To be read: March 28, July 28, November 27
If someone commits a fault while at any work, in the kitchen, in the cellar, in serving, in the bakery, in the garden, at any art or work in any place whatever, 2by breaking or losing something, or failing in any way whatever, 3he must come at once before the Abbot and the community, and of his own accord confess his offense and make satisfaction. 4If it becomes known through another, let him be subjected to a greater correction. 5If, however, the cause of the offense is secret, let him disclose it to the Abbot alone, or to one of his spiritual Superiors, 6who know how to heal their own wounds, and not expose or make public those of others.
We all make mistakes, and it is common to our human nature to want to hide those mistakes. But Benedict demands that the one having made the mistake “must come at once before the Abbot and the community, and of his own accord confess his offense and make satisfaction”. Then Benedict goes on to say that if the monk tries to hide his wrongdoing, he is to be “subjected to a greater correction”. The hiding of the fault is the greater sin. When “the cause of the offense is secret,” Benedict explains, “let him disclose it to the Abbot alone, or to one of his spiritual Superiors, who know how to heal their own wounds, and not expose or make public those of others.”
We all tend, to some measure, toward narcissism. We really don’t want to acknowledge our mistakes, our faults. But our attempts to hide wrongdoing allows the poison of these mistakes to be retained by the Body. Confessing our sins, our faults, our mistakes, lances the wound and allows the poison to be expelled. This chapter of the Rule is, if you will, the instruction for healing the wound. We would all do well to put this principle to practice in our own lives. When we have fallen short of the mark, inadvertently broken something, or as Benedict says, “failed in any way whatever”, to acknowledge the wrong allows God to begin the healing work in His Body. And from that we can all benefit.
One thought on “Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 46”
I think there a couple of things at work here that are both difficult and beneficial to the follower of our King. First, the obvious, admitting that we made a mistake, and how, as you point out, we don’t want to do this because we don’t like to admit we’re wrong. But, I think, underneath that, before we open our mouths to admit a wrong, there are a couple of things we must work through, whether we realize it or not. Tops on the list is humility. We must be willing to humble ourselves before another which requires a bit of a personal inventory and the realization that we really are NOT “all that and a bag of chips”. And right on the heels of that, is the aspect of trust. Ultimately, we must, in submitting ourselves, exercise trust that the other person will deal with us without condemnation or judgement. And, of course, to get to either of those steps, we must first deal with that whole pride thing (OUCH!). It seems that these other issues really come into play when dealing with the “failed in any way whatever” issue. If I’m klutzy and break something, there really isn’t much of a problem saying “oops, sorry”. BUT, if my failure is in one of those “any way” areas… like, say… getting angry at someone else’s conduct because they didn’t act the way _I_ think they should act, we get into that whole personal inventory, pridehumbletrust place. This is where I believe we can really experience some wound lancing and healing, because we’re dealing with personal faults. How did James put it? “Confess [our] sins to each other…that we can be healed?” (Dan’s paraphrase) It all sounds so easy.