Holy Rule for Feb. 9
Prayers, please, for Fr. Ralph and Shirley, both have physical health issues.
Prayers for Nathan and Sarah, 22 weeks on in pregnancy with Andrew, who is due in June. For a safe pregnancy and delivery and for all three to grow as a family. (Andrew is their first.)
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
February 9, June 10, October 10
Chapter 7: On Humility
The twelfth degree of humility
is that a monk not only have humility in his heart
but also by his very appearance make it always manifest
to those who see him.
That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,
in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,
in the fields or anywhere else,
and whether sitting, walking or standing,
he should always have his head bowed
and his eyes toward the ground.
Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,
he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment
and constantly say in his heart
what the publican in the Gospel said
with his eyes fixed on the earth:
"Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven"
(Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);
and again with the Prophet:
"I am bowed down and humbled everywhere" (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).
Alcoholics Anonymous jokes about what they call "Two-steppers," that
is, people who decide to jump right from Step 1, acknowledging their
problem, to Step 12, carrying the message to others, with nothing in
between! Wrong! Doesn't work that way...
Benedictines sometimes see a similar mistake in novices and humility.
Bingo, they go right to the twelfth degree with nothing to build
their external humility on but the images of popular fiction and such.
My friend, Bishop Basil, tells me that his Spiritual Father used to tell him:
"Beware the monk whose humility you're always tripping over." Amen!!!
Genuine humility is not affected or showy, it is quite the reverse!
People who learn that have a chance to stay, people who don't often
leave because no monastery fits their model, though they
may keep looking for one that does!
Second Section of the Reading:
Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,
the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God
which casts out fear.
And all those precepts
which formerly he had not observed without fear,
he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,
without any effort,
as though naturally and by habit.
No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,
but rather the love of Christ,
and delight in the virtues
which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit
in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.
This crucially important second part is why none of those two-steppers
quite make it AND why the first section is spared from
Jansenism. (Jansenism, you may recall, was a heresy which held that
we could NEVER be worthy, NEVER do enough penance and so forth. In
its sad extremes, it harked to a sort of Pelagian attitude, implying
that we might be able to do something to save ourselves if we did a lot of
But, of course, even that would never be enough. It was a terribly mean
idea of God.)
Humility is NOT affected, not presupposing, hence efforts to LOOK
humble when one is not so will fall woefully short of the mark. No
Academy Awards for this one! When they call for the envelope, it will
Genuine humility is the most unself-conscious thing in the
world. It produces the external demeanor without any further ado,
because the person actually (and usually unwittingly!) BECOMES the
truth they are striving to live. Humility shows up in the face, in
everything, just as years of bitterness or years of love often do.
You couldn't hide humility if you wanted to, but you don't need to,
because the true humility is rarely even noticed and those who are
less humble tend to discount the really humble as nobodies. In one
sense, they are quite right! Both would agree on that!
If one never gets to the joy and love of the end of this passage,
there will be no reason not to look artificially rather glum over
sins that one probably doesn't believe at heart are great anyhow.
This is where some monastics miss the mark. They can stop at the
perpetual gloom and dread point, without realizing the contemplative
joy and love beyond that.
Monasticism is true, but the Gospel is more so. Neither Jansenism nor
perpetual gloom would play very well with Matthew, Mark, Luke or
John. That means they wouldn't play well with St. Benedict, either,
as his second portion surely guarantees. Love and joy and humility
are an inseparable trio! When fear is cast out, gloom goes right
along with it!
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,