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Dec. 24

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  • russophile2002
    +PAX April 24, August 24, December 24 Chapter 66: On the Porter of the Monastery At the gate of the monastery let there be placed a wise old woman, who knows
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 24, 2003

      April 24, August 24, December 24
      Chapter 66: On the Porter of the Monastery

      At the gate of the monastery
      let there be placed a wise old woman,
      who knows how to receive and to give a message,
      and whose maturity will prevent her from straying about.
      This porter should have a room near the gate,
      so that those who come may always find someone at hand
      to attend to their business.
      And as soon as anyone knocks or a poor person hails her,
      let her answer "Thanks be to God" or "A blessing!"
      Then let her attend to them promptly,
      with all the meekness inspired by the fear of God
      and with the warmth of charity.

      Should the porter need help,
      let her have one of the younger sisters.

      If it can be done,
      the monastery should be so established
      that all the necessary things,
      such as water, mill, garden and various workshops,
      may be within the enclosure,
      so that there is no necessity
      for the sisters to go about outside of it,
      since that is not at all profitable for their souls.

      We desire that this Rule be read often in the community,
      so that none of the sisters may excuse herself
      on the ground of ignorance.


      Modern monasteries in our Order rarely have gatehouses, let alone
      porters waiting at them. In one way, that's too bad, because one
      often sees visitors come to a monastery without a clue as to where to
      go first, or how to contact someone. On the other hand, it would
      wasteful to employ one person full-time at such an endeavor in our
      smaller communities of today, since whole days may go by in many
      places with few or none needing assistance.

      What we have today is the phone, and phone manners are how this best
      translates into modern life for both Oblates and professed. I have
      certainly known monks who have answered the phone with an attitude
      that clearly said: "You've got some nerve putting me out like this,
      disturbing me, etc." Sadly, that attitude came forth in years way
      before telemarketing was big, and with no knowledge of the person on
      the other end of the line. One certainly wouldn't want to call such a
      monastery twice. If one had never called one before, it is unlikely
      that one would want to try another, to go for 2 out of 3, just in
      case. See the responsibility we have?

      When a phone or doorbell rings, whether in a great Benedictine abbey
      or an urban Benedictine apartment, we have the opportunity to
      practice the hospitable grace that the Holy Rule requires of all.
      Dorothy Day's friend and mentor, Father Hugo, used to say that we
      love God as much as the one we love the least. That would readily
      translate here. I LOVE to see certain guests arrive, look forward to
      it as soon as I hear they are coming. Those are not the receptions on
      which I should judge my hospitality. Telemarketers are.

      With the universal scorn that telemarketing seems to enjoy today, it
      might be well to examine the sort of person who is forced to seek
      such employment before we dump on them. Unless one is really sado-
      masochistic with a strong need for abuse and rejection, why on earth
      would anyone choose to spend hours a day with such rudeness? Of
      course the practice is annoying, but the employee is not to blame. It
      may be the only job a desperate person can get. Why spew vituperative
      and shoot the messenger?

      Granted, engaging in any kind of prolonged conversation is not
      advisable, but I have a simple phrase: "I'm sorry, but we don't do
      any form telephone solicitation. Thank you." Then I hang up. Said
      politely, this does not heap coals on their heads, but it gets the
      message across. One can be firm and still be courteous and kind.
      Since I generally answer the phone with "God bless you, this is
      Brother Jerome," how would I dare treat people otherwise?

      The point here is that we ARE Benedictines, whether our answering
      style makes that evident or not. I might not like to think so, but
      the anonymity of just saying "Hello," without my name or title does
      not entitle me to be harsh or gruff or rude. All of us are bound by
      something Benedictine within us to be kind and gracious to all who
      call or visit.

      Someone who calls the guesthouse for the first time can be driven
      away or attracted by the way they are dealt with on the phone. To
      risk alienating someone because of our own moods might mean that we
      cheat someone out of a spiritual respite they sorely need. I can't
      tell you how many people who just called us out of nowhere in the
      last seven years have become real members of our family, greatly
      beneficial to themselves and to us. Anyone of those first experiences
      could have been irreparably soured by a cranky phone manner. Look at
      what all of us would have lost had that happened.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      Petersham, MA
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