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Mistakes in the Oratory

Thursday, July 25, 2024
Chapter 45

Should monastics make a mistake in a psalm, responsory, refrain or reading, they must make satisfaction there before all. If they do not use this occasion to humble themselves, they will be subjected to more severe punishment for failing to correct by humility the wrong committed through negligence. Youth, however, are to be whipped for such a fault.

"To know all of the Talmud is a great thing," the rabbis teach; "but to learn one virtue is greater." In Benedictine spirituality, two constants emerge clearly: first, community prayer is central to the life and second, whatever is done must be done well. To fail to prepare the prayer, then, to pray poorly and sloppily, to read the scripture to people who do not have books and to read it without care, without sense, without accuracy is to strike at the very core of the community life. It is a fault serious enough to undermine the spiritual life of the community. It is not to be endured.

"Those who pray without knowing what they pray," Maimon ben Joseph wrote, "do not pray." If anything, this chapter requires us to ask even to this day how it is that we can hear the scripture but never study it, pray prayers but never contemplate the universal implications of them, go through rituals but never immerse ourselves in their meaning. How is it that we too pray without thinking, pray carelessly, pray poorly or pray without thought?