March 6, July 6, November 5
Chapter 29: Whether Brethren Who Leave the Monastery Should Be Received Again
If a brother
who through his own fault leaves the monastery
should wish to return,
let him first promise full reparation for his having gone away;
and then let him be received in the lowest place,
as a test of his humility.
And if he should leave again,
let him be taken back again,
and so a third time;
but he should understand that after this
all way of return is denied him.
There have been a series of readings about discipline. Obviously, in Benedict’s day, there was a feeling about corporal punishment that we no longer share. For those of us old enough to remember the 1950s, that seems to be the decade when spanking started to go out of use. Also when we started to talk about “abuse”.
It is true that some of what Benedict writes would be classed as abuse in our day and age. I find it difficult, though, to step back and dispassionately observe it as a product of his times. Some things he writes are too heinous for me.
I resolve this by concentrating on the spirit of love, generosity, and hospitality that I also find in these same passages. We see that here. Benedict gives monk 3 chances which I find extraordinarily kind. Just think how disruptive it must be to the community to have monks coming and going. Not just to the prayers, but to the whole cycle of daily living and all the life maintenance chores.
“What I tell you three times is true”, says Alice to someone in Wonderland. Makes me wonder if Lewis Carroll obtained the idea from St. Benedict.