Holy Rule for Jan. 17
Prayers, please, for M., who has made a very scary life decision and needs a lot of strength and grace to follow it, prayers, too, for all who wrestle with scrupulosity, such a painful condition, that they may see God's mercy clearly and fear ever so much less. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent. Alleluia! Thanks so much. JL
January 17, May 18, September 17
Chapter 3: On Calling the Brethren for Counsel
In all things, therefore, let all follow the Rule as guide,
and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it.
Let no one in the monastery follow his own heart's fancy;
and let no one presume to contend with his Abbot
in an insolent way or even outside of the monastery.
But if anyone should presume to do so,
let him undergo the discipline of the Rule.
At the same time,
the Abbot himself should do all things in the fear of God
and in observance of the Rule,
knowing that beyond a doubt
he will have to render an account of all his decisions
to God, the most just Judge.
But if the business to be done in the interests of the monastery
be of lesser importance,
let him take counsel with the seniors only.
It is written,
"Do everything with counsel,
and you will not repent when you have done it" (Eccles. 32:24).
The key here is not to contend insolently; there is no proscription
against telling the Abbot one feels something is amiss, so long as it
is done respectfully and humbly. We are Benedictines, not fascists;
we have a Father, not a Fuhrer.
A pithy quote from Jesuit liturgical scholar Father Robert Taft, who
was speaking about Church authority in general, but it certainly
applies to us: "I don't buy ecclesiastical fascism, I think
authoritarianism is the refuge of the stupid. It saves you from the
obligation of thought."
Human nature being what it is, people are usually more prone to cite
the Abbot's responsibility to seek counsel than they are to cite the
equally important proscription against contending with one's Abbot!
There's a cure for that and many other ills buried within this
chapter, a telling phrase whose observance promises peace. That
little gem urges the monastics not to follow their "own heart's
Follow that gem and peace abounds! For one thing, whether abbot or
monastic, parent or child, boss or employee, the focus of the
relationship ceases to become self. None of us are anywheres near the
big deal we'd either like to be or think ourselves to be! Much of
what seems earth-shattering to us is really small stuff, indeed.
This is so important to monastic struggle because it is so intricately
interwoven with detachment and holy indifference. We must learn how
to hold onto our inner peace, how to safeguard it from damage at the
hands of trivia. An abject TERRIBLE day for us, one when we are so
hurt or angry that no one dares approach us is just another average
day for the rest of the community. Until, of course we decide we ARE
the center of the universe and ruin it for them... Cling to that
knowledge of trivia and less will suffer!
At that point of recognizing trivia, truth and therefore, humility
and divinity itself, enter into the equation. We need very good "crap
detectors" and their default setting must be aimed at ourselves,
rarely cast elsewhere except in cases of really great need. We can
keep those crap detectors more than amply busy just in our own hearts
and wills! We need to know deception, falsity, trivia, but it is
essential to know them first in ourselves.
If these good tools of detection are aimed only at others, the result
will be pride and a fall, not humility and truth. Jesus said "I am
the Truth," and to Him we must prefer nothing. Hence, our first
desire must always be the truth and the truth is that the earth does
not revolve around us as an axis!
Our age, particularly, has embraced the pap of "Follow your bliss!"
Well, maybe...sometimes.... but maybe not, too. Our "bliss" is no
guarantee of infallibility. Years ago, and for many years of my life,
I thought my "bliss" would be to be married to an attorney and having
drinks by the pool. No doubt there may be some who wish I had
followed that one, but how different my life would have been had I
As a handy rule of thumb, I would say that the will of God quite
often looks nothing like bliss at first. Hence, confusing bliss with
the divine will can be very risky. The will of God often BECOMES
bliss when we are in the midst of following it, but we frequently
have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into that compliance! And
sometimes our bliss IS the right thing- even a stopped clock is right
twice a day- but those sometimes are impossible to predict. And, let
us be frank, few people carry stopped watches because of their
usefulness twice a day!
Love and prayers,
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Prayers, please, for the following, and for all their families and all who take care of them:
Barbara, dementia worsening, major meltdown on Friday, and for her husband, Jim.
a member of Jane's family newly diagnosed with cancer.
Al. His vision is critical to his work. He had cataract surgery and now the lens that was implanted will have to be removed Monday and replaced with a new one. Doc says there is a high risk of a detached retina. Please pray that God will guide the surgeon's hands and for complete healing.
Denise, that she get her marriage blessed and return to the Sacraments.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
February 1, June 2, October 2
Chapter 7: On Humility
The fourth degree of humility
is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind
when in this obedience he meets with difficulties
and even any kind of injustice,
enduring all without growing weary or running away.
For the Scripture says,
"The one who perseveres to the end,
is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22);
"Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26:14)!
And to show how those who are faithful
ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord,
the Scripture says in the person of the suffering,
"For Your sake we are put to death all the day long;
we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter" (Ps. 43:22; Rom.
Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense,
they go on with joy to declare,
"But in all these trials we conquer,
through Him who has granted us His love" (Rom. 8:37).
Again, in another place the Scripture says,
"You have tested us, O God;
You have tried us a silver is tried, by fire;
You have brought us into a snare;
You have laid afflictions on our back" (Matt. 5:39-41).
And to show that we ought to be under a Superior,
it goes on to say,
"You have set men over our heads" (Ps. 65:12).
Moreover, by their patience
those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command
in adversities and injuries:
when struck on one cheek, they offer the other;
when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak;
when forced to go a mile, they go two;
with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26)
and bless those who curse them (1 Cor. 4:12).
Be careful how you read this fourth step of patience. It is an ideal,
presented in its most flawless form. It is not an unreachable goal, but neither
should we expect significant progress before noon today. It is our call and
our vocation, but it is a lifelong task.
The danger for schleps like me is that this step can give one an image
of a perfect, 1950's TV sitcom Mom: shirt dress, high heels and pearls as
everyday wear, cookies and milk always forthcoming in a kitchen as clean
as a surgical suite and never a hair out of place. Full make-up on rising
and wears hat and matching gloves to shop. PUHLEEEZE! Give me a break.
Real patience in action is not at all like that.
Patience in action is a fierce struggle. Never think that it's easy for
others and therefore something is wrong with you: it isn't easy
for anyone. One of the biggest flaws of the "I'm OK and you are
not..." school of ministry is that it makes people think exactly
this. "It's easy for her and there's something terribly wrong with
me." Neither is true.
The Rule and Scriptures were meant for strugglers. They were written
for real, average people, halt and lame, battle-scarred veterans like
you and me, for people who have weathered life, but barely. Hey,
there may be cookies and milk, but you'll probably have to get the
plate yourself and brush aside a LOT of blood, sweat and tears to
find one. Oh, and please drink the milk fast and take as much as you
can... the fridge broke today.
Patience is surely one of the most important fuels that perseverance
runs on, but don't be surprised if it often is not very high octane!
Neither should it surprise you if your engine is not a slant V-8, but
rather a very cheap lawnmower that has trouble starting. Patience
is ENDURANCE, not ease. It may, after years of struggle, confer a
great peace and serenity, but it rarely, if ever, feels like that in
the middle of things.
Brother Patrick Creamer, OSB, of Saint Leo Abbey in Florida, taught
me patience and perseverance. He was able to do so because he was so
transparent about his own struggles. Many others tried to tell me how
hard it was, but their lack of candor made me dismiss their warnings
as tokenism. It certainly didn't seem to be hard for them. I couldn't
believe them. Patrick, my late and beloved mentor, was so very different.
Patrick entered the monastery in 1954, when he was 40, after a long
career at sea. He missed being at sea so much (and for so long!) that
it magnified many of the every day crosses of monastic life. Abbot
Marion, who loved brothers and had a very tender spot for them, used
to send Patrick to the beach for a weekend occasionally, in years
when that sort of thing didn't often happen. Abbot Marion was wise enough
to know he'd lose Patrick if he didn't get a salt air fix now and then.
Even the beach trips were not enough alone. Patrick told me he was
tempted to leave every single day for ten years. Patrick, when I
lived with him, literally stayed packed with a hidden suitcase for
years and boasted of his ability to be gone in an hour. As a novice,
my heart used to be selfishly in my throat. I wanted him to go, if
that was what he was supposed to do, but I really didn't want to lose
I can also tell you that, during the worst
of those years, Patrick helped scores of folks who came to him, because a
transparently wounded person usually can. I can also tell you that
Brother Patrick finally decided to stay: when he was 83 or so!! What a
witness of hope that was to me, to others struggling like me.
Please, let us all be given patience. But when we get it, however
little at a time, let NONE of us be "perfect" TV Moms. Let us all be Patricks,
let us show others how terribly hard, yet doable it can be.
Patrick held forth from his infirmary room until his death
at two weeks short of 90. A steady stream of visitors never waned.
On the head of his bed and on the shaving mirror over his sink were
two small notes, written in his own inimitable hand: "Lord, let me
come to You." They broke my heart the first time I saw them. I still
didn't want to lose him. But I know how right he was and how richly he
deserves that loving embrace for which he so patiently waited.
Love and prayers,
Jerome LEO, OSB (again and again you'll see why I took the second
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