Monday, August 17, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 17, 2009

April 17, August 17, December 17

Chapter 62: On the Priests of the Monastery

If an Abbot desire
to have a priest or a deacon ordained for his monastery,
let him choose one
who is worthy to exercise the priestly office.

But let the one who is ordained
beware of self-exaltation or pride;
and let him not presume to do anything
except what is commanded him by the Abbot,
knowing that he is so much the more subject
to the discipline of the Rule.
Nor should he by reason of his priesthood forget
the obedience and the discipline required by the Rule,
but make ever more and more progress towards God.

Let him always keep the place which he received
on entering the monastery,
except in his duties at the altar
or in case the choice of the community and the will of the Abbess
should promote him for the worthiness of his life.
Yet he must understand
that he is to observe the rules laid down by deans and Priors.

Should he presume to act otherwise,
let him be judged not as a priest but as a rebel.
And if he does not reform after repeated admonitions,
let even the Bishop be brought in as a witness.
If then he still fails to amend,
and his offenses are notorious,
let him be put out of the monastery,
but only if his contumacy is such
that he refuses to submit or to obey the Rule

Some thoughts:
Here we are back to priests in the monastery. Previously we read how
those who already are priests were to be greeted. Today the reading
is about the Abbot deciding that a priest is desirable. It's an
interesting bit... I recall reading in St Gregory's Dialogues, the
section on the life of St Benedict (which is in our files) that when
living in his cave Benedict did not even know when it was Easter
Sunday! Which indicates to me that by the time he wrote this chapter,
regular celebration of the sacraments may have been becoming more
important to the monks.

We also see here that Benedict continues in the tradition of the
distrust of the priest which started in with the Desert Christians and
continues in John Cassian and the Rule of the Master. As I have
mentioned in the past, these are the primary sources recognized to
have influenced Benedict. There may also be something else at work
here... a priest would also be under the authority of the local Bishop
and Benedict wishes to make it clear that the Abbot and the monastic
community have priority over the Bishop.

We also see here that the priest doesn't go up in rank but keeps the
one he had already. Rank in the Benedictine community was determined
by length of time in the monastery. We saw in the chapter about
visiting monks who choose to the enter the monastery or her again,
that the monastic superior is given in the Rule the authority to
re-assign rank, but that is predicated upon living the monastic life
and no other considerations. And, of course, as is familiar to us,
the priest-monk is subject to the same penalties as anyone else who
disrupts the communal life.

But what does all this mean to us today? I think it can speak to our
understanding of vocation, or, at least to mine, I should say. I look
at vocation this way: we all have one or more. Sometimes vocations
overlap. I am a daughter, nun, friend, list owner, have been a
student, a writer. All of these are things I believe God has called
me to and that makes them vocations. No person's vocation is more
important than another. No vocation makes anyone holier than another.
Vocations are merely our role in the Body of Christ which needs all
of us to be faithful to God's call to us. So just as the monk is
called to become a priest to meet a need in the community, so God
calls us into His service, an offering for the Body of Christ.

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