Monday, July 11, 2005

Aequalis omnibus caritas: The abbot must act with equal charity for everyone. [Rule of Benedict]

Today is the feast of St. Benedict, called the father of monastic life in the West. This feast always has me especially remembering all those Benedictines of our own days who have been such an influence in my life: Archbishop Rembert, Dom Sebastian Moore, Dom David Geraets, Sister Joan from Erie, Thomas Merton, Dom John Chapman, Cardinal Basil Hume, and all the rest. It makes me wonder when I see how much Benedictines have influenced my life and thought and prayer (a Jesuit-educated lady brought to the counsels through a deFoucauldian community, who spent nine years trying really hard to be an SFO Franciscan and only got an allergy to ecclesiastical politics for the effort....)

It's also Pope Benedict XVI's name day. At Marcellino d'Ambrosio's site, he ponders why Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name Pope Benedict XVI. A good read on a fabulous day. And, in our day, it's good to remember the aspect of Pope Benedict XV (the prevoius) that Dr. D'Ambrosio doesn't mention. The very first encyclical of the 15th was to put the slamdown on a network of spies and tattletales that had taken advantage of St. Pius X's sanctity to dismember the Church from within, defining for themselves who were the _real_ Catholics and who were the cancerous members........ it seems very very familiar.......

In today's Office of Readings, we are offered an excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict. so wise, practical and adaptable that it is still in use by many communities right to this very day --- Erie to Cold Creek, Still River to Pecos, on all six populated continents. I'd suggest Googling it and reading the whole thing. Here's the portion chosen for Readings:

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection; that he, who has honoured us by counting us among his children, may never be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve him with the good things he has given us in such a way that he may never --- as an angry father disinherits his sons or even like a master who inspires fear --- grow impatient with our sins and consign us to everlasting punishment, like wicked servants who would not follow him to glory.

So we should at long last rouse ourselves, prompted by the words of Scripture:
Now is the time for us to rise from sleep. Our eyes should be open to the God-given light, and we should listen in wonderment to the message of the divine voice as it daily cries out: Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts; and again: If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. And what does the Spirit say? Come my sons, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Hurry, while you have the light of life, so that death’s darkness may not overtake you.

And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again:
Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit; turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and my ears will be attentive to your prayers; and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.

And so, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us follow in his paths by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him
who has called us into his kingdom. If we wish to attain a dwelling-place in his kingdom we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds.

Just as there exists an evil fervour, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervour which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks should put this fervour into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should
surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behaviour, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brotherly love in a chaste manner; fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.

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