March 27, July 27, November 26

It is the abbot’s care to announce, day and night, the hour for the Work of God. They may do so personally or delegate the responsibility to a conscientious monk, so that everything may be done at the proper time.

Only those so authorized are to lead psalms and refrains, after the abbot according to their rank. No monk should presume to read or sing unless they are able to benefit the hearers; let this be done with humility, seriousness, and reverence, and at the abbot’s bidding.

The word conscientious, these days, means more that we are scrupulous and hardworking. These may be, however Benedict does not necessarily mean these. More practically, here the conscientious are those who know the importance of doing all that can be reasonably done to ensure that everyone arrives in good time for communal prayer. This can be done best by someone attentive to the needs of others, someone who has an appreciation of rhythm and routine as a support to prayer.

We can also include the word conscience here. To be someone of good conscience is about having a sense of what is appropriate in any given moment. People such as these are discerning, they are about serving the time of prayer rather than inserting themselves into prayer. People such as this serve the Work of God, they are not caught in themselves.

In life, our attention will be caught in ego, often in subtle ways, ways that may not be noticed by us. In community, these ways are often noticed by others. These ways can be enduring, being a catalyst for a loving response; they can also be experienced by some as annoying. For example, perhaps I tend to always whistle, or maybe in social company I talk about the same two or three things. To be growing conscientiously means that the permanence of things like these to personality is, over time, breaking down.   

Things can go unnoticed because attention, that which would otherwise help us to know where our ego tendencies are, is itself caught in ego. This is a kind of blindness. However, thanks to the practice of meditation and community, attention can incline to the heart and the experience of ego is, over time, revealed. This is a revelation via experience. An awareness grows of the subtleties of attachment, of what we unknowingly cling to. This is what it is to become conscious and to grow in good conscience.

When members are becoming conscious in this way, there is less and less chance that the subtleties of egoic focus and opinion will leak into prayer and become established. Instead, reverence and sincerity can grow thanks to prayer being established as a humble practice. All this is not self-limiting; self-expression and creativity are not curtailed. Instead, the deeper and true self is expressed because humility and reverence have helped throw off a cloak of self-focus. The whole of us is then free enough to go to Jesus in prayer. As we pray and meditate our heart-sight is returned, and we see the ways we have been blind.

They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus – that is, the son of Timaeus – a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, saying ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me.’ And many of them rebuked him and told him to keep quiet, but he only cried out much more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man saying, ‘Courage! Get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus replied by saying, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘Rabbuni, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your faith has saved you.’ And at once he could see again and followed him along the road. (Mark 10: 46-52, RNJB)