Prayers, please, for Kristian on his 16th birthday and for his safe
use of his driver's learning permit!! Also for his Mom, Joy, who will
be getting grayer over both events...
Also, prayers for the repose of the soul of Br. Gabriel Rivet, OSB,
of St. Joseph's Abbey, Louisiana, who died yesterday. Prayers, too,
for Tara, a young mother with serious health problems and no
religious background. She is moving slowly toward faith, but could
use some help in both body and soul. God's will is best. All is mercy
and grace. Thanks so much! JL
April 11, August 11, December 11
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.
After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.
If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.
Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.
The Holy Rule is an awesome document about 1,500 years old. Since it
is always both these things, it is helpful to look at then and now in
reading it. In St. Benedict's time, and for many centuries after him,
numerous less than lofty social reasons obtained for joining a
monastery. This was, alas, as true for the nobility and it was for
Got an unmarriageable daughter? Ship her off to join the "unclaimed
treasures" abbey, if they won't take her, found and fund of your own.
Got a younger son with no inheritance or title, not the sharpest
knife in the drawer, either? Sounds like a vocation to the Church to
me... Dowager queen or ex-wife a governmental problem? Have I got a
convent for YOU!
For the lower socioeconomic groups, it was often flat out social
climbing to join the monastery. Hey, if you couldn't be a yuppie in
the Middle Ages, this is what you did, or tried to do! You not only
came out well-dressed and well-fed, but you often got educated in the
bargain, too. If one was not born noble, or if one was less than
wonderful at warfare, the Church was the ONLY way to climb to power.
History has removed or severely limited many of these shoddy reasons
for joining. Hence, it is not always wise to play hard to get with
the reasons for same out of the way. I have known communities who
played too hard to get for too long and now get nothing at all.
Whooops! Poetic justice there! Maybe you should have just stuck to
not sleeping with knives at your side when you wanted to get literal
about the Holy Rule!
Before the worst of the vocations crunch came, there was a terrible
myth afloat in the late 60's and early 70's: "the perfect vocation."
Holding out for these ephemeral dreams has seriously harmed more than
one house. Just as women were learning to debunk the Cinderella myth,
many houses fell prey to the foolish notion that Prince or Princess
Charming really WOULD arrive on a charger one day.
Sometimes the only thing worse than a "perfect vocation" who leaves
is one who stays. One such widely acclaimed "dream team vocation" I
know arrived with education all completed, and a master's in
psychology, thank you, as well. Hosanna and hoo-hah!! Couldn't have
fit the 1970 dream more perfectly. My, was this arrival ever heralded
and sadly used as the standard to judge the vocations of others who
applied later. (In the interests of anonymity, I won't even use the
gender here.) This one grew up to be- and remains- one of the most
serious and treacherous problems the community in question has ever
faced in its history. The damage will take years to correct and has
already taken quite a few. Not all dreams are nightmares, but all
nightmares are dreams!
See what I mean? It's balance again, always, always balance. This is
true not only of monasteries, but of single Oblates seeking a mate
and of any Oblate seeking to fill a job slot or assign a task to a
child. The apparently "perfect" one may not always be the best bet! I
can speak from long and none-too-bright personal experience as a
layman of begging the wrong ones to love me that being too easy isn't
a great idea, either. Balance, look at the person, the REAL person,
not the "perfect" one you desire so much that you see an illusion.
Mindfulness, here! Really, really, look at the real, strive to see it
well and then act accordingly. Jesus, after all, IS the Truth.
Ask any employer, many a plodder who was given a chance and knows it
will try harder and actually perform much better than the "dream" who
arrived with all ducks neatly in a row. In any situation in life, it
is crucially important to remember that carved-in-stone standards are
never subjective and people ALWAYS are. Thus, a little flexibility is
going to be required unless you are totally content with never
In my years before becoming a monk, I often campaigned for, insisted
upon and ultimately GOT the wrong one desired. Sigh... Any surprise
that I was still single at 43 to profess vows? God is in charge of
these things, but God is terribly polite. Get in His way and He will
usually leave you to your own devices, since they can be the most
effective teachers! Be too picky or not picky enough and you will
miss whatever treasure He has for you. Don't take that risk!
Love and prayers,