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The Presumption of Defending Another in the Monastery

Tuesday, August 27, 2024

Every precaution must be taken that one member does not presume in any circumstance to defend another in the monastery or to be their champion, even if they are related by the closest ties of blood. In no way whatsoever shall monastics presume to do this, because it can be a most serious source and occasion of contention. Anyone who breaks this rule is to be sharply restrained.

"Stay away from your enemies but guard yourself against friends," Ben Sirach wrote in Ecclesiasticus. The rule knows that false friendship is bad for the person and bad for the community as well. In a life dedicated to spiritual growth and direction, there is no room for multiple masters. Friends who protect us from our need to grow are not friends at all. People who allow a personal agenda, our need to be right or their need to shield, block the achievement of a broader vision in us and betray us. Supporters who risk dividing a group into factions over personal tensions rather than to allow individuals to work their way positively through the hard points of life, barter the spirit and peace of the whole community. We are taught in the Rule not to take sides in issues of personal interpretation and spiritual challenge. We are to hold one another up during hard times, Chapter 27 indicates, but we are not to turn personal difficulty into public warfare. The groups that would be better off if individuals had refused to turn differences of opinion into moral irreconciliables are legion. The Desert Monastics say that one of the disciples asked Abba Sisoes one day, "If I am sitting in the desert and a barbarian comes to kill me and if I am stronger than he, shall I kill him?" The old man said to him, 'No, leave him to God. In fact whatever the trial is which comes to a person, let them say,"This has happened to me because of my sins," and if something good comes say, "This has happened to me because of the providence of God."

Life is not perfect; some of life just is. A great deal of mental, psychological and spiritual health comes from learning to endure the average heat of the average day and to wear both its banes and its blessings with a tempered heart. No warfare. No armies mobilized on the plain. No identification of enemies. Just life.