January 15, May 16, September 15
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

Above all let her not neglect or undervalue
the welfare of the souls committed to her,
in a greater concern for fleeting, earthly, perishable things;
but let her always bear in mind
that she has undertaken the government of souls
and that she will have to give an account of them.
And if she be tempted to allege a lack of earthly means,
let her remember what is written:
“First seek the kingdom of God and His justice,
and all these things shall be given you besides” (Ps. 33:10).
And again:
“Nothing is wanting to those who fear Him.”
Let her know, then,
that she who has undertaken the government of souls
must prepare herself to render an account of them.
Whatever number of sisters she knows she has under her care,
she may be sure beyond doubt that on Judgment Day
she will have to give the Lord an account of all these souls,
as well as of her own soul.
Thus the constant apprehension
about her coming examination as shepherd (Ezech. 34)
concerning the sheep entrusted to her,
and her anxiety over the account that must be given for others,
make her careful of her own record.
And while by her admonitions she is helping others to amend,
she herself is cleansed of her faults.

Some thoughts

There is a two-fold emphasis in today’s reading that I find. One is that care of souls and the other is the responsibility one undertakes when caring for souls.
The care of souls has been called the cure of souls, spiritual direction, soul friends, and Anam Cara. To be in spiritual direction is one the most intimate of relationships in which one person trusts another with details about one’s walk with God. To be in spiritual direction is to be vulnerable to another person at the deepest level. One needs to select one’s spiritual director very carefully.
To become a spiritual director is obviously a serious responsibility. St. Benedict believes in taking care of souls. He is committed to it. He also wants the monastic superior to understand how crucially important it is that the role to be handled with love, care, and remembering always that one is answerable to God for the care of these souls which have been entrusted to the abbess/abbot.

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