Saint Benedict wants to provide an environment of peace in which the monks can live without disturbance and confusion. He warns the abbot of the monastery not to be excitable, anxious, or extreme, “because such a man is never at rest.” (Rule of St. Benedict 64:16) “The abbot is not to disturb the flock entrusted to him nor make any unjust arrangements, as though he had the power to do whatever he wished.” (63:2) He warns also the bursar: “As cellarer of the monastery, there should be chosen from the community someone who is wise, mature in conduct, temperate, not an excessive eater, not proud, not excitable, offensive, dilatory or wasteful, but God-fearing, and like a father to the whole community, (…) so that no one may be disquieted or distressed in the house of God.” (31:1-2.19) Not only superiors can disturb the community of a monastery, but also guests who come and “make excessive demands that upset the monastery.” (61:2) Even the heat of the summer, according to St. Benedict, can confuse the monks (cf 41:2).
How can we return to peace? Often the disturber comes from outside. But even more often he comes from the inside, from our own heart. If something unclean comes from outside, it has no chance to affect me if I keep calm with Christ. As soon as I get drawn into the whirl, being in favor, being against, planning strategies… I have already been affected, and have become part of the confusion. Certainly, I cannot do nothing. The disturbance I perceive is a fact I have to deal with and must respond to.
Sometimes it just takes time to calm down. For this I have to go into an environment that is tranquil. At other times I have to jerkily remove myself from the situation. Things look different from a place of peace, tranquility, and stillness. Things are put into a different perspective and order. Unimportant things don’t bother me anymore, important things stand out. The fear is gone. I feel connected with God. For us monks those places of recollection are our daily prayers, the liturgy of the hours. Each of them is an invitation to refocus. The Holy Eucharist directs our eyes to the cross of the Lord as the sign of death and resurrection and connects us most deeply with Christ and our brothers and sisters. God is ready and waits for us to bring back peace. We, however, are the abbot and the bursar of our own heart.
Lord, together with my confreres I sang at my profession “et ne confundas me ab expectatione mea – Don’t confuse me in my expectation.” So often I find myself confused. Only with you there is rest. Remind me that I can trust you without hesitation. You never confuse me but instead lead me to peace. Continue your work in me, Lord, continue!
5 thoughts on “In Times of Confusion”
very helpful to step back & strive with God for the Peace & Prayers that come from living within the momemt. thanks Fr.
Grateful today for your compelling thoughts and gentle reminder to seek a place of tranquility and peace to gain perspective in the midst of confusion, unrest or uncertainty. What better place to find this than through prayer where we can united our minds with the heart of God. As Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”
Not-monks also need those places of recollection necessarily. Often hard to realize. I am not able to attend the liturgy of the hours five times a day, but I try to connect wherever I am. My most beloved practice these weeks is to draw myself back to the image of Jesus in the same boat with me. What could happen to me when Jesus is always and every moment with me, alongside and before me, now and in all future moments to come. If the waters are too stormy and threatening to handle myself, I call His name and wake Him to calm the water for me. So what can happen? – With Jesus in our boat we are safe.
Great thanks to all monks, who pray and recollect so consistently for our world!
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I appreciate the image created by my being “the abbot and bursar of my own heart”. It gives me courage to work to restore inner peace while trusting that God will guide my thoughts and feelings toward that peace. In times like these that redirection from confusion toward inner peace is a necessity.
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