August 16, 2013

Proper Procedures Having Not Been Observed

I'm always amused--and a little heartened, in some funny way--when I come across evidence of the continuity of religious life, of how little certain aspects of it seem to change over time. For example, adjusting the names and some of the particulars of place and lodging, it would be no surprise to encounter something very close to this letter of St. Bernard to the abbot of Trois-Fontaines even today:
By way of example, I will tell you about something similar that once happened to me. It was when my brother Bartholomew was still alive. One day he displeased me. Trembling with rage and using a threatening expression and tone of voice, I ordered him to leave the monastery. He immediately walked out, went to one of our barns, and stayed there. When I learned of this I wanted to call him back, but he stated his conditions: he would only return if he were received in his own rank; not in the last rank and as a fugitive, but as if he had been sent away lightly and without just cause. He maintained that he should not have to submit to due process of the Rule for his return, since proper procedures had not been observed in his dismissal. Distrusting my own judgment of this response and of my own actions, and because of the ties of blood between him and me, I entrusted the decision of this affair to the hands of all the brethren. Thus they judged, in my absence, that his return should not be subject to the letter of the Rule since it was certain that his dismissal had not been conducted in a regular fashion.
(Quoted from Jean Leclercq, Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercian Spirit, trans. Claire Lavoie (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1976), 41-42.)

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