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Satisfaction by The Excommunicate

Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Chapter 44

Those excommunicated for serious faults from the oratory and from the table are to prostrate themselves in silence at the oratory entrance at the end of the celebration of the Opus Dei. They should lie face down at the feet of all as they leave the oratory, and let them do this until the prioress or abbot judges they have made satisfaction. Next, at the bidding of the prioress or abbot, they are to prostrate themselves at the feet of the prioress or abbot, then at the feet of all that they may pray for them. Only then, if the prioress or abbot orders, should they be admitted to the choir in the rank the prioress or abbot assigns. Even so, they should not presume to lead a psalm or a reading or anything else in the oratory without further instructions from the prioress or abbot. In addition, at all the hours, as the Opus Dei is being completed, they must prostrate themselves in the place they occupy. They will continue this form of satisfaction until the prioress or abbot again bids them cease.

Those excommunicated for less serious faults from the table only are to make satisfaction in the oratory for as long as the prioress or abbot orders. They do so until they give them blessing and says: "Enough."

"A community is too heavy for any one to carry alone," the rabbis say. Benedict argues that the community enterprise is such an important one that those who violate their responsibilities to it must serve as warning to others of the consequences of failing to carry the human community. The point, of course, is not that the group has the power to exclude us. The point is that we must come to realize that we too often exclude ourselves from the relationships we promised to honor and to build by becoming the center of our own lives and ignoring our responsibilities to theirs.

The correction seems harsh and humiliating by modern standards but the Rule is working with the willing if not with the ready who seek to grow rather than to accommodate. The ancients tell the story of the distressed person who came to the Holy One for help. "Do you really want a cure?" the Holy One asked. "If I did not, would I bother to come to you?" the disciple answered. "Oh, yes," the Master said. "Most people do." And the disciple said, incredulously, "But what for then?" And the Holy One answered, "Well, not for a cure. That's painful. They come for relief."

This chapter forces us to ask, in an age without penances and in a culture totally given to individualism, what relationships we may be betraying by selfishness and what it would take to cure ourselves of the self-centeredness that requires the rest of the world to exist for our own convenience.