Today Bishop Joe spoke on our Monastic Promises. This was good for me because it will lead me nicely into the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (BSWR) that I will be making in about two weeks.*
In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time since I entered 4 years ago studying the promises, so today was a wonderful opportunity for reflection. After Bishop Joe was finished, I made another cup of coffee and took my notebooks and books out to the patio to write about them.
There are 3 promises we make as Benedictines: Stability, Obedience and Fidelity to the monastic way of life. They are key to our vocational journey of seeking God together. Bishop Joe provided the following reflections (which are modified by my own observations).
Stability is seeking God seriously, day in and day out, with one’s community. It requires commitment and perseverance.
Obedience is, in Bishop Joe’s view (and he, too, belongs to a religious community), the hardest of the vows – especially in today’s individualistic culture. Self interest is where it’s at!
(I believe you can see evidence of today’s self interest with the recent financial crisis.)
However important obedience is in religious life, it doesn’t mean blindly doing as we are told. “It does not demand conformity, uniformity and childish blindness but rather honors the diversity, individual conscience and personal dignity of the members.” – Wisdom from the Tradition
Obedience comes from the Latin, obedire, which means to listen. Our commitment is to listen to and obey God’s will as communicated through Scripture and through one another.
Obedience means that the whole community listens to one another, to seek God together. It means that I need to make sure whatever I want to do benefits the community. It means that if I am being asked to do something that I don’t sense is right for me, I have to listen both to the Sister who is asking, and to my own heart. If my heart is uneasy about it, it may not be right for me (and, as a valued part of the community, my own health – physical and emotional – is important).
Examples range from the mundane – Will you help Sister Catherine on the computer? – to the middling – Will you move from this bedroom to another? – to the life-changing – Will you take a new job? Each time, we seek to balance the good of the community and the good of ourselves as we consider our answer. Each time we seek to discern God’s will, and embrace our Sisters with our committed, loving reply.
Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life means being faithful to our Benedictine values. These values are things like simplicity, community, hospitality, silence, stewardship and balance. Watch for later blogs on these Benedictine values!
*BSWR is a 21-day program, held in June and July, consisting of a workshop component and a six-day silent, directed retreat. It is designed for monastics in temporary commitment/first profession who are considering or preparing for perpetual profession. This workshop/retreat is best experienced 5-16 months prior to making perpetual profession. I am sure Monastic Promises will be something about which we will talk, share, reflect and study!