A Bucket List for a Benedictine

Once upon a time, when we were trying to fundraise for a permanent home, we were advised to read the Mail Online because it covers all the news other online newspapers don’t deign to notice. This includes an almost daily ‘cancer story,’ which often contains a bucket-list of things the cancer sufferer would like to achieve or experience before he or she dies. Personally, I haven’t much time for these. I’m just hoping I’ll have time to tidy my sock drawer, get the accounts in order and burn all the rubbish before I go to meet my Creator.* But it is worth thinking about. What would a Benedictine hope to achieve or experience before dying?

I think first on the list would come the desire to have found, not merely sought, God in prayer, in community, in obedience to the superior. My well-known scepticism about some modern movements that call themselves Benedictine stems from the fact that they seem to short-circuit the process of seeking: they don’t demand that lifelong gift of the entire self that I’d say was essential to the monastic quest for God. Those of us who are Benedictines know that we need the kind of focus and discipline monasticism gives or we’d either give up or make accommodations that, inch by inch, would lead us away from God. We need to stick at this God-seeking of ours. Patience and perseverance in the quest are what matters, and the hope that one day we shall glimpse him of whom our heart has spoken.

Second on my bucket-list would come the desire to have shared the joy and peace of the cloister with others. It is not an easy joy or a facile peace. The crown of thorns that surrounds our motto, pax, has a two-fold nature: it is both the means of attaining what lies within, and a protection for what is attained. There never is, in this life, a moment when the guard can drop or we can say the struggle is at an end, pace St Benedict in RB 7.67. But we are curiously apt to try to keep good things to ourselves, so sharing, learning to be generous, is also a lifelong requirement.

Third I think I would put the desire to have enriched, in however small a degree, the lives of those with whom we may have no direct connection. The scholarship of the Benedictines, the music, the beautiful buildings, the concern for liturgy, they are all part and parcel of the wider vision I think monks and nuns have always had. What we do individually is insignificant; what we do as a community, as a fraterna acies, is much more than we can ever think or dream. Cassian once remarked that anyone who removed even a little dust from the oratory would not go unrewarded. I like to think that those of us who have not ourselves been anything very wonderful but have enabled others to achieve something will not go unrewarded, either.

So, three things in my bucket-list, which is itself very Benedictine (St Benedict’s Rule is full of three-fold patterns); three things for me to aim at personally, three things for the community and our oblates to aim at, too. And if you think they are difficult of achievement, just remember what St Benedict advises: ‘Where our nature is powerless, let us ask the Lord to supply the help of his grace.’ (RB Prologue 47)

*I wouldn’t mind having paid off the bank loan for the house, either; but it’s tidying the sock drawer that weighs on my mind.

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12 thoughts on “A Bucket List for a Benedictine”

  1. Wonderful thoughts.

    I don’t have a bucket list, but I wouldn’t go far wrong if I incorporated all three of yours into one if I planned it.

    I suspect that my bucket list would include having the strength to persevere in allowing God to be in my life and mine in his.
    Putting the world aside for the sake of the Kingdom.

  2. Your online ministry certainly does enrich my life ~ and challenge, inspire and provoke thoughtful contemplation. The occasional perspectives of Bro Duncan are also much appreciated.

  3. Bucket lists be blowed: not my cup of tea at all. Hope lists for me and your threefold approach is inspiring. To find God in all things, to share joy and peace and to enrich others to the end. And then to answer to my maker.
    Thank you for the inspiration.
    (sock drawer OK, but shed…..)

  4. I have no bucket list myself but I was particularly taken with a few of your words:

    “those of us who have not ourselves been anything very wonderful but have enabled others to achieve something”.

    I don’t know if I have enabled anyone to achieve anything wonderful, probably not and like most of us, I will probably never know. I think, Sister, that to enable someone to do something wonderful is itself wonderful.

    Thank you.

  5. Not the sock drawer but the piles of books. When they’re sorted, I’m ready to go. Yours is a fine bucket list. May I be
    a copycat and make it mine? Thank you for your thoughts and
    this blogl

  6. Only you and your maker can know if you achieve the first on your list, but it seems to me that you have already achieved numbers 2 and 3. You have been an inspiration and guide to me in the past couple of years – more than you might imagine.

    So, only one to go: plenty of time for the sock drawer then! 🙂
    Bless you.

  7. I was greatly moved by your blog this morning. I just want you to know that you truly have “shared the joy and peace of the cloister with others.” Perhaps not the physical sharing of the cloister, but we create and share a moment of cloister as I log on each morning to read your blog. Thank you.

  8. Without any flattery at all I can assure you that you meet yor third objective every time you add to your blog. After a day that might have thrown some unpleasant trials as well as bountiful joys, it is wonderful to read something fresh and thoughtful that challenges without nagging. Your words reach out and direct my attention back to God by holding up a lens to life and suggesting how I might do something differently. There are many sources of information on the web but very few sources of inspiration.
    Thanks and good luck with number one and two on the list!

  9. Thank you. I’ve been very moved by your kind comments. This blog really is a team effort — you the readers, Quietnun, Bro Duncan PBGV and me — but I hope Christ is at the centre as inspiration and motivator. Bless you!

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