Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Forthrightness as a condition of personal freedom

Peace to you all who continue to check up on this blog!  I am happy to resume writing, as things have somewhat returned to 'normal'.  In addition to our construction, we have had to spend time assisting our Br. Augustine, who has been hospitalized for the past 18 days with a variety of ailments.  He will undergo his fourth operation today as a precaution against pneumonia, but there is talk of him being strong enough to leave intensive care this weekend.

Today's reading from the Rule of Saint Benedict urges brothers to come forward when they make a mistake of some kind or otherwise commit a fault.  At first glance, this chapter, as well as the entire 'disciplinary code' of the Rule, has the appearance of strictness, and perhaps strikes us as being overly authoritarian and suspicious of the possibility of monks achieving personal maturity, needing overseers and Correctors for all the details of life.  

If we take it this way, I suggest that this reveals about ourselves an anthropology that is not entirely compatible with that of the Early Church, and possibly with Biblical Christianity as a whole.  As I never tire of pointing out, our anthropology takes its default stance in line with modern thinkers like Rousseau, who believed that children are faultless and it is society that corrupts them.  The ancient anthropology, and I believe the better one, holds that children, while morally not culpable, are in fact very much in need of socialization in order to become mature adults.  Left on their own, children will not develop past self-centeredness and an infantile need to have all desires met.

What this means is that all of us need help from others to discover our faults and weaknesses.  If we do not discover them, we will make decisions based on hidden agendas and undisciplined desires.  Perhaps worse is the common situation where we excuse our faults and assume that others should just put up with them because "that's who we are."  Of course, part of the atmosphere that allows us to confront personal faults is the sense of love and acceptance, that invites us to correction rather than threatens us.  I believe that this is the atmosphere presumed by Saint Benedict to be in the monastery.

Thus the invitation to admit faults, to apologize forthrightly and seek advice for correction, is an invitation to maturity and freedom.  If we excuse our faults on the premise that others should leave us alone, we more or less admit that we are in thralldom to said faults.  On the other hand, frank admission of our failures manifests a desire to be free of the control of our desires and hidden agendas.  When I firmly admit that losing my temper is wrong, I can begin to ask what it is about myself in certain circumstances that brings anger out of me.  Then I can ask whether I want to be that sort of person and, with the help of others who love me even if conversion is slow, or even proves to be ultimately impossible in this life, I can begin to reclaim true freedom to act in accord with reason and charity, and to counteract selfishness and blind passion.


Bob said...

Thank you for this, brother. It came at just the right time for me.

Welcome back to the blog...I was just thinking this morning that I miss you.

Mr. Potato said...

A very good post. I share Bob's sentiments.

I have found the sacrament of confessional necessary in dealing with my faults. In addition to asking for the grace to overcome my faults, I ask God to heal the people I have hurt. In my prayers I try to remember their healing.

We sometimes find ourselves clinging to our faults. They can become so much a part of our identity that we are afraid that if we give them up we'll cease to exist. Despite this Christ is King and Divine Physician.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

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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