Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CHAPTER 60: Priests Who Ask to Join the Community

If a priest asks to be received into the monastery, do not agree to it too quickly; still, if he persists in his request, let him know that he must keep the whole discipline of the Rule, and that nothing will be relaxed in his favor. He may, however, be asked to celebrate Mass or give a blessing, but only if the abbot says so.  If the abbot does not ask him, then he should not presume to do anything, knowing that he is under the discipline of the Rule, and let him rather give an example of humility to all. His rank in the community should correspond to the time of his entry into the monastery, and not to the place granted him in consideration of the priesthood.

     Why did God make you?
     God made you to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
     Whatever your job is, whatever your gifts are, no matter where you come from or where you think you’re headed, the purpose of your existence is to know, love, and serve God.  All the rest is icing on the cake.  You may be a priest, a cop, a doctor, a fireman, a blackjack dealer or a telemarketer, but your ultimate purpose on this earth—your fundamental human dignity—is the same: you are a child of God.
      Benedict wants to make this clear right from the start, especially when an older man decides to join the monastery—a man who has, perhaps, grown accustomed to running his own life and to a certain level of prestige in the workplace.  He may have had a distinguished career, he may have attained power and influence in the World, but once he sets foot in the monastery, he’s just another monk.  Clearly, this is going to be very difficult for him, which is why Benedict wants to be sure he’s there for the right reasons.  The monastery isn’t a retirement home, and Jesus doesn’t want your leftovers.
     But what is the abbot to do when a priest asks to join the monastery?  Here the issue becomes still more complex, because ordination has a spiritual dignity and prestige that will carry over into the monastic life.  And it is the one vocation—the only vocation—that absolutely cannot be left outside the wall.  A man who is already accustomed to leading a parish, conducting liturgies and hearing confessions may think he is entitled to a certain level of respect.  He is.  But from here on out, he is a monk first.  Anything he does must be accompanied by the deepest detachment, and only with the permission of the abbot.
     We can take from this an essential lesson about life: our dignity as human persons does not rely on our gifts, our careers, our achievements or our test scores.  It doesn’t even depend on our vocation.  We are all infinitely valuable because we are children of God.  When we learn to acknowledge that dignity in ourselves, we won’t have to feel like we need to prove it to others.