The Very Young and Very Old (Again)

Yesterday we re-read St Benedict’s challenging chapter on the care of the sick; today he gives us just a few sentences about the very young and the very old, most of which concern food and the times of meals (RB 37). I think that demonstrates his first-hand experience of community life and his sympathy with those who might easily be overlooked as ‘too demanding’. Most of us can remember what it was like to be really, really hungry as youngsters, when we could devour huge plates of food and remain whiplash thin. Some of us may have reached the age when the appetite has to be tempted, or when a delay in regular meal-times causes all kinds of discomfort. Either way, we know that something as basic as food profoundly affects our sense of well-being.

I think RB 37 is a good reminder that we can be too focused on our own agenda to be truly mindful of the needs of others who may be less able than we are to express their views or ask for help. Benedict is ever the realist. Human nature inclines us to be sympathetic to both old and young, he says, but the Rule must still make provision for them (RB 37.1). He knows we can fail those who are weak and defenceless because we don’t really ‘see’ them. This morning I re-read an oldish (July 2018) article in the Independent about the numbers of terminally ill people who are homeless and dying on our streets. We don’t ‘see’ them, either. As our M.P.s and others debate the proposed Brexit exit deal Theresa May has announced, we need to recall that, in the end, abstractions like sovereignty must be enfleshed in the lives of real people; that, whatever decisions are ultimately made, serving the common good may require sacrifice as well as gain. Both young and old have their own special vulnerabilities. A civilized society will not ignore them


3 thoughts on “The Very Young and Very Old (Again)”

  1. I don’t see any benefits from the current situation on Brexit. It seems that the divisions in our society are now worse than ever. Our care for each other is subsumed in tribalism at Westminster and in the devolved governments. The United Kingdom has never been more disunited.

    I am sure that Benedict would have had something to say about this situation, and patience, prayer and persistence in seeking solutions that don’t victimize those most vulnerable in our country or in our neighbors in Europe.

    I’m sitting here wondering about the invective being launched against the Prime Minister and try to see some hope in our situation. The partisan behaviour by some from her own party is shocking and I wonder where principles have gone, have they vanished entirely?

    I despair of human nature some time, but I than reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us and hope returns. My prayers are for everyone to come to their senses and to accept that in any relationship such as between us an Europe, compromise was always going to be the only one. And we need to accept the reality that we have and stop demanding the impossible from a relationship, where 27 other actors are expected to fall into line with our needs, totally ignoring the responsibilities that we have towards that relationship.

    • Thank you, Ernie. What follows is my personal response and does not necessarily reflect the views of the community. Like you, I, too, am dismayed by the way in which our politicians are behaving at present. The concepts of duty and public service do not seem to be uppermost in the minds of many of the most vocal. To an outsider, it looks as though there is a personal vendetta against Theresa May which does no-one any credit. Some of those who covet the premiership appear to be delusional. At any rate, they do not convince me. We are praying hard that, whatever the outcome, it proves to be in the best interests of the whole of the UK and the EU.

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