A blessed feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple to all!
Traditionally, this feast is very dear to Oblates, so lets us all
pray today for each other, regardless of whether or not we agree on
the Marian details. The central concept is Mary's being offered to
God, just as we were at our Oblation. Hence, the favor this feast
enjoys in some Churches, because it is looked upon as the time when
Mary "made her Oblation", so to speak. Bless us all!
Please pray for C., terminal with cancer and most of his family does
not know yet. Also for Mark, a young husband and father who died
unexpectedly after a simple surgery, and for his family. Please also
pray for the eternal rest of Pedro. Thanks so much! JL
March 22, July 22, November 21
Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table
At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.
If at the Night Office
anyone arrives after the "Glory be to the Father" of Psalm 94 --
which Psalm for this reason we wish to be said
very slowly and protractedly --
let him not stand in his usual place in the choir;
but let him stand last of all,
or in a place set aside by the Abbot for such negligent ones
in order that they may be seen by him and by all.
He shall remain there until the Work of God has been completed,
and then do penance by a public satisfaction.
the reason why we have judged it fitting
for them so stand in the last place or in a place apart
being seen by all,
they may amend for very shame.
For if they remain outside of the oratory,
there will perhaps be someone who will go back to bed and sleep
or at least seat himself outside and indulge in idle talk,
and thus an occasion will be provided for the evil one.
But let them go inside,
that they many not lose the whole Office,
and may amend for the future.
At the day Hours
anyone who does not arrive at the Work of God
until after the verse
and the "Glory be to the Father" for the first Psalm following it
shall stand in the last place,
according to our ruling above.
Nor shall he presume to join the choir in their chanting
until he has made satisfaction,
unless the Abbot should pardon him and give him permission;
but even then the offender must make satisfaction for his fault.
Interestingly, a dear friend who is a principal of a grade school has
been writing me about the pros and cons of punishing lateness. It has
been a sincere exchange, and now St. Benedict weighs in with a
chapter on that very matter.
First, an aside. The signal to get moving, whatever it may be, is
usually a bell or something like it. Our modern age looks at any
request or command we don't like as a time to start negotiations, not
to obey. We may euphemize this with terms like "dialogue" but the
bottom line is finding a graceful way to say either "Hell, NO!" or
considerably less than "Yes!" or "OK, fine!" Bells, however, are
inexorable and there is no point in arguing with them. Their stoic
silence will win every time! It is worth remembering that, in the old
days, the bell was known as the "vox Dei," the voice of God.
As usual, there is a gem buried here that gets lost in the wash of
being late or being on time or kneeling out or not. That treasure
is: "Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God." (Older
translations had: "let nothing be preferred to the Work of God." This
has usually been cited, quite rightly, a a basis for the centrality
of liturgy in Benedictine life, but that is an incomplete view, one
which leaves riches beyond telling unmined.The full sense of this
goes well beyond liturgy.
For the monastic, EVERYTHING is in some way the work of God. ALL of
God's will for us becomes a priority. That's what our commitment
means. Monastic struggle sacralizes every jot and tittle. In one
sense, there is no small stuff anymore. (That can be a trap for the
scrupulous if over-applied, so watch out, folks!) The distinction
between sacred and profane is all but obliterated. Our life is of a
whole, and that holistic life is most often informed of God's wishes
for us by obedience.
That can require tremendous faith and trust in God, but God does
reward such trust richly beyond our dreams. It is often best if one
starts out as a novice with a real goofus for a novicemaster. This is
helpful in several ways. For one thing, if you start out with a great
novicemaster and encounter your first loser in mid-life, it can be a
terrible crisis. For another, when one looks back, one can see
clearly (as hindsight so often does!) that ALL our treasure comes in
earthen vessels, that even a less than optimal individual can often
be a pipeline through which God's will flows unimpeded.
Contemporary attempts by some to reduce all Benedictine obedience to
a process of dialogue or negotiation, or to make it a communal
affair or a consensual one are terribly far off the mark. The textual
evidence of the Holy Rule, as well as historical and traditional
evidence simply do not support such claims. The Rule speaks of
dialogue only when one is commanded to do the impossible, and even
then, if the superior insists, one must trust and obey. Tough saying,
but obedience works best when it isn't a lot of fun... Consider
the "merit" gained when I smile over an open carton of ice cream,
heaping it into a bowl and say: "My doctor absolutely INSISTS that
these meds be taken with food!"
But back to priorities. Surely the Office comes first before lesser
obediences. Being late because one finished something that could wait
is a poor excuse, because it shows what is valued most- one's own
will. On the other hand, when I was a teenager, my life was hell. I
LOVED the Catholic high school I went to with deep gratitude, but
there were many, many days when my emotional energy was so completely
expended on just hanging on that there was nothing else I COULD put
first. Showing up at all took all my energy, never mind early or
late. It surely wasn't that I DIDN'T care, it was that I couldn't, I
honestly had nothing left to care with. At times like this, it takes
a careful and loving eye to perceptively see what's really going on
before dumping punishment on one.
Love and prayers,
jeromele@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA