If a Brother is Assigned an Impossible Task

If a Brother is Assigned an Impossible Task

In this week's Blog our abbot Fr. Paul Mark comments on his experience of the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 68, If a Brother is Assigned an Impossible Task:

If it happens that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a brother, let him nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience. But if he sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of his strength, let him submit the reasons for his inability to the one who is over him in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction. And if after these representations the Superior still persists in his decision and command, let the subject know that this is for his good, and let him obey out of love, trusting in the help of God.  –RB 68

“I was a novice assigned to assist the brother mechanic in the monastery garage on a regular basis.  At some point I was told the assignment as assistant to the mechanic would be permanent.  I was not pleased.  I did not like the work.  It was dirty, greasy, and the vehicle maintenance repetitive. 

I informed the novice director I didn’t think I was the one for the job feeling that others were better qualified than I was.  He pointed out my organizational skills, my ability to focus to see a job through from beginning to end, and my attention to detail, so necessary when tracing a mechanical problem to is origin.

I then remembered several earlier occasions where I did obtain my way to do things only to discover that getting my way did not end so well but in fact complicated things.  Although I was still not enthused I decided there was wisdom in obeying.  It was a lesson in trust that the superior knew and saw a talent and ability in me that I was not aware of.

Saint Benedict does allow dialogue between superior and brother when the brother feels he is being assigned an impossible task.  Nevertheless, if the superior determines the task is to be done the brother is called to trust, to love, and to believe with faith that the course of action is best for him.  With hindsight this attitude and course of action has always proven true in my experience.”