Artisans

St. John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish Carmelite priest and poet, is best known today for his treatise on The Dark Night of the Soul. Although he published nothing in his lifetime, his spiritual insights ultimately led to him be named a Doctor of the Church (in 1926).

He left behind a number of letters and short essays that were sent to fellow friars and nuns in the monasteries and convents he founded. I recently came across one entitled Precautions, which Fr. John wrote to some nuns, to guide them in their spiritual formation. It is frank and practical. Fr. John’s insight has not dated after 400+ years. He wrote the sisters bluntly, “Be convinced that in monasteries and communities there is never a lack of stumbling blocks… God permits this.”

So what do you do in order to try to live a holy Christian life while having to live with other Christians? Fr. John minces no words.

“Never be scandalized or astonished no matter what you chance to see or learn of…”

This advice cuts right in to our habit of strong opinions and quick judgement on our companions. Fr. John wants his listeners to cultivate the humility of Jesus Christ if we claim to follow him..

Fr. John knows how deep our desires to be in control reach inside our soul. He addresses our proud heart again:

“No matter how right you think you are… prefer to be taught by all rather than desire to teach even the least of all.”

Fr. John found a wonderful word to sum up the relationship he wants his readers to accept. He sets up the idea by asking that they recall why anyone would accept the rules of poverty, chastity and obedience that are part of a religious order. Those in a religious community have gathered so that they need not live in bondage to the desires of the world, the flesh and the devil. Those in community with you are sent by God to help you in this.

“You have come to the monastery so that all may fashion you and try you. You should think that all in the community are artisans (as indeed they are) there to fashion you with words and deeds.”

Artisans. When I read that word I knew I would share it with you on this blog.

But what slaps me in the face is how the Lord arranged a lab session in this principle for me RIGHT NOW WHILE I WAS WRITING. One of my brothers in Christ interrupted me to ask for a copy of an old out of date document. “I need a copy,” they said. “I like to keep things.”

It was such a small thing. But it was silly. It was unnecessary. I couldn’t help it. I stared at them. Then I stared at the words I have just copied out for you.

“Never be scandalized or astonished no matter what you chance to see or learn of…”

“No matter how right you think you are… prefer to be taught…”

“You have come to the [Christian faith] so that all may fashion you and try you. You should think that all in the community are artisans (as indeed they are) there to fashion you with words and deeds.”

St, John of the Cross, my distant spiritual director, had one other comment that sifts my heart tonight.

“(If you are) not being governed by obedience in all things, you culpably err, since God wants obedience more than sacrifice      [I Samuel 15:22].”

…………………………………………………………………………

Find a copy of the St. John of the Cross list of Precautions online by clicking here.

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About Deacon Rick

I am a retired Deacon in Lakeland Florida.
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One Response to Artisans

  1. Deacon Rick says:

    Heh! Over on Facebook my friend Roger left this comment:
    How am I to spend any time loving the Lord I can’t see when there’s all these people right in front of me, pestering me to death?

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