Prayers, please, for Muriel, who died after a long battle with
cancer, and for her family, especially her husband, who has
Alzheimer's, her sons and her nephew, Doug. Prayers, too, for David
and his parents. He has been unemployed, had to move back home and is
depressed. Both his life and his faith need prayers. Prayers, too,
for a special intention for JK. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. Thanks so much. JL
January 28, May 29, September 28
Chapter 7: On Humility
As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."
And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37:10).
Revolutions usually have several things in common: they respond to a
need, they go too far in some areas, not far enough in others and
they tend to brand those not agreeing with them as criminal or
psychotic. Look at Soviet Russia for most of the 20th century and you
will see all of these. Look further back at the French Revolution and
you will find that 1917 in Petrograd offered nothing new, perhaps new
names for certain aspects, but nothing else.
The last decades of the 20th century saw a tremendous psychological
revolution in the West. Its effect were perhaps greatest in some
religious circles, where those once wary of psychology now embraced
it more or less wholesale. Pieces of our psycho-spiritual world view
definitely needed change and correction. Unfortunately, however, like
the Bolsheviks and French before them, some ardent revolutionaries
shot the Imperial family and guillotined a lot of otherwise very fine
people. Their zeal went a bit too far and they were often followed
In those years, a close and scathing look was taken at religious
obedience and the personal will. It certainly was necessary. Abuses
had obtained under the accept-without-any-question syndrome.
Sadly, but predictably, the pendulum swung in a very un-Benedictine
fashion to the opposite extreme: question everything and accept
nothing. Personal will, formerly maligned as a foolish, worthless and
even dangerous entity was now elevated to lofty, noble heights that
it frankly did not deserve. Not astoundingly, both extremes missed
the middle road of truth.
Human will unaided is at once potentially noble, yet dreadfully
flawed. Without God and grace assisting, the prognosis is not good.
For Christians, however, God's grace and aid ARE available, but they
come at the price of cooperation and cooperation demands a certain
sacrifice of our own wills.
It is perhaps harder for us to see that necessity of abandoning our
wills than it has been for many before us. We are traipsing through
the spiritual road with all kinds of extraneous baggage about
autonomy and maturity and self-actualization carried to false
extremes. Balance, always balance, always moderation in the
Our wills can be good and wonderful. It is, after all, with our wills
that we answer God's call. But part of His call is to forget the self
and forget its willful tantrums. Our wills are the natural habitat
and environment of the false self- it thrives there!
It is fatal to spiritual growth and to community to infer too great a
maturity or too little. Monastics are not children, but most adults
have not totally arrived, either! It is foolish to trust those under
our care with nothing, but equally so to empower them to virtually
anything. That's just not how monastic life works. St. Benedict
bluntly says that his followers DESIRE to live under an abbot. If any
have seriously changed their minds about this, maybe it's time to go.
A good superior will keep one from being too easy on oneself, but
will also protect one from being too hard on oneself. I cannot tell
you the number of times submitting a matter to my superior has
resulted in something FAR less gruesome than what I had obsessively
planned for myself!
Most of the wonderful things said about personal will are true, to a
point, but the revolution failed to emphasize the fact that our wills
do NOT come with gyroscopes. As such, their trustworthiness as
compasses is far from absolute.
The superior, the Rule, the Gospel, these are the gyroscopes that
enable us to will true North! Without these helps, our journey could
very easily make the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" look like a Sunday
afternoon swan boat ride in Boston's Public Garden.
Love and prayers,