April 23, August 23, December 23
Chapter 65: On the Prior of the Monastery
To us, therefore, it seems expedient
for the preservation of peace and charity
that the Abbot have in his hands
the full administration of his monastery.
And if possible let all the affairs of the monastery,
as we have already arranged,
be administered by deans according to the Abbot's directions.
Thus, with the duties being shared by several,
no one person will become proud.
But if the circumstances of the place require it,
or if the community asks for it with reason and with humility,
and the Abbot judges it to be expedient,
let the Abbot himself constitute as his Prior
whomsoever he shall choose
with the counsel of God-fearing brethren.
That Prior, however, shall perform respectfully
the duties enjoined on him by his Abbot
and do nothing against the Abbot's will or direction;
for the more he is raised above the rest,
the more carefully should he observe the precepts of the Rule.
If it should be found that the Prior has serious faults,
or that he is deceived by his exaltation and yields to pride,
or if he should be proved to be a despiser of the Holy Rule,
let him be admonished verbally up to four times.
If he fails to amend,
let the correction of regular discipline be applied to him.
But if even then he does not reform,
let him be deposed from the office of Prior
and another be appointed in his place who is worthy of it.
And if afterwards he is not quiet and obedient in the community,
let him even be expelled from the monastery.
But the Abbot, for his part, should bear in mind
that he will have to render an account to God
for all his judgments,
lest the flame of envy or jealousy be kindled in his soul.
The overwhelming majority of us, myself included, are never going to
be a Prior or Prioress. Firm grasp on the obvious there!! What,
however, may we glean from this chapter? There are at least several
First, even if your position gives you a certain level of honor,
never be so stupid as to believe it, to become proud, to take
yourself far too seriously. Cling to a self-knowledge of your
limitations, your sins and failings, especially when being praised.
Yes, we are human, yes, it is nice to hear those things, yes,
sometimes they are even close to the truth, but praise, rank and
honor can be awful traps. Like crack cocaine, they can addict us the
first time we really give in to them. Great caution is in order here.
Second, every commitment to Christ, Baptism, Oblation or Profession,
obliges us to a higher standard of self-control. The Holy Rule,
because speaking of a superior, uses the phrase "raised above the
rest." We should read therein that ANY commitment which separates us
and sets us further apart for the service of God means that we must
more carefully observe the precepts of the Rule. Even though it can
be quite annoying to hear, how often someone will say, immediately
after a litany of transgressions the person has committed, "And she
is an OBLATE!" (Or Franciscan Third Order, or whatever.) People
expect more of us because of our religious inclinations and we should
not disappoint them.
Third, and perhaps most important of all, no one, save God alone, is
indispensable. No one. Want to see the change that your removal from
the scene will effect? Stick your forearm into a bucket of water, and
then pull it out. Same thing, folks, the waters close right in and
things go on quite nicely. The higher water level while our arm was
there was only illusion anyway. This fact can work in happy concert
with the above warning about taking ourselves too seriously. Usually,
when we THINK we're hot stuff, we aren't, and even if we truly are at
some point, it is FAR better not to know that, and a LOT easier for
the spiritual struggle.
Yes, we ARE important, we are infinitely important to God and, as a
result, to each other. But what makes us so is holiness and love and
struggling for virtue, not power.
Love and prayers,