I wrote last fall about the monks’ practice of kneeling out. If a monk has made a mistake in their common prayer gathering, he or she will, at the end, go and kneel in the middle of the church until everyone has left. It’s a way of acknowledging the mistake and moving past it. Chapters 45 and 46 of the Rule of St. Benedict address this, when one in the community makes a mistake. It could be a mistake in the oratory: for example if the monk was to lead the chanting of Psalm 95 but was mistakenly on Psalm 96. It might be, too, a mistake in another matter, losing or breaking something that belongs to the community. One monk told me he rang the monastery bells, but he pulled the rope with too much enthusiasm and flipped the bell. It wasn’t a big deal, but it did require someone to go up in the tower to set the bell right. This monk told me he kneeled out at the end of the common meal, kneeling in the refectory until everyone had left, as a way of saying, “Yes I did this, and I’m sorry.”
Whenever people are around we make mistakes. Someone will do the wrong thing or will make a mistake without any ill intent. I’ve broken or lost plenty of things or just messed-up many situations. I remember visiting a church years ago, and the associate pastor was trying to lead a call to worship and no one understood what he was trying to do. The senior pastor stepped up and led it, and a few minutes later the associate pastor apologized and said he mistakenly was using the worship bulletin from the previous Sunday. We human beings do these things; it comes with the whole deal of being who we are. We need ways to acknowledge and forgive these mistakes when we make them. False pride, acting as though we’re perfect without any error, is basically a lie in where we try to make ourselves seem better than others. When one doesn’t acknowledge a mistake, too, it leads to resentment by others, where we whisper behind the back, “Did you see what he did . . .” As in all things, honesty is the best policy here, and it’s best to be honest when we goof. Whether it’s a church, family, business, group of friends, whatever--we need ways we can acknowledge and forgive the mistakes we’ll inevitably make. Benedict here shows when they’re confessed, acknowledged, and forgiven, these mistakes are quickly left in the past where they belong.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict