Holy Rule for Mar. 22
Prayers for the eternal rest of Fr. James Hoge, OSB, of St. Leo Abbey, and for all his Community, family and all who mourn him.
Prayers please for Gloria, a senior citizen who has been hospitalized with severe stomach flu. Please also pray for all those who are caring for her and for her family.
Prayers for E., who is feeling cut off from God and everyone.
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!
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.
For too many years, I have read this chapter as just one more outline
of punishments for offenses. I missed completely the message to be
found in its title and I suspect many others have, too. The Work of
God and Table are lumped together. They are not exactly equal, but
they have many similarities.
Now, this is not something most people would have guessed, especially
with all the details about times of fasting and amounts of food and
drink, but it is true nonetheless. St. Benedict links the places and
times where body and soul are nourished because he esteems both. Like
any truly orthodox monastic, he escapes the heretical trap of making
body and matter evil and spirit alone good. Because we sometimes
unconsciously fall into that trap ourselves, it is easy to misread
Neither St. Benedict nor monastic life itself hates the body. Both
wish to discipline and control it, to remove the obstacles it
presents to our spirits, but neither can hate the body, because God
created it and God Himself assumed it. Our bodies are sacred
temples of the Holy Spirit.
Talk all you will of bodily mortifications, but the bottom line is that
nobody (quite literally, "no body",) is getting to the spiritual banquet without
a truck to take them and that truck is the body. Kill it and you will
not only have no means of allowing the soul to grow in time, but may
have violated the 5th commandment, as well, thereby fouling up
your total efforts rather messily. I am aware that some saints seem to have had
vocations to extremely penitential lives, but most of us do not. Dangerous
austerity should be undertaken only when there is a clear call for it, confirmed
by a wise spiritual director or confessor who knows one well.
Monastic reforms over the centuries have frequently proclaimed a
return to the "full rigor of the Rule." Whoops! Missed something
there, folks. The Rule ain't rigorous. Says so himself, right in the
Prologue: "...nothing harsh or burdensome." Being observant is one
thing, but rigorous is quite another. To go beyond the Holy Rule in
laxity OR austerity is a perilous mistake. Our Rule is balance and
moderation. Take those away and the critter you are left with is no
If the literal Rule is what you want, then take it, but always,
always remember that the literal Rule cuts a LOT of slack and demands
a lot of balance. Miss that and you might miss the boat entirely.
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,