Randy’s Corner Sept/October 2011

I saw it! It was right there in plain view-a toy in one of the cat beds, peeking out from a corner where one of my feline companions had secreted it as if it belonged to them! Benedict is most adamant that community members are not to have private possessions. Everything in this house is supposed to be held in common as Benedict instructs, right? To this end I’ve heard Jane say to husband John, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.”

The superior of the community, i.e., Jane, is to provide all things needed like food, beds and plenty of cat toys for use by all of us. Equal distribution is to be made to all, with the exception of course for those who are weak or sick and might need more like elderly Mickey. In Chapter 55 – The Clothing and Footwear of the Monastics, Benedict even instructs the superior, i.e., Jane, to inspect beds frequently for private possessions. Anyone who is hiding anything not given to them by the superior is to be given a very severe punishment. So, I was shocked when John saw the cat toy in the bed, laughed and told Jane, but she did nothing about removing the toy or disciplining the poacher.

Something had to be done about this and it was up to me! I mewed my displeasure and disbelief to Jane, quoting RB 33 – Monastics and Private Ownership where Benedict clearly says that the evil practice of private possessions “must be uprooted and removed” from the community. No one may retain anything as their own – “not a book, writing tablets or stylus-in short, not a single item.” I meowed emphatically that this included cat toy hoarding, explaining what she already knew of course, that as the superior she was to have at least issued a warning to the guilty party.

In all fairness to Jane, it’s hard to know which of the seven others did this thing. I certainly didn’t, but suspect Ricky because I’ve seen him tossing that mouse around. Yet Jane could have at least made a general reprimand to the lot, warning them of the dangers of private possessions and the consequences of an infraction – no cat treats. I think her judgment was colored by her own plethora of private possessions. I have it from a good source that John sometimes calls her “Imelda” (Marcos) because of the number of shoes she owns. Jane, however, claims the holdings to be modest, explaining that she certainly can’t wear casual suede mocs with a black dress suit and clerical collar! Clearly she needs some guidance from Benedict here, so culling the Rule, I came up with some helpful suggestions for her and for others outside the monastic community (and maybe some inside, too) to help everyone have better discretion regarding “stuff.”

Benedict wants everyone to be given what they need. I like what he says about clothing and put this on the list.

“To provide for laundering and night wear, every monk will need two cowls and two tunics, but anything more must be taken away as superfluous.” RB 55.10-11

Seems to me that the more clothing you have the more difficult it is to store, to keep it all clean and to decide what to wear or take on a trip. That last one is a real problem for Jane! You ought to see the rushing around before one of her trips away to do a retreat. Sort of negates the word “retreat.” Even more important, the more each person has personally, the less there is available for others who really need things like clothes and food.

A second thing I found is that Benedict says that the superior is to provide everything that is necessary so that the “vice of private ownership may be completely uprooted.” (RB 55.18-19) The problem is what do you do when you are your own superior like Jane, or maybe even you? It takes a lot of soul-searching and discipline to know when to draw the line. Personally, I’m glad that I have only one outfit even if it has to do for both causal and dress occasions. It makes life much simpler and more fair. The third point I found is this:

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” RB 4.20-21

Outside this community humans are encouraged, cajoled and lured into over-buying and constantly acquiring. Benedict reminds us of what is really important – living in a different way by keeping the love of Christ before you and love for others in your heart. Please give all this some serious thought.

Got to go now. Jane’s asking for the article (I hope she reads it) and then I’m going to have a heart-to-heart with Ricky about hiding cat toys in beds because Benedict tells me “Go to help the troubled.” (RB 4.18) See you next time!

Your feline friend,

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