Well, it may be the feast of the Holy Family, but for all you
Anglophiles out there, happy feast of St. Thomas a Becket, who got
bumped by the Sunday this year! JL
April 29, August 29, December 29
Chapter 71: That the Brethren Be Obedient to One
Not only is the boon of obedience
to be shown by all to the Abbot,
but the brethren are also to obey one another,
knowing that by this road of obedience they are going to God.
Giving priority, therefore, to the commands of the Abbot
and of the Superior appointed by him
(to which we allow no private orders to be preferred),
for the rest
let all the juniors obey their seniors
with all charity and solicitude.
But if anyone is found contentious,
let him be corrected.
And if any brother,
for however small a cause,
is corrected in any way by the Abbot or by any of his Superiors,
or if he faintly perceives
that the mind of any Superior is angered or moved against him,
let him at once, without delay,
prostrate himself on the ground at his feet
and lie there making satisfaction
until that emotion is quieted with a blessing.
But if anyone should disdain to do this,
let him undergo corporal punishment
or, if he is stubborn, let him be expelled from the monastery.
Cease fires are necessary in any family, so are truces, but one thing
that has no place in Benedictine life is permanent cold war. That's
why this chapter ends with a threat of expulsion. It is a solemn
reminder that peace consist of much more than merely the absence of
active conflict. Permanent rifts cannot remain so. They must be
bridged and compromised in one degree or another, otherwise one will
never have unity. Pockets and cliques and parties will arise and
these are (trust me!) VERY unhealthy in a Benedictine milieu. They
can even be fatal.
This idea of mutual obedience is but another helpful step in the
journey away from ego, away from the false self we all cherish so
foolishly. It is useful, but not an end in itself. I can recall that
there were things we didn't do at St. Leo while Brother X. was alive
that we all cheerfully returned to doing once he was dead, no regrets
at all. The constraints had served their purpose. They had made us,
in Brother X.'s time less selfish. Once he died, it was back to
morally neutral business as usual!!
The brethren also allowed the same Brother X to make some rather
inexplicable "landscaping" decisions, viewing this as therapy that
kept him busy and out of harm's way. They were annoying enough as
seedlings, but now Brother X has gone to God and St. Leo is blessed
with some rather eccentrically placed fully grown trees in his
memory. He just lived too long to justify digging them up and
besides, most people were used to them by the time he died. A good
monastic family will learn not to be unduly fussy about such things.
Mutual obedience is a great courtesy of love, but it is hardly the
big deal that our selfish ego would love to make it. It truly costs
very little to make others happy, to let others live. As my dear
Father Damian of St. leo used to say: "If it gives him so much
pleasure and me so little pain, why not?" Such a standard of behavior
can do welcome and necessary damage to a selfish heart!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA