Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God, Work and Blessings

In my daily prayers and meditations I read a portion of the Rule of Benedict, usually with reflections or comments by a Benedictine Sister or Brother. Currently I am following reflections from Brother Jerome Leo of St. Mary's Monastery in Petersham Massachusetts. (You can find further information about the reflections at

As I read today's section of the Rule of Benedict and Brother Jerome's reflection I am struck by how appropriate and important this is in my life! As I read his reflection I asked myself "How often do I ask God for his Blessing before I start work?" Do I remember to say "Thank You" to God after a meeting that did not go quite the way I expected? Did I remember to ask for God's Blessing before starting to write this Blog entry?

The answers are between God and me, of course, but I will admit that quite often I do fail to ask for Blessings. That, however, doesn't stop from trying.

A Challenge:
Are there tools you have found helpful in remembering to ask for God's Blessing? If you spend time regularly (whether daily or otherwise) have you found something helpful you could share?

Don't hesitate, use the "comment" feature of the blog and share your thoughts with others! (If you have a private question please don't use the Comment feature, use the email tool instead. Comments will be seen by all readers of the blog.)

Now, here is Brother Jerome's posting for today, July 14, 2010:

From the Rule of St. Benedict, the portion read on March 14, July 14, November 13
Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen
An hour before the meal let the weekly servers each receive a drink and some bread over and above the appointed allowance, in order that at the meal time they may serve their brethren without murmuring and without excessive fatigue. On solemn days, however, let them wait until after Mass.

Immediately after the Morning Office on Sunday, the incoming and outgoing servers shall prostrate themselves before all the brethren in the oratory and ask their prayers. Let the server who is ending his week say this verse: "Blessed are You, O Lord God, who have helped me and consoled me." When this has been said three times and the outgoing server has received his blessing, then let the incoming server follow and say, "Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me." Let this also be repeated three times by all, and having received his blessing let him enter his service.


Blessing readers and servers may strike the modern reader as a bit silly: a CEREMONY of blessing to do a no-brainer like that for a week? Ah, well there's the rub. Ancient monastics (and many Eastern Orthodox monastics even in our own day,) did NOTHING without a blessing from their elder. This results in all kinds of blessings for things we would take for granted. When the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne went as a group to the guillotine in the French Revolution, at least one of the nuns approached the Prioress and asked; "Permission to die, Mother?" The Prioress blessed her to die.

Getting a blessing, asking God's help for even seemingly trivial matters is a powerful reminder of our own weakness. It is a statement that we can do nothing without Him, that we truly are nothing that He has not given. There is a great humility in asking anyone for help. In this instance, however, humility is richest truth: we need God's help for everything. We do things only because He enables us, whether we asked Him for help or not. Our very lives would not exist without Him.

We still bless readers and servers. Short ceremony, same every week. We all pray together for whomever is serving us. Since we are small (only 7,) the Superior is often reader or server. When that happens, he kneels like anyone else and the senior monk blesses him. It's a little family ritual.

But what is its message for families in the world? For single Oblates living alone? The message is that there are no tasks to insignificant to bless with prayer. St. Benedict has earlier encouraged us to begin every good work with prayer, but maybe we have forgotten. Because the monastic is MINDFUL, careful, attuned to life, nothing is unimportant, nothing should be done "on automatic pilot." There is that healthy level of mistrust of self that will ask for Divine assistance in any endeavor. "Bless, Lord, yet another diaper." "Bless, Lord, emptying the trash." "Bless, Lord, management meeting!!"

Making dinner or washing the dishes? Take a quiet moment in the midst of either to say "Help!" and "Thanks!" Two simple, one word prayers. No matter how chaotic your household, everyone will find time for at least that. God knows the details, knows your heart and can readily fill in the blanks! We may think God needs essay-length prayers, but He doesn't. He may enjoy hearing from us, but trust me, we NEVER tell Him anything that's news to Him.

Of course, there is another side to simple things like serving table, picking up pins and the like. No one could have done anything without God's help, but ah, if one does them out of love and care! Bingo! Double coupons, so to speak! If that pin got carefully picked up because of a barefoot and running child, or a beloved pet who is prone to "tasting" whatever she can find on the floor, simplicity becomes a very much greater matter, indeed. Now it is very close to the heart of God, and that is a wonderful place to be.

Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB
Petersham, MA

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