Rule of St.Benedict: Chapter 27: How Solicitous the Abbot Should Be for the Excommunicated,March 4, 2017

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;

comforting him

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).

Some thoughts
We’ve discussed in the past how some of the RB seems to be so stringent in the matter of disciplining the monastics. But here we see the other side of the picture.
‘He has undertaken the care of weak souls and not a tyranny over strong ones.’
There is talk here of comforting the ‘wavering brother’ and a reminder of Jesus himself seeking the lost sheep and bringing it home on his shoulder.
It’s so fatally easy to marginalize the errant members of a flock, to judge them harshly and give them no room for conversion (turning around). Here we see St Benedict entrusting the work of tending the ‘delinquents’ to the Abbot himself and to brethren ‘of mature years and wisdom’. ‘Tending’ comes from the same root as ‘tender’: no harshness here then, rather a salvation story in action, undergirded by prayer and carried out with compassion.
In our modern busy lives, how do we ‘console’ the delinquents? What does it mean to us to seek the lost lamb and carry it home on our shoulder, so that we feel its warmth against our face? Does it feel too
intimate to be that close to one who’s gone astray and got dirty and wounded in the process?
Where there is love, God is there.

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