1 Feb. 2 June. 2 Oct.
The fourth degree of humility is, that if in this very obedience hard and contrary things, nay even injuries, are done to him, he should embrace them patiently with a quiet conscience, and not grow weary or give in, as the Scripture saith: “He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved.” And again: “Let thy heart be comforted, and wait for the Lord.” And shewing how the faithful man ought to bear all things, however contrary, for the Lord, it saith in the person of the afflicted: “For Thee we suffer death all the day long; we are esteemed as sheep for the slaughter.” And secure in their hope of the divine reward, they go on with joy, saying: “But in all these things we overcome, through Him Who hath loved us.” And so in another place Scripture saith: “Thou hast proved us, O God; Thou hast tried us as silver is tried by fire; Thou hast led us into the snare, and hast laid tribulation on our backs.” And in order to shew that we ought to be under a superior, it goes on to say: “Thou hast placed men over our heads.” Moreover, fulfilling the precept of the Lord by patience in adversities and injuries, they who are struck on one cheek offer the other: to him who taketh away their coat they leave also their cloak; and being forced to walk one mile, they go two. With Paul the Apostle, they bear with false brethren, and bless those that curse them. (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter VII)
I turned 63 today, and the passage from the Holy Rule appointed for June 2nd went straight to my heart. For Christians, there is no way of life in which there are not “hard and contrary things, nay even injuries”. This is as true of holy marriage as it is of the monastic state. There is no escape from suffering, no return to paradise in this valley of tears. One’s first inclination or, I should rather say, my first inclination is to run away from hard and contrary things. Saint Benedict, however, says something quite different. He says that a man “should embrace them patiently with a quiet conscience, and not grow weary or give in”. And then, by way of encouragement, the Holy Patriarch adds, “He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved”, and again: “Let thy heart be comforted, and wait for the Lord”.
It may seem insensitive to say to one who is suffering in a given situation, “Stay the course. Hold your heart open to comfort from above. Wait for the Lord”, but my experience is that, in 99% of the dilemmas which souls face, this is precisely the right thing to say. Saint Benedict comes down on the side of stability and patience. And again, the man who obeys, even if the obedience is crucifying (as it can sometimes be), will discover, in the end, that “to them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28).
To all of this Saint Benedict adds something astonishing: a note of joy. “And secure in their hope of the divine reward, they go on with joy [gaudentes], saying: But in all these things we overcome, through Him Who hath loved us” (Romans 8:37). My joy today is — as it was yesterday, and by God’s grace will be tomorrow — in my obstinate belief that God loves me, that He has a perfect plan for my life, and that, “I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).