March 16, July 16, November 15
Chapter 37: On the Old and Children
Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness
towards these times of life,
that is towards the old and children,
still the authority of the Rule should also provide for them.
Let their weakness be always taken into account,
and let them by no means be held to the rigor of the Rule
with regard to food.
On the contrary,
let a kind consideration be shown to them,
and let them eat before the regular hours.
In Benedict’s day, children were often given to the monasteries for the monks and nuns to raise. There were a number of reasons this might happen. Devout parents wanted to offer a beloved child to God. Poor parents who could not afford to raise all their children might leave them. Kids might be left to get an education. A child might request it. Widowers might leave their daughters to be raised by nuns until marriages were arranged.
These two populations, the elderly and children, are all too often disenfranchised. We have all heard horror stories that in the wake of a natural disaster or in war zones, the procurers sweep in and hauled off who knows how many children and women into some form of slavery be it sexual or in the gold or diamond mines. Benedict tells us what we must be doing. And sooner rather than later.
Once again, Benedict shows us what it looks like to have compassion, empathy, and fellow feeling for other people. The world desperately needs the examples of those who know Jesus wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and provide for those in need, even if it means we must sacrifice the many luxuries we may enjoy so others can have what they need. That sacrifice si a gift to God.