As someone who has been an active/contemplative for some 40 years and a ‘monastery junky’ for just as long, I often have conversations with people that ask about the life and that wonder about how it might be part of their own lives. Sometimes they even ask if it is possible to be a ‘monk in the world.’
This idea of a so-called lay-monasticism has gotten some traction in recent years. In fact our own bookstore carries titles with messages like ‘be a monk without giving up your day job,’ and ‘life as a lay monk.’
Without getting too judgmental about it, (nor too harsh, I hope) being a monastic while dealing with jobs, kids, overdue bills and exercise routines is fundamentally impossible.
Monasticism requires complete surrender. Monasticism requires living in community. Monastic life, especially Cistercian monastic life, is a full time commitment and full time job designed to seek God in that complete surrender.
Now this doesn’t mean that some principles of monastic life aren’t useable by those outside the cloister. I have lived many of those principles in a life filled with jobs, kids, overdue bills and exercise routines. I have prayed the Divine Office with the Liturgy of the Hours for almost all of those 40 years. My rosary is important to me, I try to do lectio divina everyday and have adopted the Cistercian practice of 30 minutes of silent prayer everyday. In other words while I would never say I am a monk-or someone who is a ‘monk in the world’- I do have monastic practices that are part of my spiritual life.
Some monastics have written beautifully and powerfully about monastic practices and principles for laypeople. Joan Chittister comes to mind, as do David Stendahl-Rast and Terrence Kardong. And our own Abbot, Father Robert along with Father James have written beautifully about the monastic life on our web site with references to applicability for laypeople.
But what they write about is the Rule of St. Benedict being somewhat applicable for living in the world. They write with valuable information about using lectio and praying the Office and seeing aspects of the Rule such as fasting as applicable. The Abbot’s recent posts of his Chapter Talks about humility provided lots of valuable information for those of us not called to the cloister. Writing about humility and obedience in these books and web postings inform us and guide us, even if we are living with a busy lifestyle.
What they don’t call us to is playact-make believe we are monks or nuns. Rather they call us to see the essential power of the Rule of St. Benedict as being in its call to a more perfect life in Christ. A call everyone can answer.
Almost the first thing I say to the participants in our Monastic Immersion Weekends is ‘don’t make believe; don’t waste your precious 48 hours with us at the monastery thinking about how you are a monk…you aren’t’ . Rather, I suggest, watch and live the life, feel the life and the importance of God in all things as manifested in a monastic life–then apply it to your life–your ‘not even close to being a monk’ life…
On May 17th I will conduct a half day session called St. Benedict for the Rest of Us in the Mansion next to the church. During this program we will explore Benedictine and monastic practices and principles and talk about how we can use them in our daily life. And we’ll talk about creating a ‘personal horarium’ or rhythm of prayer, much like the monastic rhythm of prayer. We’ll spend time with Benedict’s Rule (a simple 9000 word document that still is in force in every Benedictine monastery in the world), and we’ll extract from it Benedict’s wisdom for all people, even those of us not called to be monks or nuns.
Our Lady of the Holy Cross is first and foremost a house of prayer. But in following the Rule of St. Benedict it is also a ‘school for the Lord’s service,’ (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 45)…join us in ‘school’ as we explore the power and beauty of St. Benedict for the rest of us.
We will provide more details as we get closer but if you would like to reserve your spot for this program send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you on the list. Cost of the program will be minimal to cover costs of books and materials…