CHAPTER XLIII. Of those who come late to the Work of God, or to table
23 Mar. 23 July. 22 Nov.
If any one, through his own negligence and fault, come not to table before the Verse, so that all may say this and the prayer together, and together sit down to table, let him be once or twice corrected. If after this he do not amend, let him not be admitted to share in the common table, but be separated from the companionship of all, and eat alone, his portion of wine being taken from him, until he hath made satisfaction and amends. Let him be punished in like manner, who is not present also at the Verse which is said after meals. And let no one presume to take food or drink before or after the appointed hour: but should a brother be offered anything by the Superior, and refuse to take it, if he afterwards desire either what he before refused, or anything else, he shall receive nothing whatever, until he hath made proper satisfaction.
For Saint Benedict tardiness, be it for the Divine Office or for the table, is a serious matter. In my experience, tardiness is generally caused by a brother thinking that, even after the bell rings, he has time still to do one more thing. Tardiness may also be caused by fussing over details, by a kind of compulsive perfectionism that compels a brother to stop first to verify one thing, then to arrange another, and then to squeeze in one last thing before going to statio or to choir. The fathers and brothers charged with certain responsibilities may have a legitimate reason for arriving late for the Divine Office or for the table but, even then, tardiness must not be accepted as something inevitable and normal. You are, all of you, still young, even very young in the monastic life. Resolve, or renew your resolution, to develop the good habit of ceasing all activity and conversation at the sound of the five minute bell, while saying interiorly,
Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum; cantabo, et psallam in gloria mea. “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing, and will give praise, with all my soul” (Psalm 107:2).
There is a second point in today’s portion of Chapter XLIII. It has to do with clinging to self-will in matters of food, and drink, and mortification. The brother who helps himself to food and drink outside of the regular hours is indulging his self-will. The brother who recoils when the comfort of food, or drink, or rest is offered him by the abbot or by another superior falls into a worse vice, that of arrogance and spiritual pride.