Prayers, please, for John, having great trouble with anger, and for
those who must bear with him. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. Thanks so much. JL
April 22, August 22, December 22
Chapter 65: On the Prior of the Monastery
It happens all too often that the constituting of a Prior
gives rise to grave scandals in monasteries.
For there are some who become inflated with the evil spirit of pride
and consider themselves second Abbots.
By usurping power
they foster scandals and cause dissensions in the community.
Especially does this happen
in those places where the Prior is constituted
by the same Bishop or the same Abbots
who constitute the Abbot himself.
What an absurd procedure this is
can easily be seen;
for it gives the Prior an occasion for becoming proud
from the very time of his constitution,
by putting the thought into his mind
that he is freed from the authority of his Abbot:
"For," he will say to himself, "you were constituted
by the same persons who constitute the Abbot."
From this source are stirred up envy, quarrels, detraction,
rivalry, dissensions and disorders.
For while the Abbot and the Prior are at variance,
their souls cannot but be endangered by this dissension;
and those who are under them,
currying favor with one side or the other,
go to ruin.
The guilt for this dangerous state of affairs
rests on the heads of those
whose action brought about such disorder.
When I read the line about those governed "currying favor with one
side or the other," I thought immediately of the children of divorce.
Children, however, are quite perceptive, and it is not just divorce,
but any noticeable drift between parents that they will manipulate.
That is why, in family and monastery, unity in authority is very
St. Benedict tries to guarantee this by letting the Abbot choose his
own Prior, parents can do it by a struggle to overcome their own
personal differences for the good of the children. This is not to say
that the parents can necessarily get over their problems, but that
they must at least try to be consistent with the children, for the
children's sakes. As St. Benedict points out, this choosing of sides
in child or monastic, can lead to ruin.
Why does it lead to ruin? Because manipulation to some degree puts us
in charge of ourselves, something no child and very, very few
monastics are strong enough to be. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux
said: "The one who has himself for a master has a fool for a
disciple." One reason we took obedience upon ourselves was our
knowledge of our own weakness. This knowledge can fade and dim with
time, we can be convinced we know better. Sometimes, perhaps, we do,
but in most cases, obedience is a real protection from harm.
Benedictines not only are not in charge of themselves, but, as the
Holy Rule defines cenobitic community life, they "desire" this lack
of control. They "desire to live under a Rule and an Abbot."
One cannot expect children to be wise enough to see how good and
necessary obedience is at every turn, but it shouldn't be much of a
stretch for us adults!
Love and prayers,