It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast so henceforward; and therefore:

Rule of St. Albert, No. 3

When Pope St. John XXIII convened the Bishops of the world to make the church more responsive to the needs of the times through Vatican Council II, the changes were drastic and many opposed.

It was unimaginable for many that lay persons and brothers were now able to take the Holy Communion under both species – bread and wine – on a regular basis. Some priests would even refuse to drink from the same cup with the lay and brothers.

For Br. Gesuino Carbone, OCarm, however, he believed in the wisdom of the church fathers at the time, and as such, he said, “If that’s what the church allows, that’s what is good for me.”

But he was also respectful to the sensitivities of his brothers, and so when a brother seemed reluctant to drink from the same cup, he uses a silver spoon to receive the wine.

Sometimes we are not as accepting when it comes to rules and policies that would break the norm and take us out of our comfort zones. Reasons would not be of lack. There will be plenty of those.

When the hermits of Mt. Carmel decided to ask St. Albert of Jerusalem to craft a rule for them, they were anticipating a total change of their lifestyle, realizing that eventually they would need to leave Mt. Carmel.

They knew that they would have to give up something, but they also knew that if they wanted to recreate the Mt. Carmel that they loved, they would need each other, for each possesses a piece of that sacred mountain, and each piece is precious. But for them to be able to live a life in community, order must be established, and each one must learn to express his freedom in relation to each other.

That was the role of the rule, to keep these pilgrims and hermits together at a time when their way of life was being threatened, and the rule has helped them define themselves and mark their role in the Church as a whole.

When a rule seems to challenge your beliefs, what do you do?

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Lord grant me a heart that is ready to listen to the wisdom of the rules that you have set before me, not blindly accepting, but critically imbibing, looking for your hand in each event. Amen.


No extras

You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 13

When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God, he reminded them that they should not bring any extras, not money for their food or any bag for that matter (Matthew 10:5-15 and Luke 10:1-12).

He stripped his disciples of their comforts and taught them to rely solely on God, as he said in Matthew 6:25-26:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This is poverty.

Sometimes we tend to look at life based on our perceived needs and out inability to provide such needs. We then panic and resort to a lot of complaining, or at times even express our anger and frustration through harmful ways. We tend to forget that, come to think of it, we have enough of what we really need.

When Pope Innocent IV revised the Rule of Life of the Carmelites in 1247, he made sure that this would be suited to their new lifestyle, which at the time was beginning to be influenced by the Mendicant Orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans.

Their migration from Mt. Carmel back to Europe, made it impossible for them to live a hermit’s life, and for their survival they needed animals for them to produce their own food. However, they were to have all these based on their need and not for any other reason.

When we start to accumulate things even if we don’t need them, we start to also lose sight of our being Christians. We start to go on a “possessing” frenzy and instead of focusing on doing our Christian duties, we become more concerned on how we could increase our yields or profit. And we make reasons like, “We need it for us to be more effective in our ministries,” or such other similar reasons.

There is a reason why Jesus did not want his disciples to bring extra stuffs when he sent them out to preach the Good News, and there is a reason why he forbade them to take payment for their services. For Jesus, it is enough that they be satisfied with having food to eat and a shelter for the night, other than that, its excess.

This is poverty. The absence of excess.

Pope Innocent IV may have permitted us to do something about our livelihood, but he gave this permission with caution. It should be based on our actual need, not our perceived need, which, most of time, are but our wants disguised.

How do I live my poverty?

Luke 10:1-7
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

Lord, please grant me a heart that desires only that which you desire for me. Allow me to be grateful for the little that I have and to appreciate your goodness for providing all that I need. Amen.

Power trip

Your brother B., and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make yourself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 22

Because of the authority, power and responsibility that some people are privileged to have been lent with, they sometimes forget that such authority, power, and responsibility must be exercised with the humility of a servant, just like Christ, and not as a king like Herod or the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s time.

A brother once came to me, distraught and disturbed. When he called a community of missionary sisters catering to migrant workers, asking permission to pray in their chapel for a few minutes, he was greeted by a very warm and grandmotherly voice, happy to hear that a group of brothers would visit them. She said she’d ask permission from their superior first, a common protocol among religious communities. The line went silent for a few minutes, but a few minutes later, he said that he was surprised to overhear a very angry lady shouting to the top of her breath. She was telling someone to lie and say that their chapel was under renovation. The brother who overheard the conversation, did not know what to do. He did not know how he should react, knowing that it was the sweet grandmother who was scolded by the angry lady.

A few minutes later, the comforting voice on the other end of the line came back, apologizing, saying that their chapel was being repaired. He wanted to console the person on the other line, believing that he must have caused the nice old lady sorrow, but he decided to just thank her and placed the phone down.

What really bothered him was when he heard that a few days later the nun superior of that congregation reprimanded his superior because he intruded their convent and that he called at a very unholy hour of the night. Allegations which he said were not true, because as a religious himself, he knows that the nuns have schedules to follow, especially when it comes to prayers.

All of us have issues to face, but when we are placed in the position to be the first among our brothers or sisters, that does not give us the right or the authority to lord over our brothers and sisters, so much more, on others who has nothing to do with us, except perhaps for an occasional crossing of paths. And definitely, it is just not right for us to use the influence being afforded to us, just to satisfy whatever issues we may be facing at the moment.

How much of a brother/sister have I become for others?

Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Lord, grant me a humble heart, one with the desire to serve my brothers and sisters with an ever grateful and happy heart. And allow me to understand others who are in pain. Amen.