Margie, for whom we prayed, has mercifully died. Prayers for her and
for her family, especially, Jon, Gary and Thom, that all may find
Christ in this crisis. Prayers for the employment search of Andrea.
Please pray for Joey, severe depression, and for Jim, Anne and their
three sons, they have suffered a bad house fire. God's will is best.
All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
April 19, August 19, December 19
Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community
The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors,
and the seniors love their juniors.
In the very manner of address,
let no one call another by the mere name;
but let the seniors call their juniors Brothers,
and the juniors call their seniors Fathers,
by which is conveyed the reverence due to a father.
But the Abbot,
since he is believed to represent Christ,
shall be called Lord and Abbot,
not for any pretensions of his own
but out of honor and love for Christ.
Let the Abbot himself reflect on this,
and show himself worthy of such an honor.
And wherever the brethren meet one another
the junior shall ask the senior for his blessing.
When a senior passes by,
a junior shall rise and give him a place to sit,
nor shall the junior presume to sit with him
unless his senior bid him,
that it may be as was written,
"In honor anticipating one another."
Boys, both small and adolescent,
shall keep strictly to their rank in oratory and at table.
But outside of that, wherever they may be,
let them be under supervision and discipline,
until they come to the age of discretion.
Abbot Fidelis, my late novicemaster, used to always say that
Benedictines were "gentlemen monks." At that time, the phrase annoyed
me a good bit, though I never said so. It seemed to have a ring of
faint middle-class respectability about it, not a little bourgeois,
as if we were monks who were "the right sort of people."
It would still annoy me today if, one meant by that phrase nothing
more than all those rather hollow social niceties. Not that there's
anything wrong as such with social niceties, just that I have grown
up in a country where courtesy, "civil" religion and the like had
precious little to do with faith itself. Such things, though
indubitably polite, always seemed to me to be the basically
disconnected veneer of an often mediocre faith.
Living among monastics will teach one (hopefully!) by osmosis that
many of the common courtesies which have become decidedly UNcommon in
the world are the order of the day here. We get so immersed in that
that often it is hard to even think of what they are, we just do
them. The best example I can come up with right now is that there is
FAR more restraint here against interrupting another's conversation
here than in the world at large. We do it sometimes, I do it too
much, but basically we do NOT "butt in."
There are many other little things, rising when a superior enters,
not sitting until the superior does in chapter, etc. These in
themselves may seem empty at first, but when linked to the charity of
Christ and His Divine Mercy, they become very real gestures of love.
The fact that we don't think of them much after a while in no way
diminishes the Treasure that motivates them, Christ Himself.
Relationships between seniors and juniors are a two-way street. The
behavior of one feeds (or stokes the fires!) of the other. Hey, this
is true of all relationships, in every area of life. Want to be
loved? Give respect. Want to be respected? Give love. It may not work
in every instance, but it must be the first means we try and the only
means we never abandon totally.
Though the Holy Rule clearly exempts (in this passage,) the Abbess,
because she represents Christ, the express command that the Abbess
remember why she is treated as Christ is underscored. The Rule is the
Rule and monastics are human. I have known abbots who treated their
subjects like fools and were rewarded accordingly! The treatment we
give to others tends to reflect back upon as from a mirror, often not
without very good reason!
So, yes, my dear Abbot Fidelis, hopefully we ARE gentlemen monks (and
gentle monastics period!) No, we are not like some terribly well-off
and proper alumni mixer at Yale, or Cambridge, or Harvard or Oxford.
But we ARE gentle and we are so because of Him Whom we seek and have
come to love.
Love and prayers,