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