To be read: March 7, July 7, November 7
Every age and understanding should have its proper discipline. 2Whenever, therefore, boys or immature youths or those who cannot understand how grave a penalty excommunication is, 3are guilty of a serious fault, they should be subjected to severe fasting or be disciplined with corporal punishment, that they may be corrected.
As we come to the end of the disciplinary section of the Rule of St. Benedict, we see that Benedict recognizes differing degrees of discipline based on the ability of the offenders to understand and accept those disciplinary actions. As hard as we may try to help them, there are some who for reasons of mental illness, or lack of mental acuity, or stubbornness and recalcitrance, and who are wedded to their self will, simply cannot comprehend discipline. They are like the two-year-old who throws a fit when he doesn’t get his way. He doesn’t understand that the world does not revolve around him. We want to help these individuals, but it does require their cooperation. And sadly, sometimes we have to recognize that they don’t want to change and they will not cooperate under any circumstances. These we must let go.
But this chapter is instructional for us in that we are reminded by Benedict that one size does not fit all. We are each uniquely created in the image of God, and the Body is made up of all of these parts. We need each other, and we must learn to respect the uniqueness of the other. Some are more mature than the others, and some less. And we must learn patience with those who differ from us. We cannot tolerate rebellion, nor ignore those who defy ecclesiastical authority and the Rule, but we can, in the love of Christ, work with them and stand by them as they learn with us the discipline of the Body.
As has been stated previously, the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:6) reminds us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. And the author of the epistle adds, “for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (12:7-8). From the opening verse of the Prologue, Benedict addresses the entire Rule to us as “sons”. When we accept the discipline of the Lord and the discipline of the Rule, we are legitimate children, for we know that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.