Spare the Rod: Healthy Discipline.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Can you remember the first time you were “disciplined”? Was it at home in that moment when your parents reacted to you about to undertake an unsafe action? Was it at school when you broke the rules? Was it later in life, when your employer or other authority figure made you account for a wrongdoing?
Discipline is healthy. It’s derivation is unclear but most probably dis-ciplina – to make someone follow you. It is a teaching which is why the appropriate university term for a particular study is a “discipline”. Those of us born before 1980 probably most associate it with corporal punishment, a physical reaction to wrongdoing or ignorance. A violence against the unknowing. I recently watched an episode of The View where they asked the audience who had ever been smacked as a child. A vast majority had and it had “done them no harm” and probably, in fact, taught them a lesson about limits for their own protection.
However, the reading from Hebrews is opposite to this. God does not proverbially “slap” the errant believer, one of his own children. The Lord teaches with love and he shows that love through rebuke and chastening. Let’s just pause to reflect on those two words.
A rebuke is the use of the imperative to limit the other – “No”, “Stop”, “Enough”. How many of our students could hear those words more often?
“Can I go out this weekend?”
“Why not? Everyone will be there!”
“No, they won’t and no YOU won’t.”
“Stop it. No. That’s enough.”
Chastening someone is slightly different. It is a verbal restraint with a subtle reason to keep them single-minded. In this example,
“Can I go out this weekend?”
“Why not? Everyone will be there!”
“Please don’t raise your voice to me. Do you want to discuss what happened last time with … and … ?”
God recalls us constantly to love, no matter what we do. God is a nurturing parent who doesn’t reach for the wooden spoon when we err. We can all recall times when we were struck by an adult and it didn’t teach us anything other than that there is an easy way out. When I was a student, a quick backhander from Sister said volumes but all I learnt was to resent teachers. And, after a few of those, there is a tendency to grow immune to the “discipline” being meted out. I can remember our sportsmaster, Mr Cornwall, punching a classmate and ripping the buttons from his shirt because he did not bring his PE uniform to class. I can also remember being quite afraid of him after that which is no way to encourage a student. I also recall a Sister who hit students in choir for not singing loudly enough and then hitting them for yelling. I think she retired with RSI and carpel tunnel syndrome as a karma, sorry, consequence. In our day, we all have students who have “maxed-out” their capacity to do detentions. That method has failed to work. So why not try God’s way?
God does not love us because we are good, said Murray Bodo ofm, but because God is. God’s inherent goodness means that the silly things we do can be let slide with a quick admonition and the unspoken encouragement to the errant “son” that he can do better. But what about the undisciplined? Those who frustratingly will not follow? What about those times when we just can’t communicate with the student?
Never give up. In our sources, there are several examples of friars who, probably out of the best intentions, just couldn’t get their act together. Even for Jesus, St Peter and the Apostles failed to see the big picture of the Reign of God, constantly taught by Jesus, driving him to distraction. But our inherent love of others will guide us. So long as we don’t want the other to be like us but rather to be the best that they can be, we will have to expend every frustration, every disappointment and every second chance (which is more like third, fourth and fifth chance), in order to help them to see that they have a future ahead that is beautiful and cradled in God’s loving embrace.
A wooden spoon is never going to make a good disciple. A loving mentor who accepts the immaturity and lack of wisdom of the other and tolerates it over and over will produce a good follower of truth and understanding. Then, the joy of teaching, years later this well-rounded, chastened, rebuked but not abused student will become the gentle master of another. And that builds God’s reign on earth.
SUNDAY, 25 August
A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Francis always sought out a hidden place
where he could join to God
not only his spirit
but every member of his body.
When it happened that he was suddenly overcome in public
by a visitation of the Lord
so as not to be without a cell,
he would make a little cell out of his mantle.
Sometimes, when he had no mantle,
he would cover his face with his sleeve
to avoid revealing the hidden manna.
He would always place something between himself and bystanders
so they would not notice the Bridegroom’s touch.
Even when crowded in the confines of a ship,
he could pray unseen.
Finally, when none of these things was possible,
he made a temple out of his breast.
Forgetful of himself,
he did not cough or groan;
and being absorbed in God
took away any hard breathing or external movement.
Thus it was at home.
But when praying in the woods or solitary places
he would fill the forest with groans,
water the places with his tears,
strike his breast with his hand
and, as if finding a more secret hiding place,
he often conversed out loud with his Lord.
There he replied to the Judge,
there he entreated the Father;
there he conversed with the Friend,
there he played with the Bridegroom.
Indeed, in order to make
all the marrow of his heart a holocaust in manifold ways,
he would place before his eyes
the One who is manifold and supremely simple.
He would often ruminate inwardly with unmoving lips
and, drawing outward things inward,
he raised his spirit to the heights.
Thus he would direct all his attention and affection
towards the one thing he asked of the Lord,
not so much praying as becoming totally prayer.
How deeply would you think he was pervaded with sweetness,
as he grew accustomed to such things?
I can only wonder.
Lord, help us to find the high places, to connect with you, to encounter the sweetness of our love. Amen.
MONDAY, 26th August.
A reading from ‘The Inscription of Brother Leo’ in the Breviary of Saint Francis.
Blessed Francis acquired this breviary from his companions Brother Angelo and Brother Leo, and when he was well he wished always to say the Office, as is stated by the Rule. At the time when he was sick and not able to recite it, he wished to listen to it. And he continued to do this for as long as he lived. He also had the book of the gospels copied, and whenever he would be unable to hear Mass due to infirmity or any other manifest impediment, he had that gospel read to him, which on that day was read at Mass in Church. And he continued to do this until his death. For he used to say, ‘When I do not hear Mass, I adore the Body of Christ in prayer with the eyes of my mind, just as I adore it when I see it during Mass.’ After blessed Francis read the gospel or listened to it, he always kissed the gospel out of the greatest reverence for the Lord. For this reason, Brother Angelo and Brother Leo, as much as they can, humbly beg the Lady Benedetta, the abbess of the Poor Ladies of the Monastery of Saint Clare, and all the abbesses of the same monastery who are to come after her, that in memory of and out of devotion to our holy father Francis, they always preserve in the Monastery of Saint Clare this book out of which he so many times read.
Lord, we are inspired by our spiritual mothers and fathers. May we heed their advice and follow them in your way. Amen.
TUESDAY, 28th August
St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370· He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back to Africa from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.
A Prayer of St Francis, inspired by the Lord’s Prayer.
O Our Father most holy:
our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler and Saviour:
Who are in heaven
in the angels and the saints,
enlightening them to know, for you, Lord, are Light;
inflaming them to love, for you, Lord, are Love;
dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
for you, Lord, are Supreme Good, the Eternal Good,
from whom all good comes
without whom there is no good.
Holy be your Name
may knowledge of you become clearer in us
that we may know
the breadth of your blessings,
the length of your promises,
the height of your majesty,
the depth of your judgements.
Your kingdom come
that you may rule in us through your grace
and enable us to come to your kingdom
where there is clear vision of you,
perfect love of you,
blessed companionship with you,
eternal enjoyment of you.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
that we may love you
with our whole heart by always thinking of you,
with our whole soul by always desiring you,
with our whole mind by always directing all our intentions to you,
and by seeking your glory in everything,
with all our whole strength by exerting
all our energies and affections of body and soul
in the service of your love and of nothing else;
and we may love our neighbour as ourselves
by drawing them all to your love with our whole strength,
by rejoicing in the good of others as in our own,
by suffering with others at their misfortunes,
and by giving offence to no one.
WEDNESDAY, 28th August
– ST AUGUSTINE
This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. “What are we doing?” he cried to his friend Alipius. “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, “How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?” Just then he heard a child singing, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. “Too late have I loved You!” he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion.
A Prayer of St Francis, inspired by the Lord’s Prayer.
Father, give us this day
in remembrance, understanding and reverence
of that love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
and of those things that he said and did and suffered for us.
our daily bread
your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Forgive us our trespasses.
through your ineffable mercy
through the power of the passion of your beloved Son
and through the merits and intercession
of the ever-blessed Virgin and all your elect.
As we forgive those who trespass against you
and what we do not completely forgive,
make us, Lord, forgive completely
that we may truly love our enemies because of you
and we may fervently intercede for them before you,
returning no one evil for evil
and we may strive to help everyone in you.
And lead us not into temptation.
hidden or obvious,
sudden or persistent.
But deliver us from evil,
and to come.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now, and shall be forever.
THURSDAY, 29th August
A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare
The usual signs prove
how much strength Clare received in her furnace of ardent prayer,
how sweet the divine goodness was to her in that enjoyment.
For when she returned with joy from holy prayer,
she brought from the altar of the Lord burning words
that also inflamed the hearts of her sisters.
In fact, they marvelled
that such sweetness came from her mouth
and that her face shone more brilliantly than usual.
Surely, in his sweetness,
God has waited upon the poor,
and the True Light
which was already revealed outwardly in her body,
had filled her soul in prayer.
Thus in a fleeting world,
united unfleetingly to her noble spouse,
she delighted continuously in the things above.
Thus, on the wheel of an ever-changing world,
sustained by stable virtue
and hiding a treasure of glory in a vessel of day,
her mind remained on high while her body lingered here below.
It was her custom to come to matins before the younger sisters,
whom she called to the praises by silently arousing them with signs.
She would frequently light the lamps while others were sleeping;
and she would frequently ring the bell with her own hand.
There was no place for tepidity,
no place for idleness,
where a sharp reproof prodded laziness
to prayer and service of the Lord.
FRIDAY, 30th August
A reading from ‘The Third Letter of Saint Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague
Therefore, dearly beloved, may you too always rejoice in the Lord. And may neither bitterness nor a cloud of sadness overwhelm you, 0 dearly beloved Lady in Christ, joy of the angels and crown of your sisters!
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your entire being into the image
of the Godhead itself through contemplation.
So that you too may feel what his friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
that God himself has reserved from the beginning
for those who love him.
And, after all who ensnare their blind lovers
in a deceitful and turbulent world
have been completely sent away,
you may totally love him
who gave himself totally for your love,
whose beauty the sun and the moon admire,
whose rewards and their preciousness and greatness
are without end.
SATURDAY, 31st August
A reading from ‘A Mirror of the Perfection of a Lesser Brother
When blessed Francis had chosen from those brothers the ones he wished to take with him, he said to them, ‘Go, in the name of the Lord, two by two along the way, humbly and decently, in strict silence from dawn until terce, praying to the Lord in your hearts. And let no idle or useless words be mentioned among you. Although you are travelling, nevertheless, let your behaviour be as humble and as decent as if you were staying in a hermitage or a cell because wherever we are or wherever we travel, we always have a cell with us. Brother Body is our cell, and the soul is the hermit who remains inside the cell to pray to God and meditate on him. So if the soul does not remain in quiet in its cell, a cell made by hands does little good to a Religious.’
Lord, help us to make a little cell for ourselves in this busy world of ours. Keep us quiet in recollection of your mystery. Amen.
Click here to like us on Facebook!