That No One May Be Troubled or Grieved

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Santa Francesca Romana.jpg

This painting of Saint Francesca Romana dates from the 17th century, and is the work of Giovanni Antonio Galli, called lo Spadarino.

Wives and Mothers

There is much in the Rule of Saint Benedict that might motivate a wife and mother to become an Oblate. The patron saint of Benedictine Oblates, Saint Francesca of Rome, portrayed in the painting above, is a shining example of what can happen when a wife and mother offers herself to God in communion of mind and heart with a monastic community. Read what I wrote about her here. An Oblate's marriage and her family life are richly blessed, for the Rule of Saint Benedict is, from beginning to end, a pattern of family life according to the Gospel and a school of the service of the Lord.

Like the Cellarer of the Monastery

If I were to select one chapter from the Holy Rule that is particularly applicable to the life of the wife and mother, it would be Chapter 31, "On What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Is to Be."

Let there be chosen out of the community, as Cellarer of the Monastery, a man wise and of mature character, temperate, not a great eater, not haughty, nor headstrong, nor arrogant, not slothful, nor wasteful, but a God-fearing man, who may be like a father to the whole community. Let him have the care of everything, but do nothing without leave of the Abbot. Let him take heed to what is commanded him, and not sadden his brethren. If a brother ask him for anything unreasonably, let him not treat him with contempt and so grieve him, but reasonably and with all humility refuse what he asks for amiss. Let him be watchful over his own soul, remembering always that saying of the Apostle, that "he that hath ministered well, purchaseth to himself a good degree." Let him have especial care of the sick, of the children, of guests and of the poor, knowing without doubt that he will have to render an account of all these on the Day of Judgment. Let him look upon all the vessels and goods of the Monastery as though they were the consecrated vessels of the altar. Let him not think that he may neglect anything: let him not be given to covetousness, nor wasteful, nor a squanderer of the goods of the Monastery; but do all things in proper measure, and according to the bidding of his Abbot.

The Rule for You

What might this same text look like, adapted for Oblates who are wives and mothers? Perhaps it might read like this:

The Oblate who is a wife and mother must be a wise woman, and of mature character, temperate, not a great eater, not haughty, nor headstrong, nor arrogant, not slothful, nor wasteful, but a God-fearing woman, who may be a mother not only to her own family but also to the wider community.

Let her have the care of everything, but do nothing without her husband's support. Let her take heed to what he expects of her, and not sadden the children. If one of her children asks her for anything unreasonably, let her not treat the child with contempt and so grieve him, but reasonably and with all humility refuse what he asks for amiss.

Let her be watchful over her own soul, remembering always that saying of the Apostle, that "he that hath ministered well, purchaseth to himself a good degree." Let her have especial care of the sick, of the children, of guests and of the poor, knowing without doubt that she will have to render an account of all these on the Day of Judgment.

Let her look upon all the vessels and goods of the household as though they were the consecrated vessels of the altar. Let her not think that she may neglect anything: let her not be given to covetousness, nor wasteful, nor a squanderer of the goods of the household; but do all things in proper measure, and in communion of mind and heart with her husband.

A Good Word, the Best Gift

Saint Benedict goes on to say:

Let him above all things have humility; and to him on whom he hath nothing else to bestow, let him give at least a kind answer, as it is written: "A good word is above the best gift." Let him have under his care all that the Abbot may enjoin him, and presume not to meddle with what is forbidden him. Let him distribute to the brethren their appointed allowance of food, without arrogance* or delay, that they be not scandalised: mindful of what the Word of God declareth him to deserve, who "shall scandalise one of these little ones" namely, "that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea." If the community be large, let helpers be given to him, by whose aid he may with peace of mind discharge the office committed to him. Let such things as are necessary be given and asked for at befitting times, that no one may be troubled nor grieved in the house of God.

Again, adapted for the Oblate who is a wife and mother, the text might read like this:

Let her above all things have humility; and to anyone in the family on whom she hath nothing else to bestow, let her give at least a kind answer, as it is written: "A good word is above the best gift."

Let her have under her care all that her husband may enjoin her, and presume not to meddle with what is none of her concern. Let her distribute to the family their appointed allowance of food, without arrogance or delay, that they be not scandalised*: mindful of what the Word of God declareth him to deserve, who "shall scandalise one of these little ones" namely, "that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea."

*Scandal here refers to a stumbling block place in another's path: something that it is difficult to "get over" or "overlook."

If the family be large, let helpers be given to her, by whose aid she may with peace of mind discharge the office committed to her. Let such things as are necessary be given and asked for at befitting times, that no one may be troubled nor grieved in the household of God.

2 Comments

Many thanks for this piece, Father. I shall be sending it my fiancé's way to read!

How beautifully put, Father! I can personally attest to the truth of what you say, speaking as an oblate (along with my husband)of thirty years and having raised a large family. The help has been unfailing, the graces we have drawn on innumerable thanks in large part, I am sure, to the spiritual help of our particular Benedictine family in France. What a wonderful and sure guide the Holy Rule has been for us through the years, and how much we love and owe to our dear Brothers who pray for us daily, as we do for them. Perhaps each of us may one day be counted among those innumerable little lamps glowing along the richly carpeted path our holy Father Benedict walked on his way to heaven! (And how fortunate your oblates and novices are to have you as their spiritual Father now!)
Francoise R. Maich, oblate osb

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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