WCCM Oblate Blog: Reflections from Daily Reading of the Rule of St. Benedict
WCCM Benedictine Oblates are encouraged to read a designated portion of the Rule daily, and to write a brief, personal response. I hope that this blog will support our Oblate community in this practice. Please, keep blog entries brief and in a first-person ("I") voice. Refrain from discussing, offering an opinion, or commenting on other entries. Simply consider how a particular section of the Rule is speaking to you in your present circumstances.
Monday, June 29, 2015
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.) How often as my ego asserted its "right" to overreact? As a balm, I aspire for true justice, that gives way to self-control, appropriateness, and love.
If even this does not bring reform then excommunication should be the next penalty, provided that the meaning of such a punishment is really understood. (From Ch. 23 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)
Excommunication carries the terrible implication of shunning. But I imagine that Benedict creates some conditions around this extreme punishment to help a troubled soul appreciate the power and purpose of community. In my own life, habits of mind like judgment and alienation carry their own misery, not unlike shunning or being shunned, though maybe on a more subtle level. Meditation helps me to recognize these self-centered mindsets that draw me away from community.
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.)
A note of tenderness sounds here, making life sweet. Small kindnesses are the best way to prepare for meditation, John Main said.
If any of the deans are affected by some breath of pride which lays them open to adverse criticism, they should be corrected once or twice or even three times. (From para. 2 of Ch. 21 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry OSB, 1997.)
The image of breath is more likely to evoke for me the Holy Spirit, rather than pride. But the use of the term "breath of pride" reminds me that selfishness can insinuate its way into absolutely anything, contorting what should be service, into power over others.
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? (From Ch. 20 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry OSB, 1997.)
I understand real humility as true self-knowledge. That is, I come to know myself as someone grounded, not in my ego, but in the indwelling Christ. I'm helped to free myself from the distracting thoughts of my ego by the devotion of selfless attention to Him.
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 thought 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.)
For me, it's in that "complete harmony" that my strongest defense against distraction and despair exists. When I say the mantra lovingly -- and that takes my complete and selfless attention -- I realize that I am already loved.
Chapter 18: The order for reciting the psalms (paragraphs 5-6)
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.)
I don't think that devotion, as St. Benedict speaks of it, is about spiritual athleticism. Rather, I think it's about an expanding experience of divine energy, and its ability to set our lives aflame.