January 14, May 15, September 14
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
The Abbess should always remember what she is
and what she is called,
and should know that to whom more is committed,
from her more is required (Luke 12:48).
Let her understand also
what a difficult and arduous task she has undertaken:
ruling souls and adapting herself to a variety of characters.
One she must coax, another scold, another persuade,
according to each one’s character and understanding.
Thus she must adjust and adapt herself to all
in such a way that she may not only suffer no loss
in the flock committed to her care,
but may even rejoice in the increase of a good flock.
Have you noticed that if you ever self-identify yourself as a Christian, all of a sudden you are held accountable for other people’s expectations of what a Christian is or how a how a Christian is supposed to behave, no matter how wrong-head are their preconceptions? Are you as tired of it as I?
On the other hand, it is certainly true that something more is expected of us Christians. Jesus tells us the world will know us by our love. It is precisely because that is not the general impression we give the world, we have quite the reputation for in-fighting after all, that in my opinion, we can never do better than the Rule of St. Benedict.
Another thing Jesus told us to do was to follow him. Perhaps it is in this context that we could apply today’s reading? What else is the role of the abbess/abbot but to help those in their care follow Jesus? Of course, we are not in monastic life, but Jesus’ invitation no less applies to us.
It seems to me that part of how the abbess/abbot does is to know the unique qualities of every person and to encourage that person individually. Seems to me it takes great gifts of discernment and skill to see each person for who they are in the eyes of God.
Is this something we can take away from today’s reading? Treating people and ourselves for who we are in God’s eyes? Does this ask us to change any of our ways? What ways would they be and how would we change?
These are hard questions and I feel as if I should be the last person to offer any opinion on this subject, but it seems to me this can only be done through prayer and willingness to hear some plain speaking about ourselves. We have to be willing to have our comfort zones stretched and most of all be willing to give up any allegiance to how we think things/people/society should/ought be and see them as they truly are because only when we look at the truth face to face can the light pierce the darkness and set us free to begin to learn to see as God sees.
That’s what I think anyway. Welcome any thoughts others might want to share.