Mewsings on the Rule of St. Benedict
Hi there! Hope you’re having a good day.
I know that Jane’s focusing on weaving in this issue, but, honestly, I don’t get this idea of weaving a tapestry. We felines would rather unweave a tapestry!
I have some sad news to report. We lost one of our faithful in the cloister of eight. Marcy. She had cancer and got really thin and weak. Jane and John did all they could to help her, the vet did too, but when she left the house we knew we wouldn’t see her again. It’s so hard losing a friend or someone you love, isn’t it? It’s especially hard when the holidays come around. So I thought I’d see what’s in the Rule to help those of us who feel bad because we’ve lost someone or to guide us in being helpful to others who have. Here’s what I found.
Helping others is part of the promise of obedience. Benedict says that when the voice of authority calls, it’s really Christ calling us, so we’re to drop what we’re doing, even a nap, and follow his voice. (RB 5.7) He instructs us to aid someone in distress and to support one another. Encouraging compassion and presence, in Chapter 4 – The Tools for Good Works he asks us to “console the grieving.” (RB 4.19) To me this means that I can be proactive and search for ways to lift another’s sadness even just a little. Marcy’s sister Smokey is still in the cloister so here’s is my opportunity to put the Rule into practice. I’m going to paw a quick note to Abbess Jane suggesting that she give Smokey extra food for strength and extra pets and brushes for comfort. Is there someone near you like Smokey you could console as Benedict asks us to do?
The Rule points my paw towards compassion in so many places. In Chapter 34 – Distribution According to Need, Benedict says that consideration and extra kindness are to be given to those who are not strong. (RB 34.2) He devotes a whole chapter on the need for compassion and consideration for the elderly and children because of their lack of strength and a chapter on caring for sick – Chapter 36 – where we read that the sick are to be served as Christ himself and out of honor for God. We are to bear the sick patiently and not to neglect them. All these instructions surely must apply to the sad or grieving, too, for both of these sure make you feel weak and sick! When I‘m sad I need to remember to have consideration for myself, too – perhaps an extra nap or cuddling up with chubby Charlotte or giving myself a break not to do anything…I’m pretty good at that last thing.
There have been quite a few feline forbearers in this cloister, cats whose deeds and stories have been passed down through the years by mew of mouth. Charlotte told me that the night Penny died, the beloved cat Sam lay down on the rug beside her to be with her and to be a comforting presence. It’s not easy for us to be with anyone who is sad or dying, animal or human. Most of us here in the cloister tend to ignore such things, wrongfully, of course. But Sam took to heart the promise of obedience and Benedict’s direction to “never turn away from someone who needs your love.” (RB 4.26) He met Penny where she was and helped companion her to animal heaven.
Let’s promise to be present and observant like Sam and like the superior of the monastery, so that we can to adjust what we do to all the differences in animals and humans (RB 2.32). Then we can figure out if we are to mew (trans. “speak”), snuggle (trans. provide comfort), just listen or even share a fun cat toy (trans. help someone “change the channel” from the sadness).
Bottom line, wise Sr. Scholastic Muffin, O.S.B.F. (Order of St. Benedict – Feline) says that the antidote to sadness is a wide or expanded heart.[i] With that in mind, and heart, when sadness creeps in I’m going to imagine my little heart growing bigger and bigger and give myself as a gift to someone this holiday season – a listening ear and a soft, understanding mew of comfort. Hope you will, too!
Yours in the season of Advent,
© December, 2012 Randy the Cat
[i] In her book Why the Rule of St. Benedict is Not Just For Humans, Sr. Scholastica here quotes Mark Scott’s book At Home with St. Benedict, p. 163, which Jane reviewed earlier this year.