everything and accept
nothing. Personal will, formerly maligned as a foolish, worthless and
even dangerous entity was now elevated to lofty, noble, nearly infallible
heights that it frankly did not deserve.
Not astoundingly, both extremes missed the middle road of truth.
("Virtue stands in the middle way." Thanks very much, Aristotle and
St. Thomas Aquinas.) Going too far in either direction is perilous,
extremes become vices.
Human will unaided is at once potentially noble, yet dreadfully
flawed. Without God and grace assisting, the prognosis is not good.
For Christians, however, God's grace and aid are available, but they
come at the price of cooperation and cooperation demands a certain
sacrifice of our own wills.
It is perhaps harder for us to see that necessity of abandoning our
wills than it has been for many before us. We are traipsing through
the spiritual road with all kinds of extraneous 1970's baggage about
autonomy and maturity and self-actualization carried to false
extremes. Balance, always balance, always moderation in the
Our wills can be good and wonderful. It is, after all, with our wills
that we answer God's call. But part of God's call is to forget the false self
and forget its willful tantrums. Our wills are the natural habitat
and environment of the false self- it thrives there!
It is fatal to spiritual growth and to community to infer too great a
maturity or too little. Monastics are not children, but most adults
have not totally arrived, either! It is foolish to trust those under
our care with nothing, but equally so to empower them to virtually
That's just not how monastic life works. St. Benedict
bluntly says that his followers DESIRE to live under an abbot. We
want and need that compass for true North, we affirm that when we
embrace the Holy Rule, whether newest Oblate novice or Abbot
Primate. Obedience is central to our spiritual path.
A good superior will keep one from being too easy on oneself, but
will also protect one from being too hard on oneself. I cannot tell
you the number of times submitting a matter to my superior has
resulted in something far less gruesome than what I had obsessively
planned for myself!
Most of the wonderful things said about personal will are true, to a
point, but the revolution failed to emphasize the fact that our wills
do NOT come with gyroscopes. As such, their trustworthiness as
compasses is far from absolute.
The Gospel, the Rule, the superior: these are the gyroscopes that
enable us to will true North! Without these helps, our journey could
very easily make the first and last voyage of the Titanic look like a Sunday
afternoon swan boat ride in Boston's Public Garden.
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,