March 4, July 4, November 3
Chapter 27: How Solicitous the Abbot Should Be for the Excommunicated
Let the Abbot be most solicitous
in his concern for delinquent brethren,
for “it is not the healthy but the sick who need a physician” (Matt 9:12)
And therefore he ought to use every means
that a wise physician would use.
Let him send senpectae,
that is, brethren of mature years and wisdom,
who may as it were secretly console the wavering brother
and induce him to make humble satisfaction;
that he may not “be overwhelmed by excessive grief” (2 Cor. 2:7),
but that, as the Apostle says,
charity may be strengthened in him (2 Cor. 2:8).
And let everyone pray for him.
For the Abbot must have the utmost solicitude
and exercise all prudence and diligence
lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him.
Let him know
that what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls
and not a tyranny over strong ones;
and let him fear the Prophet’s warning
through which God says,
“What you saw to be fat you took to yourselves,
and what was feeble you cast away” (Ezec. 34:3,4).
Let him rather imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd
who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains
and went to look for the one sheep that had gone astray,
on whose weakness He had such compassion
that He deigned to place it on His own sacred shoulders
and thus carry it back to the flock (Luke 15:4-5).
Do you find this chapter comforting? I do. The last few days we’ve been reading about what gets one excommunicated, how no one is supposed to talk to the excommunicate and one might be forgiven for thinking that the excommunicated one is abandoned to whatever fate is in store.
But, nope. Instead, we read today the care the monastic superior has for the excommunicate, the loving attention the excommunicate receives not only from the superior but also from trusted senior members of the community who in secret reach out to comfort the excommunicate so this person is assured that no one has abandoned the excommunicate.
The Abbess/Abbot of the community is as a mother/father to the members of the community. The monastic superior is to cherish and nurture each member, following the example of Jesus in the Parable of the Good Shepherd who left the flock in safety to find the one who is lost and bring the lost one back to safety, to the comfort of the flock, of the community.