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Jan 8

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  • russophile2002 <jeromeleo@earthlink.net>
    +PAX Forgive me for missing two days, please. Things are quite hectic around here with going back and forth to the hospital. Brother Bernard has had his second
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2003

      Forgive me for missing two days, please. Things are quite hectic
      around here with going back and forth to the hospital. Brother
      Bernard has had his second skin graft and seems to be doing well, but
      the surgeries give him a tremendous amount of pain. Pray on!

      Prayers, please, for Matthew and Susanna, who are mourning a
      miscarriage, and for Sean on his birthday. Continuing prayers for Mr.
      Harris, Don Harris' Dad. Thanks, NRN

      I rarely reprint an old reflection, but I like this one, would have
      said the same thing anyway, and it is one more guarantee that I won't
      miss a third day!! This one is a year old....

      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:
      those who,
      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.


      People often remark that the Gyrovagues and Sarabaites are historical
      relics, types that no longer exist. Gyrovagues, in particular,
      provide fodder for many an in-house joke. Monastic Life list once
      made up an imaginary martyr as their patron: St. Mary, Help of

      I would offer a different perspective. All four types of monk are
      very much extant and alive today, within each of us! All of us carry
      the negative traits of them in one way or another. Even feet that
      haven't left the cloister in years can have Gyrovague, vagabond
      hearts. When we singly follow our own wills in cafeteria-style
      obedience, the Sarabaites live and breathe anew in us.

      Even the good types of anchorite and cenobite can be perverted. I
      live alone in the guesthouse. When I read the anchorite passage in
      the Holy Rule, I blush with shame, every single time. When people
      call me a hermit, I cringe, because I know all too well that the
      accident of it is that I live alone: no Carthusian mystic here!
      Anchorite life has a downside, too. Communal monastics can be
      infected with the Garbo syndrome: "I want to be alone." Fine, that's
      quite holy sometimes, but it can also be a very damaging flight and
      escape. Cenobitic life is for the most steadfast sort of monastics,
      but it can also harbor an antsy restlessness that aims to keep
      oneself and whomever one can drag along out of the amount of solitude
      and quiet necessary to each and all, even cenobites. We can't ALWAYS
      be at recreation...

      We see these Vagabonds and Sarabaites in a historical social context
      in St. Benedict's portrayal. We quite naturally see them moving about
      in the world of their time, requiring a certain number of other
      people to be taken in by them, to support them in their deceits,
      financially and otherwise. With large chunks of that historical
      society and its cast of supporting characters gone, we can falsely
      assume that no such wicked monastics exist today.

      Wrong! When Jesus questioned the demons before expelling them from
      the possessed man, they gave their name as: "Legion, for we are
      many." All by ourselves, with the demons that haunt us, we can supply
      the whole cast and crew! No need at all to go back to the 5th
      century. All we have to do is be foolish enough to join the
      promptings of our sometimes ignoble hearts to the designs of those
      all too glad to help us down.

      Part and parcel of the Benedictine life and struggle is putting to
      death the evil kinds of monastic that dwell smugly within us all, in
      one degree or another.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA
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