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Tardiness at the Opus Dei or at Table

Monday, July 22, 2024
Chapter 43

On hearing the signal for an hour of the divine office, monastics will immediately set aside what they have in hand and go with utmost speed, yet with gravity and without giving occasion for frivolity. Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Opus Dei.

If at Vigils monastics come after the Doxology of Psalm 95, which we wish, therefore, to be said quite deliberately and slowly, they are not to stand in their regular place in choir. They must take the last place of all, or one set apart by the prioress or abbot for such offenders, that they may be seen by them and by all, until they do penance by public satisfaction at the end of the Opus Dei. We have decided, therefore, that they ought to stand either in the last place or apart from the others so that the attention they attract will shame them into amending. Should they remain outside the oratory, there may be those who would return to bed and sleep, or, worse yet, settle down outside and engage in idle talk, thereby "giving occasion to the Evil One (Eph 4:27; 1 Tm 5:14)." They should come inside so that they will not lose everything and may amend in the future.

At the day hours the same rule applies to those who comes after the opening verse and the Doxology of the first psalm following it: They are to stand in the last place. Until they have made satisfaction, they are not to presume to join the choir of those praying the psalms, unless perhaps the prioress or abbot pardons them and grants an exception. Even in this case, the one at fault is still bound to satisfaction.

Benedictine spirituality does not ask for great feats of physical asceticism but it does require commitment to community and a sincere seeking of God through prayer. Tardiness is not to be tolerated. Indolence is not to be overlooked. Half-heartedness will not be condoned. Benedict does not want people sleeping-in or dawdling along, or "preferring anything to the Opus Dei," the work of God. Nothing in life qualifies as an exchange for the Word of God, not good work, not a job almost finished, not an interesting conversation, not the need for privacy.

Benedictine life centers around the chapel and chapel must never be overlooked. What is being asked for in monastic spirituality is a life of fidelity to prayer and to the praying communities of which we are a part. Prayer is a community act in Benedictine life. It is at community prayer, in the midst of others, that we are most reminded that we are not a world unto ourselves.

Benedict will go so far as to have the community pray the opening psalm slowly to give the slow a chance to get there in an age without alarm clocks but he will not allow such a lack of personal spiritual discipline to grow. Tardiness, the attempt to cut corners on everything in life, denies the soul the full experience of anything.

It is a lesson to be relearned in a modern age perhaps. There is nothing more important in our own list of important things to do in life than to stop at regular times, in regular ways to remember what life is really about, where it came from, why we have it, what we are to do with it and for whom we are to live it. No matter how tired we are or how busy we are or how impossible we think it is to do it, Benedictine spirituality says, Stop. Now. A spiritual life without a regular prayer life and an integrated community consciousness is pure illusion.