Saturday, May 14, 2005

RB 2:16

"The abbot should avoid all favoritism in the monastery."

Any parent knows how difficult is this charge placed on an abbot. In one sense, it is an obvious admonition: a capricious abbot will not be the abbot of a thriving community for long. A sense of justice is absolutely necessary.

The truth is that we will find some persons in the monastery to our liking and others not. The trouble is that we are all tempted to judge our advancement in the spiritual life by how well we are getting along with those that we already like. However, as Thomas a Kempis has written that, "anyone can get along with the persons he likes; it takes a true lover of Christ to live with contrary and disagreeable persons."

Similarly, we may wish to judge an abbot by how well he manages to produce 'star' monks. We may be led into thinking that an abbey is successful if it produces scholars or authors or musicians. Elsewhere, St. Benedict instructs the abbot that he has undertaken to guide and heal weak souls, not to exercise tyranny over strong ones. Much work that a good abbot does will be behind the scenes, helping brothers who might not appear important to the world. Jesus himself did not recruit a band of the most competent. Rather, He sought out the straying sheep, those left for dead by others, and offered them fellowship. The holy abbot must be prepared for the same, for God chooses the weak.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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