Preference and honor

We have just had our annual silent retreat of one week, time enough for the silence of all kinds to deepen further so as to pay attention to what the Spirit of Jesus may be teaching us.

It takes some strength of discipline to do that—in this regard, what comes to mind is St Benedict’s intention “to draw up a plan for the strong kind of monks, the cenobites,” those who commit to living with others in proximate community “under a rule and superior.”

What is it, particularly, that requires this exercise of strength? Is it to keep one’s tongue inside one’s head outside offices and Mass, especially as on a long retreat? No, for that turns out to be relatively easy after a while.

Riffing off of a comment heard once at a table-full of people—“as long as I’m wasting my time waiting for you guys I might as well have another pastry”—what requires strength is the way in which we commit to wait for one another, to prefer one another for love’s sake. The miniscule, hidden, unremarked gestures of honoring each other.

Here are some mundane examples of that preferring and honoring (but what is our life, mostly, but one mundanity after another, strung together, blessed and graced?). Standing at the sink to dry everyone’s dishes every day after dinner, putting down some involving work to ring the bell for offices all the time at the right time, making sure everyone has everything in reach for breakfast and supper, choosing a kind way to speak over one impulsive and possibly hurtful, remembering to fix up the noisy votive glasses at night instead of in the morning, and so on. Everyone could think of their own list of what have been called quotidian blessings.

It is all small stuff, but it is the small stuff, sifted and compacted tightly together over time that builds a strong house that Love can inhabit.

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