Prayers, please for Betty Coors on her 87th birthday and for her
husband, Bill, who has Alzheimers, for a 1 year old girl with lead
poisoning, and for Peter, Joe and Jenny, fallen away from the Church.
Thanks so much! JL
March 28, July 28, November 27
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
Idleness is the enemy of the soul.
Therefore the sisters should be occupied
at certain times in manual labor,
and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.
To that end
we think that the times for each may be prescribed as follows.
From Easter until the Calends of October,
when they come out from Prime in the morning
let them labor at whatever is necessary
until about the fourth hour,
and from the fourth hour until about the sixth
let them apply themselves to reading.
After the sixth hour,
having left the table,
let them rest on their beds in perfect silence;
or if anyone may perhaps want to read,
let her read to herself
in such a way as not to disturb anyone else.
Let None be said rather early,
at the middle of the eighth hour,
and let them again do what work has to be done until Vespers.
And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.
Sr. Lany Jo, my dear friend in an active congregation (who is a lot
more prayerful me, the stray and loser in a contemplative one,) was
honestly shocked to learn that the Holy Rule made provision for a
daily nap or siesta. In her novitiate, also in an Italian
congregation, the name of the game was you didn't go near that bed in
the daytime unless really sick. Funny, but I was so used to the
Benedictine way that it hadn't occurred to me that it should be
I offer this as further proof of St. Benedict's tenderness and
gentleness. OK, say the siesta is Italian and cultural. Fine, but
there were plenty of cultural elements he didn't let through the
monastery gate. It was a LOT hotter in Egypt and one doesn't hear the
Fathers telling people to lie down and rest, much less saying that
those who cannot sleep dare not wake those who can with their
noisiness! This is a gentle Father we have!
Surely moderation is one of the key elements woven throughout the
Holy Rule, but isn't it at least worthy of note that it is stressed
here, in the chapter on work? St. Benedict may not have had all the
handy psychobabble terms that we use today to name things, but he had
a piercingly clear perception of human nature. He knew that some
people were workaholics and that their contemplative focus would be
shattered by that. He knew some people were obsessive about trivia
that didn't matter. He knew that some people were very loving
caregivers who would turn into flaming doormats, abused by their own
kindness and inability to say "No," politely, by their doubt that
anything is ever enough.
So, he counters all that by saying: "Take a nap!" Hey, what a great
reality check! Wake up, y'all, the world has an axis already and
there is no need for you to duplicate services! St. Benedict
certainly knows that many things are important, even essential and he
is not at all shy about pointing them out. In the midst of all that,
he says: "Take a nap!" If you can't nap, he doesn't even say "pray,"
he tells the insomniac to read quietly!!
Look, we are known for our motto of work and pray, ora et labora. One
might well assume that if you couldn't be working, you ought to at
least be praying. Not so. Take a nap. Balance it out. Try pulling
your arm out of a bucket of water and see what happens. Water closes
right in, no problem. Much depends on us, but usually much less than
we are prone to pridefully think! Take a nap!
Our world around us will gladly and readily tell us that we are worth
nothing other than our productivity, our work, our profitability. St.
Benedict wants to be sure that when we come to his monastery, we see
those distorted values of human dignity for the load of crap they
really are. He wants us to work, yes, but to see work in the deep
humility of truth. A consumerist society has taught us the exact
opposite of that and we all need to patiently spend lots of time
peeling those scales from our eyes with the help of God and St.
Take a nap!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA