In his teaching the Abbot should always follow the Apostle’s formula: “Reprove, entreat, rebuke” (2 Tim. 4:2); threatening at one time and coaxing at another as the occasion may require, showing now the stern countenance of a master, now the loving affection of a father. That is to say, it is the undisciplined and restless whom he must reprove rather sharply; it is the obedient, meek and patient whom he must entreat to advance in virtue; while as for the negligent and disdainful, these we charge him to rebuke and correct.
And let him not shut his eyes to the faults of offenders; but, since he has the authority,
let him cut out those faults by the roots as soon as they begin to appear, remembering the fate of Heli, the priest of Silo (1 Kings 2-4). The well-disposed and those of good understanding let him correct with verbal admonition the first and second time. But bold, hard, proud and disobedient characters he should curb at the very beginning of their ill-doing by stripes and other bodily punishments, knowing that it is written, “the fool is not corrected with words” (Prov. 18:2; 29:19), and again, “Beat your son with the rod, and you will deliver his soul from death” (Prov. 23:13-14).
Today’s reading continues with the characteristics of what is expected of the abbot. In the previous reading the abbot is told to not be a respecter of persons. Todays, we see how he is to act towards those intrusted to him.
It seems to me that this is easily translatable to family life. As the abbot is head and authority of the monastery (which is a school of holiness), so parents are the head of their household, entrusted with the upbringing of their children, the ultimate goal of which is their santification.
The advice given here is so simple that it can easily be overlooked, but at the same time profound. [As an aside,”situational leadership” seems to be nothing more than a reworking of these principals, appliying them to the workplace]. As anyone who has children knows, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Each one is unique, with their own personality, and their own level of understanding/maturity. What works for one when they are 1 year old does not necessarily work when they are 3, or for another who is 1.
At times it is tempting to shut one’s eyes to children’s misbehaviour: “I can’t be bothered with it right now; I don’t want them to fear me; it’s just too much of a hassle; let my wife/husband take care of it;…” Whatever the reason we may invoke to justify ourselves, doesn’t it normally come down to a form of philautia – self-love? Yet we have a duty to educate them, to conduct them in the ways of the Lord. The sooner vices are cut off, the better. Even the pagan philosophers of old knew this – that the longer one indulges a vice, the harder it is to extirpate it. Vices are the opposite of virtues: acts practiced habitually that end up becoming second nature and eventually enslaving us, taking away our freedom to chose the good. I sometimes wonder if it is not providential that the Pslams discribe the family as a garden…