Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for July 5, 2009

March 5, July 5, November 4

Chapter 28: On Those Who Will Not Amend after Repeated Corrections

If a sister who has been frequently corrected for some fault,
and even excommunicated,
does not amend,
let a harsher correction be applied,
that is, let the punishment of the rod be administered.

But if she still does not reform
or perhaps (which God forbid)
even rises up in pride and wants to defend her conduct,
then let the Abbess do what a wise physician would do.
Having used applications,
the ointments of exhortation,
the medicines of the Holy Scriptures,
finally the cautery of excommunication
and of the strokes of the rod,
if she sees that her efforts are of no avail,
let her apply a still greater remedy,
her own prayers and those of all the others,
that the Lord, who can do all things
may restore health to the sister who is sick.

But if she is not healed even in this way,
then let the Abbess use the knife of amputation,
according to the Apostle's words,
"Expel the evil one from your midst" (1 Cor. 5:13),
and again,
"If the faithless one departs, let her depart" (1 Cor. 7:15)
lest one diseased sheep contaminate the whole flock.

Some thoughts:

Ok, Ok, Ok, I know what you're thinking. Corporal punishment, no way. I agree with you. However, need I say that in Benedict's day it was very much a part of every day life? The world is not so different today. There are still Christians today who are strong believers in "Spare the rod, spoil the child." The Sunnis and the Shiites are massacring each other. But lest we get too caught up in condemning the violence, let me assure that to the best of my knowledge, Benedictine communities no longer practice this.

Perhaps though we could look at the corporal punishment as one of many things Benedict said to try in order to convince the erring monastic to repent. They seem to have gone from gentle to stronger to strongest, all the while the monastic superior caring for the person as lovingly as possible, providing support, companions and the whole community in prayer.

Perhaps we could also remember that at every step of the way, the monastic had choices: repentance or walking out the door. No one could force someone to remain.

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