April 14, August 14, December 14
Chapter 60: On Priests Who May Wish to Live in the Monastery
If any ordained priest
should ask to be received into the monastery,
permission shall not be granted too readily.
But if he is quite persistent in his request,
let him know
that he will have to observe the whole discipline of the Rule
and that nothing will be relaxed in his favor,
that it may be as it is written:
"Friend, for what have you come (Matt. 26:50)?"
It shall be granted him, however, to stand next after the Abbot
and to give blessings and to celebrate Mass,
but only by order of the Abbot.
Without such order let him not make any exceptions for himself,
knowing that he is subject to the discipline of the Rule;
but rather let him give an example of humility to all.
If there happens to be question of an appointment
or of some business in the monastery,
let him expect the rank due him
according to the date of his entrance into the monastery,
and not the place granted him
out of reverence for the priesthood.
If any clerics, moved by the same desire,
should wish to join the monastery,
let them be placed in a middle rank.
But they too are to be admitted only if they promise
observance of the Rule and stability.
There really IS a message here for all of us. Trust me! The image put
forth by the Holy Rule is one of bottom line equality, not at all the
image that those of us 50 or so grew up with. Neither, frankly, is it
the image still maintained by Roman Catholic canon law, wherein only
priests may be major superiors in Orders that have both ordained and
Many of us were raised in the notion that it was "priests-first,
laity second." That's not at all what St. Benedict says. It is
Christian first, Benedictine second, then, and only then, comes
whatever else one might add to that equation. How different our
Church and world would be if we all realized that bottom line. How
many "career" minds in the clergy can all but forget their
Ah, as Ella Fitzgerald would intone about now: "It don't mean a thing
if it ain't got that swing..." Perhaps a flawed sacramental theology
there- the priesthood is valid even when the priest is a loser- but
the concept would have made St. Benedict's heart sing right along
with her. The "swing" in this case is the Gospel and Holy Rule for
us. Without these principal ingredients, we should never find
ourselves working on the rest of any recipe!
That goes not only for priesthood, but for any endeavor. We are
Christians first or we are nothing. We have chosen the Benedictine
way, chosen to become Benedictine Christians. Those two realities
must color every other subsequent choice!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA