March 7, July 7, November 6
Chapter 30: How Boys Are to Be Corrected
Every age and degree of understanding
should have its proper measure of discipline.
With regard to boys and adolescents, therefore,
or those who cannot understand the seriousness
of the penalty of excommunication,
whenever such as these are delinquent
let them be subjected to severe fasts
or brought to terms by harsh beatings,
that they may be cured.
I’ll be honest, “severe fasts” and “harsh beatings” put me right off. I don’t want to read such things in the RB, but it there and so we must deal with it.
What then can we in the 21st century take from today’s passage and apply to our own lives? I start with the first words of the chapter: “every age and every degree of understanding should have its proper measure of discipline. I take this to mean, and I’d welcome your comments if you think I am off track here, is that Benedict allows for latitude in the understanding of discipline. Discipline there must be, but it seems to me implicit that he knows his view of it will not work for everyone.
As for discipline… what a word to bring up in today’s world. “Discipline? Are you kidding? I’ll do what feels good when it feels good!” might be the attitude of some and certainly was mine back in the day. Maybe I am turning into an old fogey now that I am officially a senior citizen, but I sure do wish I had had a better understanding of discipline in, say, my 20s. Granted, Benedict refers to the discipline in and of the community but surely we are all members of a community. Maybe even a number of them. The family; workplace; parish; wider church structure, neighborhood, town, are all communities in which we play a smaller or larger role.
There has to be order, doesn’t there? Seems to me to take so much less effort to obey the law than otherwise. What hard work it is to rob a bank. What a lot of hard work that is: planning; strategy; organization; communication all to burst in with a mask and
gun, risk getting shot. Oh, surely it is so much easier just to have a job?
Or how about the discipline it takes to develop a prayer life? Remembering to pray the Daily Office, not fretting during lectio and
contemplation, etc. What are the consequences to us Christians when we don’t? Certainly not every Christian will want to pray all the Offices, but I am daily astounded by the number of Christians I know who spend no time whatsoever in prayer and the Bible other than Sunday morning.
While I refuse to consider severe fasts and harsh beatings the answer, I do often wonder what role I might play to encourage others to spend some time every day alone with the Lord. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.