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How to Correct One’s Peers with Charity

Gregory Johnson

Abbot Arsenius was a man famous for holiness throughout the monastic orders. In the world he had held the high rank of tutor to the Emperor Theodosius’ sons, Arcadius and Honorius, who afterwards succeeded their father and were emperors themselves. Yet, for all his sanctity, he had some little faults from which his holiness did not deliver him.

Monks discussing

The monks consult on how to correct Abbot Arsenius
As he had been of such high rank and had lived in such comfort in the world, he retained some remnants of the easy ways and habits of the palace where he had been brought up. Thus, when he sat with the rest of the community, he had a worldly way of raising and crossing his legs.

This custom appeared to all the monks to be lacking in modesty. They wanted to tell him of it, but no one dared, finding much difficulty in bringing such a trifling matter to the notice of so grave and venerable an Abbot. They consulted about it, and the Abbot Father, a prudent and holy man, suggested an excellent means to resolve the problem.

He told the other monks, “Let us do this: The first time we are all together, I will put myself in that same posture. Then do you rebuke me for it, and I will correct myself, and so he will take the hint.” They all thought it an excellent idea, and thus the plan was carried out the next time they were together for a spiritual conference. The Abbot Father took the same posture as Arsenius, and an older monk berated him for his want of modesty and the bad example that he showed. He humbly accepted the rebuke and took a proper position.

Abbot Arsenius, seeing what had passed, almost imperceptibly lowered his own leg little by little until he was also sitting in a proper position. He took the admonition so well as to never again fall into that fault. Thus should we also be willing to apply any public admonition or rebuke that is given to another. Hence also we see a charitable means to correct and admonish our peers or even one who is above us.

Selected from Alphonsus Rodriguez, Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues,
Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1929, vol. 3, pp. 489-490.
Posted August 7, 2010
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