No community is without friction. Therefore the morning and evening office should never end without the Lord’s Prayer. The superior himself should say it in front of everyone so that the brethren will be reminded of their promise when they say “Forgive us as we forgive others.” In this way, they will cleanse themselves of such failings.
Saint Benedict insists on saying the Our Father at the beginning and at the end of the day. Because when you’ve got this many guys living together, there’s bound to be disagreements—even very serious ones. We need, therefore, to remind ourselves to forgive one another before the day even starts. Then we need to do it again at the end of the day to be sure we’ve lived up to that promise. This is an easy monkish practice for anyone to adopt, and I highly recommend it. As Saint Paul says, “Do not let the sun set on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). At the end of the day, take an inventory of all the people who have angered you, and forgive them. Then you can go to bed.
Mind you, forgiveness doesn’t mean hiding your anger or covering it up with pleasant feelings. Forgiveness is an act of the will, so whether you feel like it or not, you have in fact forgiven your enemies the moment you ask God for the strength to do so.
A few years ago, I was asked to preach at my best friend’s wedding. I find it fairly easy preaching to strangers, because they don’t know what a hypocrite I am. But my friends know about all the trouble I’ve caused. It’s hard to think of anything serious to tell them. So I did what I always do when I’m running low on wisdom: I went looking for the oldest monk in the monastery. I found him asleep in a chair in the Calefactory (that’s monkish for living room). “Wake up, Father,” I said, “I need something to tell my buddy at his wedding.” Father Patrick opened his eyes, looked around the room for a moment, then said, “Tell him that there will come a day when he will want the window open and she will want the window closed.” Then he went back to sleep.
It took me a while to figure out what he meant, but the longer I live in community, the more I get it. You see, when it comes to living with someone, everything boils down to forgiveness. “Love is patient and kind,” says Saint Paul, “it is not arrogant or rude. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4). So true love is more about endurance than it is about chocolates and teddy bears. We prove our love at precisely those moments when the people we love test our patience, put a strain on our kindness…tempt us to anger. “Love,” says Saint Paul, “Is not irritable,” but how would we know this if the ones we loved were not so irritating? Love is truly love—and not just infatuation—when it proves itself in the crucible of suffering.