Prayers, please, for our nuns here, electing their new prioress
today. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
March 26, July 26, November 25
Chapter 46: On Those Who Fail in Any Other Matters
When anyone is engaged in any sort of work,
whether in the kitchen, in the cellar, in a shop,
in the bakery, in the garden, while working at some craft,
or in any other place,
and she commits some fault,
or breaks something, or loses something,
or transgresses in any other way whatsoever,
if she does not come immediately
before the Abbess and the community
of her own accord
to make satisfaction and confess her fault,
then when it becomes known through another,
let her be subjected to a more severe correction.
But if the sin-sickness of the soul is a hidden one,
let her reveal it only to the Abbess or to a spiritual mother,
who knows how to cure her own and others' wounds
without exposing them and making them public.
The Chapter of Faults, wherein monastics confessed public, external
faults, had become rather silly the way it was practiced before
Vatican II. I remember, years ago, seeing a glossary list of Latin
phrases used to describe different faults. As practiced, I'm not sure
it was the most useful thing in the world at all.
However, look at the kernel here, important for both monasteries and
families: communication. What St. Benedict wrote about was not the
formalized and largely empty ritual that the late 20th century had
come to know, it was an airing session of sorts. These can be very
useful. People in any life are often reluctant to open up about what
bothers them, monastics are often even more so! To provide a
structured way and time to do so might have given some just the extra
distance and protection they needed.
Slights and wrongs and hurts that lie hidden and unexpressed can
fester into a spreading, malignant growth. Note that the Holy Rule
bids us never let the sun set on our anger. We have to get the things
that REALLY bother us out. This hardly means a free for all, that
would be very contrary to the whole spirit of the Rule, but it does
mean that genuine differences must be solved in an open and
respectful and humble way.
The way for today's community or family may not be to do this all
together- but then again that might not be all bad, occasionally. At
any rate and however we do it, St. Benedict asks us to own up to our
failures and those of others because he knows it is terribly damaging
not to do so. A important item here is that the all the members must
feel safe to express themselves. How many kids who were afraid to
open their mouths to a parent about really serious troubles in their
relationship are still in therapy years later?
Whether alone or in a group, when we confess our fault to others, we
lighten our load. When we honestly and gently tell others that they
have hurt us or wronged us, we are often surprised to find that they
were unaware of having done so- no wonder they "keep right on doing
it!" We can also be wonderfully surprised at the depth of feeling
with which apologies may be made. Very often the gentle and loving
exposure of a problem between people gives us remarkable
opportunities to show our nobler side and to see that side of our
brothers and sisters.
The goal of this is peace, so it must never be done for any other
motive, for anything less than loving. There is the danger that we
lose track of the important "difference between the virtue of honesty
and the vice of brutal frankness" as my friend, Fr. Roger used to
say. This must never become an accepted arena for getting back at one
another. The whole purpose here is to end strife, not perpetuate it.
Love and prayers,