January 9, May 10, September 9
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
An Abbess who is worthy to be over a monastery
should always remember what she is called,
and live up to the name of Superior.
For she is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery,
being called by a name of His,
which is taken from the words of the Apostle:
"You have received a Spirit of adoption ...,
by virtue of which we cry, 'Abba -- Father'" (Rom. 8:15)!
Therefore the Abbess ought not to teach or ordain or command
anything which is against the Lord's precepts;
on the contrary,
her commands and her teaching
should be a leaven of divine justice
kneaded into the minds of her disciples.
Folks, the abbot is a parent, so, while I am writing about abbots in
my experience, this is also true of parents, or any authority
position. Stick with me, you'll see what I mean in the end.
It will no doubt come as a great relief to other cranky types like
me to note that the leaven gently kneaded into the minds of certain
disciples often seems to have a downright underwhelming effect. A
hallmark of us curmudgeonly types is impatience: we do not suffer
fools gladly, the miracle is that we endure them at all. Most of all,
we want those fools FIXED, right now, or yesterday at the latest! The
tragedy of this is that, in assuming we can recognize fools so
terribly well, we completely miss the fool at work in ourselves.
That's not the only issue, though. This leaven-in-the-dough stuff
works two ways. Throw a measure of leaven into a heap of cornmeal and
you'll wind up with a different critter than several cups of
buckwheat or flour would produce. For all I know, you could probably
throw yeast into concrete and wind up with a meringue-like patio.
Both components are essential to the change, both elements affect the
Abbot and monastic, parent and child, boss and employer, all these
are very, very intricate duets of God's mercy and grace. Neither may
be very evident to one while in the midst of things! Time and wisdom
and hindsight bring a different view. Beyond that, all of us change:
the characters in the catalyst are always changing, no matter how
subtly. God has done some awesomely loving fine-tuning here!
God uses human means to accomplish His will, as my favorite
professor, Dr. Jean Ronan, so often said. Ah, but the abbacy scores
doubly on this maxim. A very human abbot is elected by a very human
community. Most often, abbots are elected to counteract each other.
The human community gets tired of the very human tendency of an abbot
to stress one thing above others. Hence, tight reins are often
replaced with loose ones and vice versa. It is also worthy of note
that, within about three years, roughly the same number of people
will be sorely complaining about either extreme or the lack thereof!
Those human means which God uses are often quite firmly addicted to
extremes. The extremes then vex a majority to the opposite extreme.
(I know this is the Marxist dialectic and I know it is not always
true, but it does have a kernel of application.) Usually, sometime
after we are all so fatigued with polarization that we have briefly
stopped watching, a median virtue ensues!
And what about that leaven that I couldn't notice having much effect?
Well, neither I nor anyone else knows, save the person and God. Some
die, some leave before the effect is seen. Leaven works. It may work
slowly, it may work in a variety of ways, but all leaven does
something sooner or later! Faith and trust in God's Divine Mercy
require that we have a LOT of patience with bread cast on waters in
Love and prayers,