Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 20, 2009

April 20, August 20, December 20

Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess

In the constituting of an Abbess
let this plan always be followed,
that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen
either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God
or else by a part of the community, however small,
if its counsel is more wholesome.

Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine
should determine the choice of the one to be constituted,
even if she be the last of the order of the community.

But if (which God forbid)
the whole community should agree to choose a person
who will acquiesce in their vices,
and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity,
let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked,
and set a worthy steward over the house of God.
They may be sure
that they will receive a good reward for this action
if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God;
as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.

Some thoughts

In Ch 2 we read about the duties of the monastic superior. Here at
the end of the Rule, we read about how one is selected. This passage
starts out ordinarily enough and then there is this surprising bit
about how a small part of the community could prevail over the
majority. How is that possible? What does that mean? Kardong
suggests that Benedict deliberately left it a little vague to avoid
any legalistic straightjacketing. He also says some modern Benedictine
communities have chosen a discernment process that avoids the choice
of monastic superior by majority vote in order to provide sufficient
room for the Holy Spirit to act freely.

The next set of verses remind me of Paul's letters to Timothy and
Titus on the subject of electing a bishop. Was Benedict modeling his
monastic superior on the leaders of the wider Church? Seems so to me.

Then we have the business of what happens if a bad choice is made. I
wonder if Benedict had in mind his first experience as an abbot. He
had been living in a cave as a hermit when the abbot of a nearby
community died. The monks decided to have Benedict as their new
abbot. They changed their minds because he would discipline them for
their rowdy, unmonklike behavior. The monks decided to poison
Benedict's wine. As he lifted the cup to drink, he detected the
poison, prayed and the liquid was changed into wholesome wine.

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