Prayers, please, for Lou Ann, retina surgery yesterday. Prayers, too,
for Claudia, making her Final Oblation today. God's will is best. All
is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
March 9, July 9, November 8
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be
Above all things let him have humility;
and if he has nothing else to give
let him give a good word in answer
for it is written,
"A good word is above the best gift" (Eccles. 18:17).
Let him have under his care
all that the Abbot has assigned to him,
but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.
Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food
without any arrogance or delay,
that they may not be scandalized,
mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves
"who shall scandalize one of the little ones" (Matt 18:6).
If the community is a large one,
let helpers be given him,
that by their assistance
he may fulfill with a quiet mind the office committed to him.
The proper times should be observed
in giving the things that have to be given
and asking for the things that have to be asked for,
that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.
"A good word is above the best gift." This applies to us all and it
is so very true. I know we have bad days, I know that sometimes
emotions can all but overpower us, but for the most part, the self-
discipline to say something nice, or at least to refrain from saying
anything harsh, is available and ought to be employed.
One word, one phrase, for good or ill, can change a person's whole
day, whole outlook on a given matter, sometimes even change another's
whole life. One word can be remembered for years, decades, a
lifetime. Unfortunately, this is equally true if the word was hurtful.
The power of the tongue, an awesome, wondrous power to foster growth
or stunt it, to expand or contract the heart of the hearer, this
power is not the cellarer's alone, it belongs to us all. The tongue
can figuratively kill, it can distance others from us, leaving us
finally alone with the predictable isolation of our crankiness.
It can ruin lives, others and our own. Very often the harsh word is
the one never forgotten, the word whose hurt will surface years and
years after its speaker is off the scene. Think carefully of the harsh
words you recall being said to you, then think with double caution
about joining those "unforgettable" ranks by saying such hurtful
things to others.
Yet there is a further and even more treacherous trap of the hurtful
word: it is cyclical evil. It tempts the one hurt to rehearse all
kinds of comebacks, to hurt the one who hurt first. Never doubt that
when we provoke others to sin we share in their guilt. Even if, by
dint of grace, those hurtful replies are never uttered, great harm is
done to another's heart, another's peace, another's life in the time
wasted focusing on the hurt and plotting revenge. It can also tempt
another to throw in the towel, to quit altogether, to remove oneself
from whatever the situation of vulnerability to attack, whether that
be a job, a marriage or a monastery.
Those feelings of flee or fight are triggered by adrenalin, to be
sure, which makes them natural enough, but also very difficult to
combat. Our smart aleck mouths can place another in a painful morass
of flee/fight tortures that we may never know about at all. If they
triumph through grace, we never hear any more of what they suffered,
but their suffering is no less real and no less surely laid at our
How many times are we surprised at what another remembers us having
said (even good stuff!) or the details about a shared day that stand
out in one mind and not in another? Be very, very careful of the
memories we give to others. Those memories will live in their minds,
continuing to potentially cause good or evil, long after we are gone.
Not for nothing did St. James assert that if we have religion and
bridle not our tongues, our "religion is in vain." Truly,
truly, "death and life are in the power of the tongue."
A last caution: if you are the recipient of harsh words, try hard to
make yourself a beneficiary, not a victim. Hurt can focus far too
much on our own imagined worth and importance. Face it, roles change.
Some days we are the statue, others we are the pigeons. Everything
comes to us as a means for grace, but also as a possible means for a
fall. Choose grace. Minimize the situation rather than magnify it.
That can make a huge difference!
Love and prayers,