Saturday, September 15, 2007

Chap 2 January 15, May 16, September 15

January 15, May 16, September 15
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

Above all let her not neglect or undervalue
the welfare of the souls committed to her,
in a greater concern for fleeting, earthly, perishable things;
but let her always bear in mind
that she has undertaken the government of souls
and that she will have to give an account of them.

And if she be tempted to allege a lack of earthly means,
let her remember what is written:
"First seek the kingdom of God and His justice,
and all these things shall be given you besides" (Ps. 33:10).
And again:
"Nothing is wanting to those who fear Him."

Let her know, then,
that she who has undertaken the government of souls
must prepare herself to render an account of them.
Whatever number of sisters she knows she has under her care,
she may be sure beyond doubt that on Judgment Day
she will have to give the Lord an account of all these souls,
as well as of her own soul.

Thus the constant apprehension
about her coming examination as shepherd (Ezech. 34)
concerning the sheep entrusted to her,
and her anxiety over the account that must be given for others,
make her careful of her own record.
And while by her admonitions she is helping others to amend,
she herself is cleansed of her faults.

Some thoughts:

Other parts of this chapter dealt with the abbess/abbot's relationship with the monastics in their care. This chapter reads to me as if it is dealing with the relationship the abbess/abbot ought to have with God.

Would you see this as possible role model for any of us who might be in authority over others? What are all the things such a person has to consider?

As I read the first section, it sounds very much to me as if the issue is the primary consideration is the welfare of those under another's authority. That's something we could all be concerned about, isn't it?

What are some of the other qualities required? How would you apply them in you daily life?

Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

In an age of great institutions and unending development campaigns, Benedict makes a statement in this paragraph that stretches the modern mind to the extremity of disbelief. Benedict instructs the abbot and prioress to be more concerned about the spiritual needs of the monastery than its physical ones. You have to wonder how long a group will last like that. You also have to wonder whether or not a monastery that is not like that should last at all. The implications are profound.

A monastery does not have to be wealthy, Benedict implies, a monastery does not have to be large, a monastery does not have to be popular. What a monastery must be, without doubt and without fail, is holy. The role of the abbot or prioress, therefore, is not to concentrate on the physical development of the community, on the "fleeting and temporal things of this world." The role of the abbot or prioress is to direct their energies to bringing the community to the white heat of the spiritual life, after which no challenge is too great and no effort is too much because we know for certain that "those who reverence the Holy One lack nothing."

In monastic spirituality, then, leadership is not intent on making things right; leadership is intent on making life right. The number of families who have succumbed to the notion that giving their children everything that money can buy assures their happiness need this insight from of monastic spirituality. The number of business people who have put their entire lives into developing their businesses instead of their quality of life, need this insight from monastic spirituality. The number of young people who have learned to believe that success depends on having it all, may need this monastic lesson in life. The Rule of Benedict teaches us that nothing, not even a monastery, is worth the loss of the development of the important things in life, the spiritual things in life.

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