I can’t say that there was an overwhelming response to the post about revising the website, but of the few comments made, there was interest about hearing more from individual monks.
On my own wish-list, I’d like to see a greater variety of points-of-view, more variety in the mode of expression than the contrast between what I post and what Kurt Aschermann posts. In passing, on several occasions, I’ve offered an open invitation to all the other members of the community. No one has bitten at that bait. In fact, it does have the effect of bait at all. No one has even approached the lure–if it can be called that.
And I can both understand that and empathize. In a small community of eleven monks, with us trying to cover all bases, who has the time to type up posts for the website? When I have some free time, I certainly don’t spend it adding another post. And there are other factors: how many people do you know who are confident to write a post? Or feel they have something to say? In this age of Facebook, how many would be afraid of being able to write nothing better than at the level of a Facebook post? All told, I’d be quite content to allow someone else, whose job it was, to write the posts for the website.
But there’s other, deeper foundations underlying the absence of other authors on this website. That thought sent me leafing through our Constitutions and Statutes which reminded me of the essential role played by silence and solitude in our vocation, not to mention austerity, modesty, restraint and humility. Our vocation should leave plenty of room for what can’t be said; and room for silence than allows mystery to exist as mystery. If we are to represent an alternative to the chatter of our current culture, the lack of respect for what can’t be said, and the self-absorbed cult of ego, it is not likely for monks and nuns to shine the florescent glare of self-disclosure on their experience and post it on the web. Words can’t capture the most important realities without draining them of life.
I often find in spiritual direction, or even in the sacrament of reconciliation, a value in narrating my own development and struggles–if and when that seems helpful. Timing is crucial and some sort of rapport, some common ground has to be already solidly in place. How and what exactly is said will vary from person to person. It is not an objective commodity, equally effective in all situations and for all comers. To be appropriate and effective, to whom what is said has to be carefully judged. And how would I value the other person’s dignity, were I to offer promiscuously the same disclosure to everyone? To what sort of people could gratuitous exhibitionism be helpful? When does that become another form of bragging?
No, that sort of self-disclosure can only be communicated in a personal environment of trust. If nothing else, we’d no longer be offering something Cistercian and monastic. We’d just be capitalizing on the monastic “label” or “brand” without living up to it, without delivering the goods.
Even revamping the format of the website will not be occasion for morphing into non-monastic content. We are what we are: a monastic website offering glimpses of monastic spirituality. We may no longer build high enclosure walls around the monastic property, or have grills separating our guests from us in our church, but ours is an enclosed vocation and we still owe it to you, our readers, to observe silence and enclosure, even in cyber-terms.