Putting Things Right

Those of you who read the Rule of St Benedict each day, or listen to the recordings on our main website, have probably been struck by the fact that the current chapters have a lot to say about faults — offences against silence or monastic discipline generally. In each case, Benedict specifies a form of making satisfaction — what a child might call ‘putting things right’. That is an important concept to get hold of. To put things right, we must first admit they have gone wrong; and how difficult most of us find that! Proud people don’t make mistakes; they have oversights, are forced into difficult positions, make excuses for themselves and will only apologize for any offence they MAY have given. Benedict will have none of that. The so-called penal code in RB is not about apportioning blame or punishing faults as such. Rather, it is a way of bringing us to humility, to the truth about ourselves and others, reintegrating us into a community from which we have exiled ourselves by our own behaviour. As such, it is much more searching than may at first appear.

Take today’s brief chapter about making mistakes in the oratory, RB 45. When we trip over a word or sing a wrong note, we kneel briefly on the floor. It alerts everyone; and if the false note or word has led everyone astray, it often helps to get us all back on track. Such a little thing, you might think; we all make mistakes, why bother about it? The point is that in our communal worship of God carelessness has no place. To sing the Divine Office hour by hour, day by day, requires concentration. It would be easy to become sloppy now and again, but to allow such sloppiness would be not merely a personal but also a communal failure.

Sometimes we don’t see that personal wrongdoing has a communal dimension. We argue that no one else is affected by what we do. But rather like the false note in choir, even our most hidden faults, such as nursing a grudge or jealous thoughts, weaken the strength of the community as a whole by injecting it with a kind of moral poison. The only antidote is humility and that truthfulness I mentioned above. I think the Lord was on to something when he urged us to turn and become like little children. Putting things right may be more difficult for us as adults. We have to ‘unlearn’ so many defensive strategies; but ultimately, isn’t it worth it?

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4 thoughts on “Putting Things Right”

  1. As a non singer, I would be constantly on my knees!!!

    It is one thing I would love to be able to do but am grateful to have been blessed with a daughter who can sing.

    We also have a son who can sing as well, but who to do it less often. He’s found other things to be involved with.

  2. “…even our most hidden faults, such as nursing a grudge or jealous thoughts, weaken the strength of the community as a whole by injecting it with a kind of moral poison.” This is so important, and often overlooked. If we are a “body”, then everything we do and are has an effect on all the other members.

  3. I think that in many things we err and hurt others, but surely the thing we hurt most is our personal relationship with God.

    Jesus loves a sinner? particularly one who is contrite, repents, seeks to put things right and than perseveres in goodness.

    Benedict has obviously got it right – wish I had the strength and faith to travel every day in that direction without veering. But I suspect, that like many others I lose my way often. Navigation can be hazardous without a good moral compass – hopefully mine finds the right direction more often than the wrong.

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