Chapter 2 of the Rule of St. Benedict: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be, Sept. 10,2016

Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be cont’d

Jan. 10 – May 11 – Sept. 10

Let the Abbess always bear in mind
that at the dread Judgment of God
there will be an examination of these two matters:
her teaching and the obedience of her disciples.
And let the Abbess be sure
that any lack of profit
the master of the house may find in the sheep
will be laid to the blame of the shepherd.
On the other hand,
if the shepherd has bestowed all her pastoral diligence
on a restless, unruly flock
and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behavior,
then she will be acquitted at the Lord’s Judgment
and may say to the Lord with the Prophet:
“I have not concealed Your justice within my heart;
Your truth and Your salvation I have declared” (Ps. 39[40]:11).
“But they have despised and rejected me” (Is. 1:2; Ezech. 20:27).
And then finally let death itself, irresistible,
punish those disobedient sheep under her charge.


Some thoughts:
Ok, I’m convinced. I don’t want to be an Abbess ever!! Not only do I
wish to eschew such responsibility, the ray of hope offered in “tried
every remedy for their unhealthy behavior” is probably beyond me,
seeing how unruly my own behavior often is. Would you agree with me that this section might apply to all in leadership? I’d sure like the
various Presidential candidates’ response, wouldn’t you?
To get serious now… Setting aside the “dread judgment of God” for
the moment, what else might this passage be about? What is there for us who are not in the monastery to glean for our own lives? What obligation(s) do we have to our Lord? To speak His truth at all times? To listen for it always?
The quotations from Ps 39, Isaiah and Ezekiel involve speaking and
listening, I believe. Which in turn reminds me of the very first word
of the Rule “Listen”. Benedict’s practical turn of mind is displayed
once again. To whom does he first give instruction? The supervisor!!
Benedict sees God as the CEO of the monastery, so to me, that makes the Abbess/Abbot merely the supervisor.
Do you see anything about relationships in this bit of the RB? One of
the themes of the Rule, I think. In order for the work of God to be
done, all of us must do our part faithfully. The “leader” no less
than the rank beginner. We are not responsible for what another
fails to do, we are only responsible for our own part. In the end,
after all, it is God’s word that is done and God’s judgment that
Have you seen, in a movie perhaps, monks walking around with their
hoods drawn up so far over their heads that all they can see is only
what’s right in front of them? Have you noticed also that they walk
with their heads slightly bowed so that all they could see was where
to place their feet? There’s an out of fashion term for this called
“custody of the senses” which is the practice of paying attention to
one’s own business in the monastery and protecting one’s sense from noticing what the other guy might be doing wrong. What a lesson for those of us who like to excuse our own behavior because of what someone else did first as if we had never grown out of arguing over who started it.
I suggested yesterday that for those of us not in a monastery, that
there might be those who serve as spiritual leaders. Benedict makes it quite clear that such spiritual leaders can only do so much. But it
had to be their best.

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