Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

The Parable of the Mote and the Beam, by Dominico Fetti

The difficult issue of how and when to correct a brother if they are in the wrong is brought up in today’s Gospel.  As a priest, I often get asked the question about how to go about this delicate work.  Saint Augustine gives some of the best advice which you will find below.  St. Thomas Aquinas takes Augustine’s whole teaching on fraternal correction with essentially no modifications.

Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our own eye first as a reminder that if you are not coming from a painfully lower place of humility, you have no business even beginning the process of correcting others.  Can we remove the plank?  Yes, but in doing so we realize that the eye previously blinded by the presence of the plank has suffered permanent damage.  When we remove the plank from our eye, we can indeed see more clearly – however, since our eye is damaged, we will never see well enough to be certain of what we see.  Therefore, not only must we first humble ourselves, before correcting another, but we must then recognize that even the problems we think we see in others could be due to a permanent problem in our own perception.  When your eye is bad, it isn’t a good idea to do surgery: if you can’t see well, you shouldn’t try yourself to remove a speck that you think you see.  It is better left to someone who can see the speck clearly, or the person themselves. read more

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Sketch by Brie Schulze

In the conferences of John Cassian, there is a very important discussion about this virtue called “discretion.”  It has to do with the monk’s ability to make a good discernment about what is the right course to take for someone who lives a radical life of psalmody, prayer, and work.  When should I relax my normal rule of fasting?  Should I follow what I am told to do by visions?  Should I provide hospitality or seek greater solitude?  If we look at the history of the development of Eastern monasticism we see a progression from certain inimitable examples of holiness and miraculous lives to the structures of cenobitism.  Giving in to following austere practices that seemed synonymous with greater holiness was perhaps – at that time – an even greater risk than following a less severe and sometimes mediocre way.  The prudence of a monk must incorporate the need for an austerity which says that I must live today as though it were my last day, and also as though I would have to live the same every day, over and over again, until I am 100.  Between sleeping on the floor and sleeping on a great mattress, there is monastic discretion.  Between eating three meals a day and eating once a week, there is monastic discretion. read more