Holy Rule for Mar. 18
Prayers, please, for T., badly needing to get through a messy divorce.
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
March 18, July 18, November 17
Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food
We think it sufficient for the daily dinner,
whether at the sixth or the ninth hour,
that every table have two cooked dishes
on account of individual infirmities,
so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one
may make his meal of the other
Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brethren;
and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available,
let a third dish be added.
Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper,
the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper.
But if it happens that the work was heavier,
it shall lie within the Abbot's discretion and power,
should it be expedient,
to add something to the fare.
Above all things, however,
over-indulgence must be avoided
and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion;
for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character
according to Our Lord's words,
"See to it that your hearts be not burdened
with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).
shall not receive the same amount of food as their elders,
and frugality shall be observed in all circumstances.
Except the sick who are very weak,
let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.
The Benedictine golden mean is that of the Lord Himself: we avoid
over-indulgence because it burdens our hearts. This is true of any
over-indulgence: food, drink, property. Our hearts are truly burdened
by our excess, weighed down, kept from flight. Our hearts lag and
fall with the awful results of having ourselves in charge of them!
For those in the developed countries, this chapter on food can be a
very good starting point of surrender. The Western nations in general
and the U.S. in particular are spoiled rotten with food. Our notoriously poor
diet choices are to blame for many health risks and I confess that I am
just as guilty as anyone, even if I am trying to do a little better. Might
not food be one of the healthiest and most logical places for ascetic striving
The questions of diet raised here were looked at in purely monastic
terms, as self-denial and penitential living. No one knew about
cholesterol or fiber or many of the illnesses associated today with
eating habits.. Wasn't in their vocabulary.
Fast forward to 2011. Red meat tastes great. I love it. NOTHING like
a medium rare prime rib! Sadly, that is true in more than one sense,
especially if you eat all the fat! Today we know that the
eating habits encouraged here are worth a lot more than simple
asceticism, they are healthy. Given that, something a lot more
binding than the Holy Rule bids us look more closely: the 5th
commandment, which insists that we not kill ourselves, either, that
we guard our health.
Granted, the times of meals stated here do not fit very well into a
40 hour week of work and school. Not to worry. Our call here is to
adapt. The content of monastic meals can be a big boon to health.
Less meat, more beans, less beef, more chicken, buy decent bread and
eat more of it. Or make your own! (Remember that bread machine that
hardly got used after Christmas?) These are things one can gradually
introduce to a family, too, provided one is a good cook. An extra
meatless day or two a week is hardly noticed if you serve really good
fare. Try dishes from the peasant cuisines of the world that stretch
a very little meat a very long way.
This Benedictine-inspired diet will not only be better for you and
your family, it will benefit the planet, too. Grain-fed beef makes a
horrible dent in the ecology and economy of the world, to say nothing
of throwing effort and harvests into cattle that could feed starving
Remember that earlier injunction about treating the goods of the
monastery as sacred vessels of the altar? Well, the greatest goods
any monastery or family has are its members and the planet that
supports them. To own that fact is the beginning of a Benedictine
ecology. Our diets are excellent places to make choices healthy for
us and all the planet. We need to find the balance- and that is often hard.
But, with God's help and mercy, we can do all!
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,