CHAPTER XXV. Of Graver Faults
2 Mar. 2 July. 1 Nov.
Let that brother who is found guilty of a more grievous offence be excluded both from the table and from the Oratory, and let none of the brethren consort with him or speak to him. Let him be alone at the work enjoined him, and continue in penance and sorrow, remembering that dreadful sentence of the Apostle, “That such a one is delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Let him take his portion of food alone, in the measure and at the time that the Abbot shall think best for him. Let none of those who pass by bless him, nor the food that is given him.

The abbot, even if he be obliged to excommunicate a brother both from the table and from the Oratory, will not neglect the other means recommended by Our Lord in the Gospels. The episode that, in Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, immediately follows the Transfiguration, is instructive:

And presently all the people seeing Jesus, were astonished and struck with fear; and running to him, they saluted him. And he asked them: What do you question about among you? And one of the multitude, answering, said: Master, I have brought my son to thee, having a dumb spirit. Who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him, and he foameth, and gnasheth with the teeth, and pineth away; and I spoke to thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. Who answering them, said: O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him. And when he had seen him, immediately the spirit troubled him; and being thrown down upon the ground, he rolled about foaming. And he asked his father: How long time is it since this hath happened unto him? But he said: From his infancy: And oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him. But if thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us. And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief. And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, he threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not any more into him. And crying out, and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead. But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up. And he arose.And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:14–28)

This passage sets forth the essential prayer by which an abbot can intercede for a monk in the grip of some affliction: Magister, attuli filium meum ad te. “Master, I have brought my son to thee”. In trying to helping his monk, an abbot can do nothing better than to go before the Most Blessed Sacrament, saying, Magister, attuli filium meum ad te. Saint Matthew gives another version of the father’s prayer: Domine, miserere filio meo. “Lord, have pity on my son” (Matthew 17:14). Saint Matthew’s description of the boy’s affliction is very telling. It suggests that the boy is unstable and easily shaken, and that he is given to extremes:

He is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water. (Matthew 14:17)

The Gospel uses the word σεληνιάζομαι, which means moonstruck. The underlying idea was that various mental afflictions such as extreme mood swings, violent behaviour, and inexplicable shifts in attitude were caused by the phases of the moon. The influence of the moon apart, there remains the description given by Saint Matthew: “He suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water”.  Whenever an abbot sees one of his sons suffering much and rolling, as it were, from one emotional extreme to another, he must imitate the father of the Gospel and, going before Our Lord, say with faith,”Lord, I have brought my son to Thee; have pity on him”. In Saint Mark’s account, the father adds another prayer, even more poignant that the first:

Sed si quid potes, adjuva nos, misertus nostri.
But if thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us. (Mark 9:21)

Here, the father makes it clear both his son and he himself need Jesus’ help and compassion. The suffering of the son becomes the suffering of the father. The father identifies completely with all that afflicts his son. There is no more apt description of a spiritual father’s intercession for his son than this: “Help us, having compassion on us”. Our Lord answers:

If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief. (Mark 9:22–23)
You know well what follows:|
And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, he threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not any more into him. And crying out, and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead. But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up. And he arose. (Mark 9:24–26)

An abbot’s intercession for a monk in the throes of affliction may well obtain from Our Lord a deliverance, an outpouring of grace, a softening of the heart, a strengthening of the will, or an illumination of the mind. It may also unleash a great crisis. Before leaving the boy, the evil spirit cried out and teared him greatly, “and he became as dead”. Something else must happen. Jesus must take the monk by the hand, lift him up, and resurrect him. Jesus autem tenens manum ejus elevavit eum, et surrexit (Mark 9:26).

And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:27–28)
In helping those of his sons who are afflicted, tempted, wavering, and discouraged, an abbot disposes of the two great means indicated by Our Lord Himself: prayer and fasting. In the context of Chapter XXV, these two great means remain an abbot’s ordinary and habitual recourse. The abbot who prays and fasts for his sons, bringing them before Our Lord in faith, can expect to see them raised up by Jesus’ hand, and resurrected to newness of life. Jesus autem tenens manum ejus elevavit eum, et surrexit (Mark 9:26).