Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chapter 23: Faults which deserve excommunication

If an individual in the community is defiant, disobedient, proud or given to murmuring or in any other way set in opposition to the holy Rule and contemptuous of traditions of the seniors, then we should follow the precept of our Lord. (From Ch. 23 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Excommunication has, for me, the horrible connotation of public shunning, or the punitive self-righteousness of institutions. But I think what Benedict's getting at, by looking at some of the problems he identifies (defiance, disobedience, pride, murmuring, opposition, contempt) is that the greatest faults one can have in community -- or in relationship -- are qualities that weaken the very body of the community. In that sense, it seems to me that excommunication (there has to be a better word for it -- maybe today we could think of it as "boundary setting", for instance) is a serious attempt to help someone realize what makes the community healthy and what makes it sick.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chapter 22: Sleeping arrangements for the community

In the morning, as they are getting up for the work of God, they should quietly give encouragement to those who are sleepy and given to making excuses for being late. (From para. 2 of Ch. 22 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Sometimes I can give gentle encouragement; often I need it myself. Gentle encouragement is not about projecting my own faults onto another or controlling them. Rather, I think this concern of which Benedict speaks emerges from somewhere between good habit and compassion. I think it may be like the small acts of kindness John Main encourages us to practice as a preparation for meditation. Then, the fruit of meditation is more kindness, more community.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chapter 21: The deans of the monastery

[Deans] must be selected for their suitability in character and gifts so the abbot or abbess may, without anxiety, share some responsibilities with them. For that reason they should not be chosen simply because of their order in the community but because of their upright lives and the wisdom of their teaching. (From Ch. 21 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Benedict teaches me that discernment in delegation is an important aspect of community life. If I'm the person of responsibility in a situation, delegation may relieve me of overwork, but more importantly, it allows others to participate and grow in our mutual life. And for me, delegation may also save me from the ego-delusion of being "indispensable".

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chapter 20: The ideal of true reverence in prayer

When we come, then, with our requests in prayer before the Lord, who is God of all creation, is it not all the more important that we should approach him in a spirit of real humility and a devotion that is open to him alone and free from distracting thoughts? We really must  be quite clear that our prayer will be heard, not because of the eloquence and length of all we have to say, but because of the heartfelt repentance and openness of our hearts to the Lord whom we approach. (From Ch. 20 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

For some time I was confused about the purpose of intercessory prayer because it seemed "inferior" to meditation. But gradually I came to realize that my "requests in prayer before the Lord" actually benefit from meditation, because as a fruit of meditation,  my "requests" become less controlling, more compassionate and communal. And here, although Benedict seems to me to recognize the very human urge to use prayer as a way of asking God for something, in fact I see him leading his monks through their intercessory prayer, to repentance (humility) and openness of heart, free from distracting thoughts. Such a disposition seems to me to be the poverty of spirit of the mantra, the poverty of spirit necessary to realize the presence of God.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chapter 19: Our approach to prayer

All of us, then, should reflect seriously on how to appear before the majesty of God in the presence of his angels. That will lead us to make sure that, when we sing in choir, there is complete harmony between the thoughts in our mind and the meaning of the words we sing. (From Ch. 19 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB,, 1997.)

Complete harmony -- an ever greater integration of my being in the heart. This is fullness of life, at least in this life.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chapter 18: The order for reciting the psalms (paragraphs 4-6)

After all, we read that our holy Fathers had the energy to fulfil in one single day what we in our lukewarm devotion only aspire to complete in a whole week. (From para. 6 of Ch. 18 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

The fire of the living God can enlighten even my lukewarm devotion, and transform me.