More on the Tools of Good Works

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21 Jan. 22 May. 21 Sept.

62. Daily to fulfil by one's deeds the commandments of God.
63. To love chastity.
64. To hate no man.
65. Not to give way to jealousy and envy.
66. Not to love strife.
67. To fly from vainglory.
68. To reverence the Seniors.
69. To love the juniors.
70. To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.
71. To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
72. And never to despair of God's mercy.

Behold, these are the tools of the spiritual craft, which, if they be constantly employed day and night, and duly given back on the day of judgment, will gain for us from the Lord that reward which He Himself hath promised - "which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him." And the workshop where we are to labour at all these things is the cloister of the monastery, and stability in the community.

Chastity: A Good Thing

In the Holy Rule there is but one single phrase by which Saint Benedict treats of chastity: Castitatem amare, "To love chastity." It is wholly positive. Chastity is worthy of a monk's love because it is a virtue of beauty, of goodness, and of truth. Chastity is life-giving; it produces joy in the heart, causes peace to flourish in the cloister, and makes men happy in this life and in the next. With Saint Benedict there are no grim warnings, no dire prohibitions, no morose preoccupations with unchastity. Instead, he presents chastity as something desirable, precisely because it is something beautiful, true, and good.

Our Constitutions have a concise and helpful entry on chastity under the heading of Chapter IV of the Holy Rule:

49. The safeguards of chastity are: (1) the friendship of Jesus Christ sought, encountered, and contemplated in lectio divina and in adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar; (2) the bonds of an abiding intimacy with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; (3) active engagement in works of service and self-sacrificing labour; (4) the chaste affection of the brethren; and (5) the tranquillitas ordinis of the monastery reflected in the harmony, beauty, and conservation of the spaces and land within the monastic enclosure.

Hatred

To hate another is to hate the image of God and to hate oneself in whose image and likeness one was created. Hatred is a pernicious vice, growing like a toxic mould in the dark places of the heart. The only way to prevent even the smallest spores of hatred from beginning to multiply is by opening one's heart daily to the purifying light of the love of God and to the sweeping breath of the Holy Ghost. Hatred begins in the unchecked antipathy, in jealousy, envy, and in the clinging to offenses real or imagined, while withholding forgiveness. A monastery in which hatreds are allowed to grow will become an infernal place, full of wicked intrigues and petty acts of vengeance.

Jealousy, Envy, Strife

Jealousy, envy, and strife are the seedground of hatred, and are also hatred's perverse offspring. There is nothing more unworthy of a child of God than jealousy and envy; these vices are an insult to Divine Providence.

Alas, there are in all walks of life people who love strife. They thrive on discord and like nothing more than contentiousness and argument. Such people are the bane of community life. Their only contentment is discontent, and they are discontented wherever contentment holds sway. Incapable of keeping their misery to themselves, they seek out, from among those around them, the most vulnerable and impressionable types, and enroll them in their bitter causes. A lover of strife has no place in a cloister, and should such a man present himself, he must, as soon as his propensity is discovered, be sent away lest he inflict severe damage on the household of God.

Give to every man who asks, and if a man takes what is thine, do not ask him to restore it. As you would have men treat you, you are to treat them; no otherwise. Why, what credit is it to you, if you love those who love you? Even sinners love those who love them. What credit is it to you, if you do good to those who do good to you? Even sinners do as much. What credit is it to you, if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much in exchange. No, it is your enemies you must love, and do them good, and lend to them, without any hope of return; then your reward will be a rich one, and you will be true sons of the most High, generous like him towards the thankless and unjust. Be merciful, then, as your Father is merciful. Judge nobody, and you will not be judged; condemn nobody, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be yours; good measure, pressed down and shaken up and running over, will be poured into your lap; the measure you award to others is the measure that will be awarded to you. (Luke 6:30-38)

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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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