In Chapter 66 – The Porter of the Monastery, Benedict points out that the monastery is to be constructed so that everything needed is within the walls of
the enclosure. He is concerned about the danger of leaving the enclosure. Benedict fears that his members might see something to cause them distress or take a backwards step in their journey to God. When the monastics roam outside the cloister, he declares, it is “not at all good for their souls.” (RB 66.7)
(Br Ricky, who read and edited Br Randy’s articles for republication, mewed to Amma Jane, “Haven’t we had enough stay at home orders during the pandemic??”)
Why Leaving the Enclosure is Dangerous – An Example
I can offer a great example why St Benedict cautions us about leaving the enclosure. A month ago Amma Jane’s husband Prior John took Rudy out for surgery on his teeth. When they returned I heard John tell Jane that he saw a picture of an obese cat at the Vet’s and that I, Randy, looked just like that cat!!
In truth John should have prostrated himself in front of me and the others. I found it in the Rule. On the day that monastics come back to the enclosure…
- after every prayer service that day, they are to lie face down on the floor of the chapel, and
- ask for prayers in case they saw something evil, and
- not tell anyone what they saw or heard while they were outside, and
- be “subjected to the punishment of the rule” if they tell what they saw. (RB 67.3-6)
Was John “subjected to the punishment of the rule” cited in Step #4? No, even though he told Amma that he saw a picture of a fat cat. To add to the transgression, he then compared to me to that picture! Did Prior John prostrate himself on the floor before me in penance? No! What happened instead?
Let me explain. Several of us in this enclosure are on the “fluffy” side. Since John’s visit outside, our normal evening Friskies treats now come with painful irregularity. Amma rationalizes this, saying, it’s to “cut their calories.” Hiss!
This is a clear violation of the Rule. With kindness and consideration Benedict notes that all tables should be provided with two kinds of cooked food. Anyone who can’t eat one kind of food will be able to eat the other kind. (RB 39.1-2) Now, a number of us really don’t like the wet food but eat it just to keep from starving. The dry Friskies treats dispensed in the evening sustain us. Now, most days we have only one kind of cooked food. It’s not Benedictine!
Randy’s Suggestions and Final Thoughts
The bottom-line problem is that sometimes people can decide for others what they think is best. Maybe it isn’t. Do you ever do this, think that you know what’s best for everyone else? If you do, take care. You might be wrong. And when leaving the enclosure, be on guard, as Benedict says. You may see something that will cause harm to you or to someone else. This is what happened here in the Feline Cloister, woefully deprived of regular Friskies treats.
When John or Amma turn out the lights at night I mew loudly about the missing Friskies. I even quote Benedict in RB 39.1-2 about the requirement two kinds of cooked food. But it is to no avail. I thought the abbess was to create conditions where grumbling wasn’t necessary? And, to add insult to injury, while Benedict says that there’s to be no eating in between meals (RB 43.18), I have it from a good source that Amma nibbles!
Your feline friend,
P.S. Being an overweight feline is definitely not healthy. For more information click here.
Also, check out Pecos Benedictine Monastery.