April 11, August 11, December 11
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.
After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.
If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.
Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.
Trivia: it is due to this prescription that the entire Holy Rule be
thrice read to the novice in the course of a year that has resulted
in our traditional dates for the readings, giving us all the entire
Rule three times a year.
No one HAS to be a Benedictine. We all have free will. Even if it
truly is our vocation, we can turn it down. What St. Benedict is also
stressing here is that he wants informed consent of that free will.
No hidden agendas here! Let the novice fully know what is expected
and what will be offered in one's gift of self.
This above board way of dealing with things is hardly that of the
world today. How many times do we think an offer is too good to be
true, only to find out (sometimes too late!) that it really IS too
good to be true. We have grown used to hidden catches and traps. St.
Benedict doesn't want his families, or his followers to operate that
way. We are called to a counter witness of honesty and candor.
Of course the other side of this coin is an old monastic joke. We all
must write out our own profession formulae. The old joke has it that
we should leave a lot of space between the lines, so that God can add
things later! There's a kernel of truth to that, too!!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA