Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be cont'd Jan. 12, May 13, September 12

My apologies that this is so late today. Been one of "those" days!!

January 12, May 13, September 12
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let her not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom she finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let her not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.
But if the Abbess for just reason think fit to do so,
let her advance one of any rank whatever.
Otherwise let them keep their due places;
because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
and bear in equal burden of service
in the army of the same Lord.
For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11).
Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight:
if we be found better than others in good works and humility.
Therefore let the Abbess show equal love to all
and impose the same discipline on all
according to their deserts.

Some thoughts:

Wouldn't it be so wonderful if every single person in the world practiced this? I know you are saying, "Dream on, Gloriamarie". Can we all see how irrelevant are the world's view of worthiness is to St. Benedict? Right out of Galatians. We are one in Christ and within the Body of Christ all service to God and neighbor is equal. None is more important than the rest. Somewhere else in the Rule it says that the only form of rank in his monastery is the length of time one has been there.

Clearly the Abbess/Abbot keeps watch over the monastics to discern what a person might need in order to do better. Do you have someone like that in your life? I don't know about you, but I am so very grateful to have a spiritual director because she sees things in me I don't. How I need that for balance, moderation and a perspective adjustment. My best friend frequently tells me I need a perspective adjustment and is only too happy to give it to me.

Would you agree with me that something else we can take away form today's reading is the need for discernment? That we need to develop it? That we need others to discern for us sometimes?

Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

If Benedict of Nursia was anything, he was not a pious romantic. He knew the Gospel and he knew life and he set out to bring the two together.

In one paragraph of this chapter, he shapes a completely new philosophy of authority, in another paragraph he hints at a different philosophy of religious life and in this one he rejects, out of hand, the common social structures of the period. In his communities, slave and free are equal as the gospels demand.

This is the Jesus life. What is insane in the streets is common coin here. What is madness to politicians is life breath here. What is unheard of in nice company is taken for granted here. Here people are ranked in the order in which they came to the group--not by education, not by money, not by social status but simply according to the moment they came to Christ. There is, as a result, no rank at all and this is very disconcerting to a world that loves uniforms and titles and knowing people who are in Who's Who.

But do not be misled. Benedict is a realist, not a feckless libertarian. There are differences among us and he recognizes those. There is a kind of natural hierarchy of gifts. Some of us are business people and some of us are not. Some of us are musicians and some are not. Some of us are leaders and some are not. The question is not whether or not some of us should be put over others of us. The question is how we get there and why we're put there.

Here Benedict draws another sharp contrast with life as we know it. The monastic life, the spiritual life, is not a life dedicated to climbing and clawing to the top. The monastic mind is not set on politicking or groveling. Abbots and prioresses, good leaders anywhere, are not in the business of forming kitchen cabinets or caucuses.

No, favoritism and intrigue are not the mint of the monastic mindset, commitment is.

Benedict doesn't just want a business manager who can make money for the monastery. He doesn't want workers for their productivity only. He doesn't take for leaders simply those who know how to control a group or build a business. Whom Benedict wants appointed to positions of responsibility are people who are distinguished "in goods works and obedience," in "good works and humility." It is a model for leadership in those places where profit and power and the party line take precedence over what the business or the diocese or the social service agency proclaims it is about.

He does not want people in positions simply to get a job done. He wants people in positions who embody why we bother to do the job at all. He wants holy listeners who care about the effect of what they do on everybody else.
Imagine a world that was run by holy listeners.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home