Holy Rule for Jan. 29
Deo gratias and prayers of thanks, John had an all clear from his cardiologist and has been referred back to his general practitioner.
Continued prayers for twins Bryn and Ayla, they are still in delicate condition and cannot go home. Prayers for their parents and grandparents, too.
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 29, May 30, September 29
Chapter 7: On Humility
We must be on our guard, therefore, against evil desires,
for death lies close by the gate of pleasure.
Hence the Scripture gives this command:
"Go not after your concupiscences" (Eccles. 18:30).
since the eyes of the Lord observe the good and the evil (Prov. 15:3)
and the Lord is always looking down from heaven
on the children of earth
"to see if there be anyone who understands and seeks God" (Ps. 13:2),
and since our deeds are daily,
day and night,
reported to the Lord by the Angels assigned to us,
we must constantly beware, brethren,
as the Prophet says in the Psalm,
lest at any time God see us falling into evil ways
and becoming unprofitable (Ps. 13:3);
and lest, having spared us for the present
because in His kindness He awaits our reformation,
He say to us in the future,
"These things you did, and I held My peace" (Ps. 49:21).
Notice how this portion of the chapter harks back to the Prologue:
God watches us, and His angels, as well. God waits for our
reformation. All that beautiful prose of progress and hope in the
Prologue is intimately linked to humility. Without humility, we
aren't going anywhere!
Something else is going on here, since we ourselves must watch and be
on our guard. We can often forget the fact that
God or the Angels are watching, but we can never miss our own
vigilance. We always know when we are being careful and the message
here is to live carefully all the time, to be mindful, to be on the
lookout for deceptions and traps.
"Go not after your concupiscences." Some older translations render
this "lusts", while the New English Bible has "passions." I do not think
that the issue here is as narrow as sexual desire. I am not at all sure that a
monk of St. Benedict's time would have limited it that strongly.
Read the Desert Fathers and the Eastern Orthodox monastics of today and
you will find that the "passions" have, in their works, a far more
expanded sense, encompassing any desire that can go to extremes. And,
let us face it, just about all desires, short of the desire to love
God, can go to extremes!
There is something reminiscent of a Buddhist principle here: all
suffering is rooted in desire.
The Buddhists certainly did not mean just sexuality. They meant, as I
think St. Benedict did, detachment from everything, a holy
indifference to one's condition. That's tough to pull off, and most
human beings will never go the whole way, but every step in the
direction of such serenity leaves us freer, freer for God, freer to
be what He created us to be.
We live in a secular age that goes far beyond merely baptizing our
desires: it GLORIFIES them! The late 20th century was unmistakably
the zenith of the self in human thought. We were actually challenged
to "follow your bliss." Gee, that sounded nice the first time I heard
But, on the other hand, what a trap. Let me be the first to assure
you that my blisses have gotten me repeatedly into one heck of a lot
of trouble. We cannot become like Rousseau and assume a noble savage
image here. We aren't that noble, though we can usually count on the
Some of our "blisses" are wrong. They are bound to be. And some of
them, even though neutral, are bound to make us crazy if we make them
too important. "Go not after thy lusts" means a lot more than just
sex, it means any inordinate desire. Balance, beloveds, always balance!
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,