To be read: January 14, May 14, September 14
The Abbot ought always to remember what he is and what he is called, and to know that to whom much has been entrusted, from him much will be required. 31Let him understand what a difficult and arduous task he undertakes in directing souls and accommodating himself to a variety of characters—speaking gently to one, to another by reproof, and to still another by entreaties, to each as is appropriate to their understanding. 32Let him so adjust and adapt himself to each one that he not only suffer no loss in his flock, but may rejoice in the increase of a worthy fold. 33Above all, the Abbot must not neglect or undervalue the welfare of the souls entrusted to him, having too great a concern about fleeting, earthly, perishable things. 34Rather, let him always keep in mind that he has undertaken the care of souls for whom he must give an account. 35And that he may not complain of the want of earthly means, let him remember what is written: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”(Mt 6:33). And again: “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing”(Ps 33:10).
The responsibility entrusted to the abbot for the cure of souls requires accountability. Benedict says, “The Abbot ought always to remember what he is and what he is called…” He is called “abbot”. He is the father of the family, and is thus entrusted with the “care of souls…” And as a result, “he must give an account.”
There are so many out there who want to be the leader. They want to preach. They want the accolades that they assume go with being the pastor of a church. There is also the common disease among the clergy in liturgical churches of wanting the next step up: deacons wanting the black shirt of the priest; the assistant believing he is better suited to being rector; of the priest with “purple eyes”, wanting to be bishop. But the qualification for any clerical role is “calling”. The abbot is called. The priest is called. And every baptized member of the Body is called! We do great harm to ourselves and to the Body when we try to take on a role that does not belong to us. We are all called to serve, both laity and clergy, for Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Jesus chose you, called you, and equipped you, that you may labor in His vineyard. And each of us has his or her giftings and calling. As St. Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), and he “apportions [the gifts] to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
We also do great harm to the Body when we have accepted a call to serve and refuse to be held accountable for the manner in which we carry out the calling. “He must give an account.” This is not simply the reckoning that all must give at the final judgment. If a man in a position of authority has no one to whom he may be held accountable for his behavior, then he is walking in paths fraught with danger, relying on his own resources, reason, and subjective judgment. But whether we walk in a clerical leadership role or as a lay servant of Christ, we all must be accountable for our life witness for Christ. We need objective perspective on our life, ministry, and witness. We need a brother or sister in Christ with whom we can share our walk and who will speak honestly to us about our life, our service to the Lord and His Church, and our witness to the world. We are not our own. We all represent Christ to the Church and the world. Like the abbot, we must always remember who we are, what we are called (i.e. “Christian”), and Whom we represent.