December 23rd, 1980, Serial No. 00370

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Monastic Spirituality Set 1 of 12

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There's also a kind of condensed treatment of this in Piper, Piper, pages 247 to 249, and there's a famous book called The Poor of Yahweh by a Frenchman named Jolin, maybe someone you know, if anybody's really interested in this they can go into that, which is about that sort of spirit of interior poverty which grows up, at least in later Old Testament times, and is typified, it's exemplified by Mary in a way, she's taken as the last of the people prepared for the coming of the Lord. How does the Bible look at poverty? There's an evolution, and first of all you've got this notion that God rewards his friends with riches, with prosperity, remember? Like Abraham and all his cows and sheep and stuff.


And the same, Job is the real challenge to this later on. But the idea therefore that riches are a sign of God's favour and poverty is a sign of God's disfavour and possibly is a punishment for sin. This sounds pretty crude to us, but sometimes that seems to have been believed. And then gradually this becomes undercut and becomes challenged. And you get in the wisdom literature the notion that it's better not to be rich but not to be too poor. Remember, where does it say that? In Proverbs, Lord give me not riches and give me not destitution so that I become overbearing. But give me not destitution so that I may not steal. So the need in between. And this is not what you get in the New Testament. And then you get the notion that the poor, there's a great stress on concern for the poor in the Old Testament. And the prophets are always hammering away at the rich. And


like Isaiah, remember the first chapters of Isaiah where he says you want, you call yourself just and you come and you offer these sacrifices and meanwhile you're treading the poor into the dust and so on. You're being unjust to your neighbor. So this insistence on justice in the Old Testament. And the continual reproaching of the rich and the oppressive by the prophets. And so that gradually it appears that really the poor are God's people and the rich tend to come out looking like God's enemies. And even the kings, you know, who tend to accumulate around the nobles and the wealthy and so on, are always getting reproached for their neglect of the poor. They tend to come out on the side of God's enemies very often, it seems. So the poor gradually begin to appear as being God's people. And this term anaw, which I


guess what does it mean originally? Originally it meant degraded and afflicted. Anaw and anawim is the term that you'll hear, which is the plural for that. Gradually comes to mean those who are humble and who for that reason are the recipients of God's favor. It is the people who are on God's side, or the people on whose side God is, against the rich and the unjust and so on. And then, so you get a kind of spirituality of poverty growing up here, probably especially in exile, when the nation of Israel itself begins to be in a predicament, not for the first time. In the Psalms this is very pronounced, but here poverty gets lumped in with a couple of other things. Poverty together with being persecuted, being afflicted, being opposed in any way, in other words being in trouble is associated with poverty. And how often the psalmist is praying for vengeance against


his opponent and so on. And often the one who is praying, the one who is petitioning is described as the poor man. Those who suffer and pray with similar feelings truly merit the name of Yahweh's poor. They are the object of His benevolent love and they constitute the first fruits of the humble and modest people, as from Zephaniah, of the church of the poor that the Messiah will gather together. So you gradually get this preparation for the coming of the Messiah who is going precisely to be the man of the poor, the rescuer of the poor. Do you remember that passage that makes the connection, that passage of Isaiah that Jesus quotes when he goes into his own synagogue? It's in Saint Luke chapter 4. He says, the spirit of the Lord is upon me because I've been sent to heal the sick and so on. And to preach the gospel to the poor. That seems to be the core of what he's saying. To be sent to the poor. And then remember the Sermon on the Mount.


The first beatitude is blessed are the poor, as Saint Luke has it, are blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So Jesus in some way comes to give his kingdom to the poor. And then you have that question of interpretation. Does he mean to the ones who are actually material poor, materially poor, or does he mean the ones who are poor in heart, poor in spirit and so on? Because you do have those two versions. Saint Matthew has the poor in spirit and Saint Luke just has the poor. And that's kind of continual in Saint Luke. You get that accent on material poverty and actual external poverty. Whereas Saint Matthew tends to the spiritual ones. I'll say it a couple of times. Okay, so Jesus then comes for the poor. I wanted to put that in. When he says for us to be the poor, he might not necessarily mean... Well, you know, there's people that are poor and they're evil. Sure. So he might just mean people that are more so kind of flippant types.


It's left open there, you see. He doesn't interpret, he doesn't explain it himself. Now, you can find other places in the gospel which would certainly point to the spiritual interpretation or to its being only the poor, of course, who are good. So, in some way, it's good to leave it there and to look at it. To walk around that statement and to look at it and see what he could mean by it. Because from one point of view, obviously, it's only the poor in spirit, the ones who have an open heart, that the kingdom belongs to. But on the other hand, there's something about being physically poor, which suits you for the kingdom better than being physically rich, materially rich, okay? Remember how he says how hard it is for rich men to have a kingdom? Okay, so it's easier for the poor man to get through that needle's eye. And here again, he's talking about the kingdom. So, there's something already in material poverty, which almost, I don't know, I just sort of like to leave it there and wonder what it is about it that is in favor of the kingdom.


It already is advantageous to you, if you know how to accept it. That is, if your heart can come around to agree with where you are, in a sense, So, accepting that poverty and using it as sort of the door to the kingdom, okay? And yet, it may be possible also for a rich man to win the kingdom. That's not excluded. Although the St. Luke comes out pretty harsh. He says, woe to you rich. But always in those cases, we have to be careful about interpreting absolutely, taking the word rich and using it sort of in a metaphysical sense, in other words, every rich man is going to be condemned. I think it's the same case with Evelyn. I think he kind of means the rich that grind the bull. Right. Oh, yeah. He doesn't mean just everybody that's going to be condemned. Or the rich that are indifferent, you know, or whatever. But it comes across pretty fierce sometimes in the Gospel, also with the parable of the rich man Lazarus. And he doesn't say, no, all the rich are going to be condemned. It's only that he leaves it, he wants to give him a kind of a shudder, I think.


He wants to shake him up, that's for sure. And he definitely identifies himself with the poor. And then there's the property of Jesus himself, which you see, especially at several points. At the beginning, being born in a stable, being born in a manger. And then the fact of Mrs. Bethlehem, and then living in Nazareth, a place which was despised, in some kind of a town. Remember Nathaniel, he said, can anything good come out of Nazareth? He had a carpenter. The carpenter was the lowest tree at the time. Yeah, I don't know. But anyway, he was working. And then finally, before the end, this passage, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. And we don't know exactly what that meant. He didn't have any stable habitation when he was on his mission of preaching. And then finally, of course, you have the Dereliction of the Cross, where poverty is carried to the extent of being powerless.


Because wealth is really power, and poverty is powerlessness. And their poverty is closer to him than it is symbolical. And he's nailed to the cross, completely defenseless of that and the means. The connection between the notion of poverty in the Old Testament, as it has evolved, the honor of it, and the coming of Jesus, that is very strong for Jesus' own life. And then, how does he talk about poverty in the Gospel? He certainly shows a preference for poverty. And the fact that he asks his own disciples to give up everything in order to be their disciples. In other words, he presents himself sort of as an exchange, or as something... Hitting himself and the kingdom would do the same thing. It's something which has to be bought at the cost of everything else. That's the way it comes across. At times in a very absolute way. When he talks to the rich men,


go sell everything you have, if you want. Anybody who wants to be my disciple has to be ready to give up everything he has. And he means it in an external way, and he means it in an interior way, too. It's left to us to decipher, each of us, what he's saying to each of us. He doesn't ask that everybody, at least the Church has always interpreted this way, that everybody is not supposed to be without possessions. It's not a sin to own something. Like the doctrine of the Church is that everybody has a right. Everybody has a right to his needs, to own them. In fact, poverty. But there's something more that is asked of those to whom he offers something special. Discipleship and close relationship. And in the Acts of the Apostles, you get this putting all things together. Remember our first model of common ownership, so that nobody owned anything by himself. And this gives rise to this cenobitical concept of poverty.


But throughout this, there remains the fact that poverty is an evil, just like it was conceived in the Old Testament. So the poor have to be relieved. It's as if there were, in a way, a different preaching to each side. To the poor man, what do you preach? You preach acceptance of his lot, and using his poverty as sort of a way to receive the kingdom. What do you say to the rich man? You say you have to help that poor man, you have to relieve him, you have to get him out of his misery. So we get this duality between poverty as an evil, and poverty in some way as a good, as a potential evil. That it's to be relieved, and yet that it's to be used. You get this duality between spiritual, interior poverty, and actual, real poverty. And it's always insisted that spiritual poverty doesn't mean much,


unless it's accompanied by external poverty. Otherwise it tends to become one. And then there's this notion of poverty for the sake of Jesus, poverty for the sake of the kingdom. Those who are given this invitation, are given this grace to remember the Lord. What about observations or questions about the biblical life? Before we move back to monastic poverty, vindictive poverty. I just wondered if the animal, is there any voluntary parts of the animal, I think? Or is it all just kind of... It seems to be, not that they voluntarily... In the Old Testament you don't seem to find this notion of voluntary poverty, of becoming poor on purpose, in order for some spiritual good. It's a condition which you're already in, and therefore you are in, potentially,


in a position of the favor of God, because you're poor. And you can actualize that somehow, by accepting the poverty with patience, and with trust in Him, by a spirit of humility. By the spirit of humility. Here. Abraham was asked to leave his homeland, everything else for the other, and he's asked to leave everything for his father. Yeah, that's right. Impoverishment. That's right. You've got those individual calls, okay? And that's the first one in the striking of Abraham. To leave what he had. Well, he took a lot of stuff with him, but he left what was for miniature. He took a lot of wives, didn't he? One wife. There was an element of poverty. Yeah, and he took a lot of cows. There was an element of... And this gradually intensifies, until you can't have nothing in the end. You can't take your cows,


you can't take your wives. But he only had one wife. And then you get the exodus, which is also poverty of that kind. Exile and poverty shade into one another and overlap one another. They're not quite the same thing. And then where else? Other voluntary calls to poverty. You don't have a general principle of it. Like Jesus said, anybody who wants the kingdom, let him give up what he hasn't found. You don't have that kind of thing. You have these individual calls. Can you think of any other ones? I was going to say, isn't there one of the Psalms that says something like, talking about the exile, that God took the people out to the exile to leave them with nothing so that they would know who their God was? It says that especially strongly in Deuteronomy. He took them out there and he made them hungry. They didn't have any food with them. Remember, they had to eat the manna so that he could test them and find out where their hearts were. And humble them also, so that he could humble them. That's in Deuteronomy. I don't know which chapter. Some of the prophets have to strip themselves


and do something that's a little different. It's to show the people what's going to happen to them. It's a kind of example that they themselves become very poor. Yeah, Jeremiah and who else? Ezekiel. Ezekiel is the other one, yeah. Isaiah has to strip himself, whatever he does. So that was a symbolic thing. And God certainly impoverishes his people in order to, in order to purify them. I'm trying to think of any other call like the bloodshed on the Baptist living in the desert. You've got those conditions. It's poverty. The accent is not put on poverty. You know, the fact that everybody was eating and so on, and they were thirsty. It's poverty, but it's not under that title. But then when Jesus comes along, there's something quite different to him. There's a personal call. And a call that goes further.


And yet, it's not, it's not the same as the prophetic call. Because the prophets were isolated men, each one relating to God, sort of on his own. Isolated. They had their disciples too. Whereas with Jesus, it's as when he comes, it's for the sake of this relationship with him while he's still on earth. And then of course it's left for us afterwards. So it's all centered in him at that point, which is poverty. He's both in imitation of him, associating himself with him, and in order to have him. So it all becomes focused on him. It's as if the poverty is for the sake of this gift which is to come. And the gift is all in him. The gift is all in Christ. That's the way St. Paul talks too. Now this is all in the context of faith and of that invitation to be disciples. And then outside of that, you've got this other thing. What about the poor? Even the poor that don't know about Christ and so on. That's another story.


They have to be taken care of. The fact that some of the prophets were living in the desert like Elijah implies that they were poor too. It goes without being said. And there's no question too that they're very much favored by God. Oh yeah. Especially favored by God. And for that reason it seems it's the only way they need him. It's their staff. That's right. So it's different from the other situation. Different from the situation. Even in Job, you know, in the end, he gets back seven times as many cows and sheep and daughters and everything else. Remember? As an indication of God's favor in the end. So it all comes back to this in the end. After he's gone through that old pit of being stripped right down to the bone and sitting on his dung pile. He's brought back to this.


But that's kind of a problem. It doesn't mean that that's necessarily going to happen in the end. But the story which most challenges that doctrine of the goodness, the positivity of riches, riches as a sign of God's favor comes back in the end. And uses once again riches as a sign of God's favor. It doesn't spiritualize it. It doesn't walk into a spiritual place. Poverty and virginity are very close. Roberts talks about virginity as being a form of poverty. The poverty of human relationship and human poverty. Poverty of human development. Poverty of some of the things that are most precious in life. The blood. In order, in some way, to win what it stands for. To win what it symbolizes. In a good way.


Yes. A hundredfold you can interpret it in different ways. But it certainly does, in one gospel at least, I don't remember which one, refer to this life. In the other one I think it just stops at a hundredfold. So how do you interpret that? First of all, one wins the church, which is in a way the kingdom. One wins the brotherhood of all of those in the church. Which is supposed to be this union of charity which fills the heart and which makes riches a thing of indifference. And multiplies one's brothers and sisters so that one relates to everyone, at least everyone in the church in that way. It sounds idealized, but in some cases it has to be realized. The Jerusalem community, as you find it in Acts, is presented in that way. That the bond of love was so strong that the hundredfold is really there. Everybody was brother and sister. St. Paul says, there isn't any Jew or Greek, there isn't any slave or free man,


there isn't any male or female anymore, but all are one in Christ. And it's the same thing. That's the hundredfold in some way. Which the other distinctions remain, but they're insignificant at that point. Because of the abundance, the overwhelming fullness of that level, of that gift. But it's not too often that we see that verified. And yet there's the fullness of Jesus. Another way to see the hundredfold is not in the multiplication of brothers and sisters or wives or whatever. But that's all connected with freedom, by the way, if we look at it in the other way. The freedom not to be attached to one house, not to be attached to one wife, not to be attached to one little particular thing, but to be sort of the Son of God in the sense of owning everything. That's another way of looking at it. Another way of looking at that, though, is that in letting go of something, you receive it back a hundredfold because you receive it in its proper place, which is in God. So you receive the symbol, the sacrament,


which is a thing, but with the fullness of God, which is supposed to be a manifestation. For instance, another person is supposed to be an icon of God, as in marriage, as in the relationship between man and woman. But until the person lets go of the other in a certain way, that fullness cannot be received as a kind of a slavery, as a kind of attachment, which keeps you with the one and excludes you from the other 99, which, you know, is an absurd mathematical symbol of the Son of God. But what we're supposed to do is receive the icon back with the fullness of the archetype, no longer clutched for ourselves, but released into God, and so we receive God. And that's the hundredfold. That is, the world in God, or God permeating the world, in some way, or God discovered through the world, or the world rediscovered in God is this hundredfold, you see, however you look at it. Does the hundredfold mean not be material? No, I don't think it is material.


At least, even if it is material, it's not enjoyed or related to it on the same level as it was before. It's not related to it on a material level, because then it can't be a hundredfold. Then it still enslaves you, you see. It still ties you down. So it's just the same thing over and over and over again, rather than being the freedom of the hundredfold, which is the freedom of love. Or the freedom, somehow, of loving God and possessing things in God. And this is connected to the Bible. The desert in the Old Testament is very closely connected to the Bible. The desert is the situation of Babylon where you're completely dependent on God. We think of it in terms of solitude, because we're aware of life, but it's just as relevant to Babylon. And the prophets are in that context. And the desert also relates to virginity. Just remember the word sterility. And we saw this a little bit. Okay, let's go back


to Roberts where he treats on... We can return to this biblical scene from time to time because that's basically where he talks about Benedictine poverty. We skipped over a couple of stages, right? We skipped the desert fathers' conception of poverty. And for that, I refer you to that book six of the sayings of the fathers, which is in Western Asceticism, pages 77 and 82, if you want to look at it. The sayings of the fathers and stories of the fathers that relate to poverty. We'll probably look at those at another time. We don't have that time to do it now. And also in chapter two of the life of St. Anthony. St. Anthony's call is connected with poverty. Those two calls, those two Gospels that he heard in church on those two succeeded. Some days, both referred to giving up his goods. I've forgotten exactly which ones they were. One of them was that he must have been on a cycle of giving up his goods. The second one, I don't remember whether it was the one from Acts


or another Gospel passage. It was twice. Okay. The rule of St. Benedict and poverty. Now, Roberts has got quite an accumulation of texts here. And he's classified them in different categories. Let's go through them and try to pick out the salient points. You'll find there's, there'll be several texts saying one thing sometimes. And sometimes, only one text which will have an important point. First of all, let everything be common to all. Now, that takes us right back to our first motto, right, in the brochure article, which is community sharing of goods. It doesn't say anything about absolute poverty, but things will be common to all, so you don't have anything of your own. And this is basic and a very much accented point of St. Benedict. Private ownership, he says, is a vice which can be rooted out at all costs. Because in some way it stands for that they're hanging onto the self, which is going to work. And the second point there is about permission.


Everything comes through as it were, comes through the abbot, comes through the seller or whatever. So, sharing and dependence. And right away, you see how poverty has been inserted into the institutional context of the synovium, okay, with its two dimensions. Because poverty is being subordinated to obedience, okay, which is sort of the vertical pole of the synovium that St. Benedict sees it. And at the same time, it's being subordinated or integrated into sharing, into paternal charity, which is our atomic point. So, poverty is taking a back seat or a secondary place behind these two basic structural principles of the Lewis and Penney, obedience and paternal charity. See how that happens? So, poverty takes a back seat here. And it's interpreted in terms of those two principles, dependence and sharing, non-private ownership. And then distribution


to reach according to as he has need. So, this is from the Act of the Apostles. So, not everybody will receive exactly the same in a mathematical way, but according to their needs. The biblical, as we know, because needs differ. In a mathematical case, it is eternal. Now, that last text that we've got on the bottom of 67 is just a more intense statement of that principle of non-private ownership, the way St. Benedict wants to eradicate it. And of dependence. Interior dispositions. And, of course, the principle here is just peace and acceptance of what you've got, of what you need, whether it be this or whether it be more. A spirit of contentment rather than a spirit of discontent. Which is obvious enough St. Benedict as he has to say. Let nobody be troubled or saddened. Now, that council is given, I forget to who, it's given to one of the ministers, maybe to several.


The idea is that it's more important for people to be, to have peace of heart than it is for them to be extremely austere. Now, whether we like it or not, that's what St. Benedict has got in the world. It's more important to have peace of heart and peace with your brethren than not to have a spirit of murmuring or discontent than it is to, you know, to have extremes of fasting or dependence or deprivation. And yet, let the monk be content with the poorest and the worst of everything. Now, that's something that he recommends to his monks but it's something you can't command. Remember, that's pretty far up on the scale of scientific knowledge or degrees of knowledge. It's something that doesn't happen right away. Or, in a way, it can happen right away but it can be kind of a shallow enthusiasm which later disappears. Administration here, he simply wants things


to be done prudently and so he's not just a sort of putting aside his head and charging enthusiastically into this principle of poverty which can be taken very romantically sometimes. But St. Benedict has got a mind for administration and he wants things to be done in balance with prudence. What was up above there already manifested now. But nobody could tell that he was selling expensive products. It was a pastoral concern and not just an ascetical concern. And then his business was about no dishonesty and no avarice. So the monks were supposed to sell their products cheaper than they were sold in the world. Now, that might not live to today's accountability or competition or something like that but that for him was a witness to the gospel. The value of material goods. Here, the thing is it's


it's a recommendation to do things as in some way sacramental and not to be careless simply that. But implicit in that is a whole attitude towards material creation as well as towards whatever you do. It's not as if it was cut into two compartments. The holy compartment and the faint compartment. And we're praying that it's gotten as we intend it. Obviously not. The dignity of the human person. Now, what does that mean? Actually, here it means the respect and commitment to the text. The sick brethren, first of all. Now, here again we get that sort of spirituality of the poor. See, already from the Old Testament and from the gospel the idea that those who are hurting or underprivileged in some way are more Christ than the others. Now, that's absurd to say that. But in some way that's the way it comes across. That Christ is received especially in the sick. And in the poor


there's in chapter 53 on hospitality that's one that he didn't mention here but he mentions it later on. He says be especially attentive to the poor man who comes to the door because Christ is received particularly in him. He says the rich can take care of themselves. He says that the rich inspire fear just by or impress people they impose themselves. But the poor you've got to find Christ in him and that's where he's really present. The second text there is to the seller and he's not supposed to give the guy a kick and a curse but a kind word when he can't when he has to say no he has to say a nice word. The weaknesses of the needy let the abbot not overlook the salvation of souls so the prevalence of the spiritual and the human the personality of the material. Let him be prudent considerate and not overdrive his flock as St. Benedict says


according to Euclid. Let him order all things so that the strong monks desire to do more and the weak ones do not shrink back. Something that's really difficult actually the Holy Spirit has to do that but the structure the way the life is set up can at least not obstruct it and can allow the Holy Spirit to draw people in that way and the structure can avoid it is causing the the weak ones to shrink back is not going to be able actually to motivate the strong monks to do that. Now he's going to try to boil us down and he does it in two sections first of all talking about personal poverty which he sees as being primary and then communal personal poverty and then communal poverty. Now we need to look closely at this first paragraph here at the bottom of 69. In the rule we can see that the preoccupation of St. Benedict in speaking of the use of material goods is not that the monastery


be as poor as possible so the idea the notion of absolute poverty the scale of poverty is more or less set aside but rather that it be as full as possible of peace, fraternal communion and the spirit of Christian sacrifice. What matters for St. Benedict is not primarily the poverty of the monastery as a whole what could be called sociological poverty by the way that's kind of a dangerous term because it's a shadow over the notion ok? To say sociological poverty immediately puts it on an inferior level but rather ascetical and personal poverty directed towards the spiritual dependence on Christ as represented by the abbot towards a sense of responsibility for material goods and towards the true peace of the brethren. Now what he says there reflects back immediately to those texts that he's quoted and to also the sections in which he's broken them down you see the idea of personal poverty the dependence on the abbot sense of responsibility in that section


on fatality of material goods true peace of the brethren in that section on material dispositions we've got to look at that closely because we need to see how it compares with our other visions of poverty with the biblical vision of poverty perhaps especially the New Testament vision of poverty and with that of the earlier monks because some of the earlier monks you see in our medical tradition they'd be striving for a kind of absolute absolute poverty you get some of those stories it's a question of whether it's right for a monk to have a penny or something like that or to have anything at all to provide for his needs now we're going to find out that this is a whole different context when you have a synovium which has to have rams workshops and so on in order to be self-supporting which exists like a little city set aside from the world it's a whole different whole different thing and yet


some way way down at the bottom the same values are supposed to be pursued but this principle of spiritual dependence on Christ as represented by the Abbot that's a delicate point you see that's a tricky point because it's one thing to be directly dependent on God upon Christ you can do that out in the desert without having to but it's another thing to be dependent upon God as represented by somebody else so that maybe this dependence becomes a very diluted thing a very weakened thing or may disappear entirely in other words the dependence on Christ can be formalized or watered down or made so indirect and diffuse that it isn't there at all now note how carefully poverty is disappearing behind obedience at this point because obedience is the thing that's important for St. Benedict there's a big difference between direct dependence on God


in terms of poverty and this indirect dependence on God through obedience which includes poverty and remember that there isn't any vow of poverty in Louis St. Benedict as there is for a lot of religious orders so there's a shift here and yet at the same time there's a great balance if you have to make a rule for a community it's not easy to do better than St. Benedict there's a lot of experience in this whereas sort of the romance of poverty and that kind of electric zeal for absolute poverty has somehow got lost in the process it's not always that inspiring approach of St. Benedict against his work but it can work if there's a community consciousness behind it it seems to


me that the duality is just right in the context of the center of the world and even in terms of hierarchy of virtues charity yes indeed that's right and also charity should certainly be and this peace is supposed to be a manifestation of charity peace is the product of the mutual ingrained charity amongst the consideration for one another which avoids them being grieved or prevents violence even interior violence from happening and St. Benedict tends to emphasize the positive and also remember in the scriptures I prefer obedience obedience is better than sacrifice that was said to Saul you've got to always talk about the context when you take those isolated passages but somehow obedience can cut deeper


than call it absolute poverty or I don't want to say absolute but material poverty or better it cuts deeper than self-guided poverty because obedience is personal but the difficulty is that in a big monastery or even in a small one often the obedience doesn't really cut that deep because it isn't that close to the monk because the obedience itself becomes formalized and the superior doesn't take the trouble or isn't able really to concern himself with each monk and how he's living and how he's growing and so on either he doesn't know how or he isn't able to or he's got too many monks or something like that so very often it doesn't work you see it simply gets formalized out of its effectiveness the bite comes in other ways actually through the work that a person has to do and so on but the poverty very often gets lost once your monastery gets to a certain size it's hard for this kind of hard for this to work and once the abbot is not really sort


of the spiritual father of the individual monk and also really taking charge of the external situation there's real positivity in this whereas the absolute poverty thing once somebody really gets that in his teeth it can become a kind of negativity it can become a fierce thing it can become isolating judgmental and even a negativity towards oneself in other words it can be masochistic it can be a form of self-hatred which in the end doesn't have anything to do with the gospel anything to do with Christ anything to do with God it's a purely psychological thing sometimes but usually what you have is a mixture you have somebody who's got a vocation and then he's got an admixture of this psychological negativity and it's a question of what's going to work out how obedience can straighten


him out by keeping that thing and taking it out but it's very hard for the individual himself sometimes to tell the difference the only way you can tell the difference is if the person is pliable if he does listen if he is obedient if he is able to change if he's got that compulsive poverty thing and yet God has given some of the saints a compulsion for poverty but usually they can't tell the difference St. Francis had an absolute compulsion for poverty so there's a paradox one of the things I noticed about David was that he's a tremendous man but this poverty that he's on which is genuine for him tends to make him suffer from compulsive poverty sometimes it comes across as a challenge and it's a need for him but he's got that bite and that whiplash


and he says the heart of his community is his house and he waxes up on that but the avenue to it is that Jesuit avenue and I think it's really I've heard the same thing about Jean Bonnet sometimes he'll go to the community and say oh it's a nice room you've got here you really need it for those people out there you usually devastate people that way because you never get to that point where you're living on the level of the poorest man and you can pretty rough and you're right interpret the gospel 100% straight like that sure but there's something wrong but I wondered about Knight's doctrine when you read it the way he writes also because he makes the religious commitment a commitment to absolute renunciation okay now I don't know if you can say that I don't know if you can call it 100% because then you make everybody feel


you're a terrible person it's one of the worst things that can happen they try to live in absolute penance people sleep in food instead of having a corn soup three months ago a corn soup morning you you were there to meet the thing but you felt like you were there to meet the It's a strange thing. But very often in this matter of poverty you find a sharp break between the person himself, the leader, the charismatic himself and his disciples. And St. Francis is the same way.


He couldn't communicate that charism for poverty that he had to his disciples and immediately the thing starts getting out of hand when it gets beyond just the inner circle it seems. The same thing is true, well with people that we know in our own community, that they can live a poverty to themselves which they can't really ask other people to live. And it may be the same with him. Sometimes a person's personal charism makes it hard for him to appreciate what other people are or even what God is asking of other people because he intends to interpret everything through that very strong charism, that very strong spirit that he has. Yes sir, it seems so important. If each man listens to the voice of God speaking in this particular circumstance that he finds himself, he's going to be led to a position of poverty. But on the outside he might not live for it. Yes, yes. If he's trying to listen to you, what will happen?


People's needs are so different as regards food and so many other things. Physically so many people are delicate. It's a very easy point to fall into a position of guilt or a feeling of inferiority. If things are pushed too hard in a particular direction. There has to be a kind of freedom in the community. And yet that tautness of everybody really being responsible, not easy. As a community witness, I was really struck by what you said, somewhere in the chapter I just read, is that when asking the community, oh I was talking about Travis community in particular, they weren't called upon to do that witness of poverty. Yes, yes. Yeah, he's quite clear about that. And we have to sort of make up our minds about that in order not to feel guilty, not to feel that we're being inauthentic if we're really doing what we're supposed to do.


At the same time, our direction isn't going to be quite the same as his. For instance, the Trappist accent, he says work is the key to Trappist poverty. Well, that's not true for everybody. Sometimes their accent on work is a little excessive. So he's interpreting their own character. But I think what he says is good. I was just thinking of where it says in the community in Jerusalem that they sat down with exultant and sincere hearts together to eat, and just thinking how that's because they really had a true sense of the gospel. Right? Poverty, if you get too excessive stress on poverty, it turns it in on yourself, whereas the gospel is completely for the other. It's not self. Yeah, that's a good thought. If you do it in the individualistic way, like the hermit poverty thing can do that. In other words, you get so concerned about eating one pea more or less, you know, the little questions of your life. Who points that out?


The guy, Grosh, in his thing on the models. He says the one about simplification of life can lead you to a pettiness, and attentive bookkeeping and everything, and being scrupulously concerned about just little things in a way that's unhealthy. Part of the trouble is that poverty should come out of an abundance, but we don't always have that abundance. Poverty, you read about it in the gospel, you read about it in the Acts of the Apostles, and it simply flows naturally out of the abundance of the Holy Spirit within people, so that things fall away from you, as it were. And yet, very often we're not in that position. And for us to be regarding the other all the time, well... That's an interesting point. It seems like we see it as a factor, more than as a cause, to their being filled with the Spirit. And here we're using it more as a means. Yeah, we are. The same thing comes up in many contexts. And it comes up especially in Knight's writing about poverty. Because he talks about poverty as expression of the grace you have. And that's beautiful. Only he's presuming that you're always going to have that grace,


that you're always going to be overflowing with this enthusiasm, and with this strength. And it just isn't so. It's not so among the members of the community. Some of them have that zeal and that enthusiasm, and some of them just don't feel it. And you can't force them to behave as if they did. And in the life of a particular individual, sometimes he has that fullness, that enthusiasm, that strength. Sometimes he doesn't give a root about anything. He can just move forward in the Lord. And sometimes he doesn't. And reduced to a real inner poverty. In which case, the external poverty sometimes can be a good deal harder. If you're suffering inside. Different factors can be there. But there's two ways of looking. This gets back to the sacrament thing. The sacrament which is based on means, and an expression. And Knight is the only one I've seen that brings that expression thing out so well. This idea of creating yourself as a person. As you express the grace that's in you, in your external life.


But it can get you over-fixed on the external lifestyle. So you get obsessed with that. And get guilt feelings about it. Whereas God's really doing something internally. A little bit independent of it. He stresses coherence. And then there's the other thing about what you do is building, actually, the virtue, or is actualizing, or disposing you for the Holy Spirit. Disposing you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that's the typically monastic point of view. Usually you find that in the monastic religion. In other words, you make yourself poor in order to receive the Lord. But if you look at the Desert Brothers, for instance, you can see both things working in them. You see them as if pushed by an invisible force just to let go of everything. So their poverty is obviously the expression of something that we don't see. And they don't explain it either. And yet, at the same time, they hang on to that poverty because they say, well, if I give up my poverty,


I give up my God. If I'm well off, you're taking my God away from me. You find those expressions in the Desert Brothers. So you see that both things are visible. Excuse me. The person who has this charismatic power recognizes a gift of the Holy Spirit as soon as he has some power of his own and they don't have the temper of a humble atheist and they wouldn't attempt to enforce that. So it seems that it's a matter of the individual must give up his guilt and just be conscious of what they think about themselves. And my neighbors, if they want, they can count on themselves. That's right. Sometimes, if the person is a founder or something like that, the difficulty is it's difficult to distinguish the charism of the founder or that which should be extended to the others and asked of them from that which is personal, from that which is just for him. The same thing has been said about Mother Teresa. Over in Italy, somebody gave the nuns a tape recorder.


So they said to Mother Teresa, Mother, look at this lovely tape recorder. Isn't that nice? Now we can listen to your conferences. She said, get rid of it. Well, that's pretty extreme. You wonder. She's a saint. She's a saint, right. But you wonder. We wonder sometimes about the saints. I think we're supposed to wonder about them. Whether they're infallible or... I think you have a point. I wonder if the language of this kind of person does experience a particular charism. So probably when you begin to discover the freedom of the thoughts that you also want to start sharing with people, you want to say, this is the way it is. You've got to be able to get on with these things. So it's not necessarily imposing on others, but you can get in on the good news. It's like you're saying, if you only knew. If you would only do this, it looks bad, but it's great. But they don't see how great it is. The problem is maybe you don't know how to do it.


So when we talk about needs, distributing to each according to his need, you have to ask of each according to his grace also, in a sense. Those things go along together. We talked about the strong and the weak there. Let them order all things so that the strong wants desire, you don't want to do things too much from the back. Okay, the task of the rabbit and the responsibility of the rabbit. And he gets to talk about this other aspect, the other side of things, this communal project. Also, ascetical, equally directed towards a sense of responsibility and towards peace. The community as a whole ought to use its goods in such a way that all things God may be glorified. That seems to imply witness, that seems to bring in that external aspect of how things are going to look, not only how they are inside. Three applications, generous hospitality towards the poor, that's that other passage I mentioned. Reduced prices in the sale of the monastery's produce.


And then the third one, which makes us stop and wonder, the possession of the necessary land and workshops so as to guarantee effective control from society. See, that's a kind of a changeable thing. For instance, the monastery that Saint Benedict envisions seems to have a self-sufficiency that's unthinkable nowadays. And they don't seem to have had to have that much commerce for the outside. It's as if they had to buy their own land, to buy their own food, and so on. But there's such a distribution of labor and production. We have to interrelate so much with the world. And also we have to support ourselves if we do, not by growing our own food. Maybe that's possible too. But most monasteries have to support themselves by producing something and then, with what they produce, obtaining what they need. That kind of exchange. It's more complex in the world today. But also, this notion of enclosure of Saint Benedict has to be regarded in a different way today


because a different kind of interaction of the monastery with the world is called for. Which seems, once again, analogous to the different relationship of the church to the world that you find nowadays. The church in some way turns towards the world in a different way, in a new way. At the same time, the monastery has to look towards the world in a different way. Which will be different for each community. It doesn't mean dropping the principle of enclosure. Then Vatican II on the communal aspect, which sends us to the communalist constitutions. I'd recommend, by the way, that you read the Schemate while we're dealing with this question of poverty and work. Read Schemate, which is on poverty and work. And then, I'm not able always to make the correlations with the pertinent passages in the constitutions. I didn't put the notes in here and everything. If you've read that, then you maybe want to bring up some points from the constitutions at the appropriate places.


Now, it's interesting that our constitutions, our new ones, put poverty and work in the same chapter the same way as he connects the two. We're going to be examining the relation between the two. Is that on the shelf, also, with the other ones? The constitutions? There should be at least a copy there but perhaps it's been forgotten. How many people don't have a copy of the constitutions? Just you. When they really get bad off, they look like this. They look like this. We'll have to copy some more. But when we talk about any of these things, actually, we should be referring more to the constitutions.


They'll be finalized in the chapter this year until there may be some changes. After that, we'll probably print them up and refer to them. These are still tentative. To the degree that their rules and constitutions permit, religious communities can rightly possess whatever is necessary for their temporal life and their mission. Still, they can avoid every appearance of luxury of excessive wealth and accumulation of possessions. That's from the decree on the religious life. We know the religious life. The equivalent in the Canales Constitution is on page number three. The effective practice of evangelical poverty on an individual and a community level is, in our time, one of the most effective testimonies which the world expects from the followers of Christ. That's in terms of witnessing with two references


to American truth. So that they may be in harmony with these demands of the Gospel message which has been awakened by the Spirit with renewed vigor in the heart of the Church and of all men, the monastic communities in conformity with their engagement of seeking God and of signifying Christian hope should avoid the possession and accumulation of property and capital which are not truly required by their real needs. That's one that can really give you pangs of conscience, is how to interpret that. Needs of the moment, needs of the day, needs of the year, needs also in terms of growth. Let them seek to make this community witness effective in view of the social conditions of the particular localities. The very buildings and the whole style of life should be characterized by simplicity. Now that I think of it, it's strange that that should be our constitution. When you think that the Canali houses are what they are, some of the places have existed for a thousand years, they don't have any choice about their size


or their elegance. And yet, of course, for the future, this is not... Some are owned by the Canalis or other? No, they're not. San Gregorio is not owned by the Canali. It's granted. They're not now. This is the San Gregorio. San Gregorio also belongs to the city of Rome. And they pay a very sizeable price. Besides, let them willingly devote some part of their goods to the necessities of the church and to the sustenance of the more needy. And they should love and honor Christ, indeed by making some sacrifices. And then there's another part of it. The communities which are better supplied with goods should willingly extend their fraternity to those which may not be so well-inclined towards the needs of the congregation. Okay, next time we'll go on from there in Roberts. And I'd like to bring in


some material from this book by what's his name? Vandenbroek. A very rich anthology called The Lesses of Martin. Here, Rich. I was just wondering, is there any kind of ever like a session of when a community say we get together and discuss their thing they're living up to poverty or things like that? Yes. We used to do that when the renewal of the Constitution was in progress. It was a question of how to put these things in the Constitution. And then this tends to come up actually in our chapters when we have to decide about some major purchase or something like that or a major building and somebody will raise the issue of is this really necessary and we're likely to go back and review the whole question. And at times in the past, we've had community discussions about that too, I think. We haven't had regular community discussions for some time now. There's too many ways to do it. It might be so.


The community is supposed to do exactly that. It tends to come up now as I say in a concrete decision and then of course the whole community is not likely to be present. That's one problem. It's simply progressed and sound like the best way to do it. But the formation of the community sometimes it's good to have a discussion about the Constitution and say what it is that we're going to do with it. I don't think there's anything else for me. I think that's all. What was the name of the object before Gelin?


Gelin. Frenchman? But it's in English. Frenchman. Sounds like French but he's in a Blah blah blah. Blah blah...