Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 15, 2009

Reading from the Rule of St Benedict

April 15, August 15, December 15
Chapter 61: How Pilgrim Monks Are To Be Received

If a pilgrim monastic coming from a distant region
wants to live as a guest of the monastery,
let her be received for as long a time as she desires,
provided she is content
with the customs of the place as she finds them
and does not disturb the monastery by superfluous demands,
but is simply content with what she finds.
If, however, she censures or points out anything reasonably
and with the humility of charity,
let the Abbess consider prudently
whether perhaps it was for that very purpose
that the Lord sent her.

If afterwards she should want to bind herself to stability,
her wish should not be denied her,
especially since there has been opportunity
during her stay as a guest
to discover her character.

Some thoughts by Sr Gloriamarie

Obviously we are in a section where Benedictine deals with
professional courtesies. Couple of different issues in this chapter,
it seems to me. On the one had we have chapter one which is none too
complimentary to wandering monks and OTOH, we have recently read in ch
53 how all guests are to be received as Christ. So I see an open but
wary stance toward the visiting monk here. Benedict is willing to
give them a chance to show that they can be good guests and conform to
the life of the monastery they visit. It is clear that they are not
teated as guests as in ch 53 but as fellow participants in the
monastic life.

The monastic visitor is supposed to conform to the monastery it is
true, but I am struck by the humility with which Benedict writes of
the way their reasonable criticism is to be received. Would that all
of us had such a humble response to constructive criticism. Benedict
charges the Abbot to actually consider the criticism because the
visitor monk may be an unlikely agent of God. I am reminded of a
section much earlier, ch 3 mayhap?, where Benedict writes that even
the youngest of monks may be one through whom the Lord chooses to
speak. And please remember that the only seniority Benedict
recognizes is that of length of time in the community.

The reference to binding to stability means that there is the option
for the guest monastic to become a permanent part of the community
being visited. If the monastic will give up wandering and vow
stability, they will be admitted, especially since they have have
gotten to know the guest already.

This chapter has so many applications to our lives, I am not sure I
can mention them all. How many times have we seen people come to any
sort of community... church, email list etc.. and want to change it to
suit themselves long before they ever take the time to get to know the
group they have joined? Or how about the reception of the criticism?
How many times do we reject criticism of ourselves out of hand without
considering if it has validity for no other reason but that it is
criticism? How many of us refuse to take the risk to put ourselves
forward because we are afraid that we will be ourselves critcized?

I am sure readers of this list can find other ways to apply this
chapter to our lives outside the monastery and i look forward to
reading them.

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