Friday, March 7, 2014
There is a proper way of dealing with every age and every degree of understanding, and we should find the right way of dealing with the young. (From Ch. 30 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
I think that more than anything else, young people need examples of self-discipline and compassion, of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Chapter 29: The readmission of any who leave the monastery
Anyone who is guilty of serious wrong by the personal decision to leave the monastery but then asks to be received back again must first of all promise full reparation for leaving the monastery. (From Ch. 29 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
I wonder what "full reparation" in this situation would be -- certainly not something material or financial. Maybe the kind of reparation of which Benedict speaks involves growth in self-knowledge, and transformation of consciousness in the one who left. That spiritual development could help heal the wounds to the community made by the trauma of disobedience and departure.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Chapter 28: The treatment of those who relapse
If even such prayer does not bring healing, the superior must turn to the knife of amputation, following the guidance of St Paul, who told the Corinthians to banish the evil from their midst, and again he said: if the unfaithful one wishes to go, let him go, lest one diseased sheep corrupt the whole flock. (From Ch. 28 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
At first, Benedict speaks of amputation, but then he speaks of letting go. Letting go can sometimes feel like amputation. But I can't judge the path another needs to take for growth, just as I can't judge the person who takes it. Neither can I understand the mysteries of growth, I can only experience the transformative powers of suffering and faith.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Chapter 27: The superior's care for the excommunicated
Therefore the superior should use every curative skill as a wise doctor does, for instance by sending in senpectae, that is, mature and wise senior members of the community who may discreetly bring counsel to one who is in a state of uncertainty and confusion; their task will be to show the sinner the way to humble reconciliation and also to bring consolation, as St Paul also urges, to one in danger of being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and in need of the reaffirmation of love which everyone in the community must achieve through their prayer. (From para. 1 of Ch. 27 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
For me, a crucial part of living is learning to engage with suffering. This morning, Benedict's passage speaks to me of the divinized power of spiritual friendship, of communion in silence, and of the energy of shared prayer.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Chapter 26: Unlawful association with the excommunicated
If any member of the community presumes without the permission of the abbot or abbess to associate in any way or speak or give instructions to one who has been excommunicated then that person should receive exactly the same punishment of excommunication. (Ch. 26 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
I've had to learn -- the hard way -- that good communication (or my idea of it) is not necessarily the pinnacle of human relationship. Love, patience, kindness, prayer -- the fruits of the Spirit -- create the kingdom of God on earth.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Chapter 25: Punishment for more serious faults
None of the community should associate with or talk to the guilty person, who is to persevere alone in sorrow and penance in whatever work has been allotted, remembering St Paul's fearful judgement when he wrote to the Corinthians that: such a one should be handed over for the destruction of the flesh so that the spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (From Ch. 25 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
At first this passage sounds almost horrible to me, like shunning. But this is different; this is surrounding the suffering one with self-controlled love and respect and the means of redemption. Sorrow and penance -- silence and solitude -- these are requirements for self-knowledge, and for finding God within.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Chapter 24: Different degrees of severity in punishment
The severity of excommunication or any other punishment should correspond to the gravity of the fault committed, and it is for the superior to decide about the seriousness of faults. (From Ch. 24 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
What if my reactions to others were always appropriate to the circumstances? Not too dramatic or egotistical, too agitated or withdrawn? I would be living in the present moment, in the reality of God.