Holy Rule for Sept. 8
Prayers, please, for my monastery, St. Mary's, as we celebrate our patronal feast, especially for vocations!
Prayers, too, for 2 of our Oblates, Marje and Bill. They have been unable to reach Bill's sister, Mary, and her husband Larry, since Frances hit Ft. Pierce, where they live. For their safety and for all those worried who cannot reach loved ones because phones or power are out. Prayers for Dave, healing from hip surgery, and for Tom, his loving caregiver, also for Clare and her family, she has early-detected breast cancer, for a priest who understood yesterday's laments on celibacy and loneliness all too well, that God fill all the gaps in his heart, in all our celibate hearts! Prayers, too, for Anita. Sept. 11th was a particularly dark day for her, personally as well as nationally, and this year she will start theological studies on the anniversary. God's will is best. God is never absent. All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
January 8, May 9, September 8
Chapter 1: On the Kinds of Monks
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks.
The first kind are the Cenobites:
those who live in monasteries
and serve under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits:
no longer in the first fervor of their reformation,
but after long probation in a monastery,
having learned by the help of many brethren
how to fight against the devil,
go out well armed from the ranks of the community
to the solitary combat of the desert.
They are able now,
with no help save from God,
to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh
and their own evil thoughts.
The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord's.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful.
The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak.
Passing these over, therefore,
let us proceed, with God's help,
to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks,the Cenobites.
REFLECTION: For once, a BRAND new one!!!
First off, and briefly, there can be flaws in ANY kind of monastic, even the cenobites and anchorites of whom St. Benedict writes so fondly. The anchorite can sometimes be tempted to use solitude as an excuse for not doing good things when solitude has little or nothing to do with the real, selfish reason. The cenobite can shift focus to the community, or to its works ("We've got a school [or retreat center, or hospital, or whatever...] to run here!") in such a way that the primary search for God gets lost, along with the necessary examination and self-reformation. The family Oblate can go overboard on demanding too much solitude and the truly solitary single Oblate can neglect family for the wrong reasons. There is always balance needed, always. It will be our lifelong struggle.
I have said before that all four kinds of monastic can quite unfortunately (and stubbornly!) exist in all our hearts and usually do so!
That is very true, but today I would like to focus on the latter two unlovelies: the Sarabaites and the Gyrovagues. Telling phrases in the description of both point very clearly to all of us living in the developed Western world, whether in cloister or not, and particularly to those of us in the U.S., alas. I apologize to any of our international members for whom these problems are either non-existent or minimal, but I think there is something important to look at here.
OK, beloveds, take off those terribly clouded lenses of consumerism and put on a brand new prescription of reality glasses and read carefully again. Check out some of the phrases in question and ask your heart deeply and honestly how your Benedictine commitment comes into play in these areas. We are used to reading about these undesirable monks as the others, let us bravely look at the ways they are ourselves.
Those nasty Sarabaite parts of our hearts and wills "are as soft as lead" and "still keep faith with the world" in their works. This tragically marks those parts of us as "liars before God." But thankfully, God is ALWAYS merciful and we can always keep trying, in fact we must keep trying: conversion of manners here! How often do we surrender and bend to human respect or status? How often is our religion one thing, and the rest of modern life conveniently under another umbrella, as if more than one Gospel existed? Do we sell out to trends or popular opinions too easily? Do we let our counter-witness to the bad sense of the world be obliterated by embarrassed silence?
Remember that Scripture speaks of the world in two ways. One sense is the good world, created by God as good and for the good of all, the creation we are bound to love and cherish because God did so first. The other is the false world, the one I am writing about here, the one which lies to us and leads us astray, the secular values that have idols and the self as their gods. Not for nothing did Jesus call Satan the Father of Lies and the prince of this world.
Ah, and those slimy Gyrovague parts of us, which our holy Father Benedict terms "in every way worse than the Sarabaites." Now here is a ripe field to harvest some info about our levels of consumerism! "They indulge their own wills and succumb to the allurements of gluttony." Whoops! I've done them both a time or two, even in the last 24 hours. How about you? Over consumption of food or material goods, one or both can easily attack us all and usually can be relied upon to do just that!!
Out-of-control consumerism is a lie, a false view of reality. Jesus, Who is our goal, is the Truth, the complete opposite of every falsehood. Ridiculous levels of consumption and self-gratification are wrong, not only because they hurt us, but because they hurt others, too. They destroy the balance of common good for which God created the world to serve all people. In the US (and many other Western nations,) the "bargains" which tickle our fancy have surely, without a doubt, come at high cost to some one else, often in the Third World, often the weakest and poorest. They also contribute to the unjust shifting of wealth to the top few, since even bargains are sold with profit in mind, lots of it, and not for those who work hardest.
Look, we need a certain amount of goods. Even St. Thomas Aquinas said a certain amount of goods were necessary to work out our salvation. (Severe lacks would mean we would, perforce, have to focus on simple survival, to work so hard to stay alive that the spirit would be decidedly underfed.) But, as Christians and as Benedictines, we need goods in moderation, in just and accurate levels which truly accord to our state in life. This is by no means an argument against ALL possessions, especially not for Oblates in the world. It is an attempt to see through the clearer lens of truth, of Jesus, of simplicity.
How many times do we hear simplicity described as "elegant." It often is. Real elegance, however, has an intrinsic relation to Beauty and Beauty to Truth, and the ultimate standard of Beauty and Truth is Christ. The idea behind a simpler lifestyle is NOT penance, but a closer approximation of yet another piece of the wondrous Divine Puzzle which is our God. Every single time we
mirror truth, we mirror Christ. it is really that simple!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- +PAXPrayers for Michael LoPiccolo, as he recovers at home from a surgery to correct bleeding. He is still pretty weak, so ardent prayers continued for this man who does so much for us and for the Holy Rule in cyberspace. And prayers for his wife, Genny, who is caring for him.Prayers for L., a return to the Church.Prayers for James, for his vocation to a monastery he is drawn to join. He is waiting to hear from them and is anxious.Deo gratias and continued prayers for Sue, recovering from her surgery. The initial prospects are that the tumor is benign, but awaiting the final biopsy results.