The Monastic Awakening

Yesterday we began the autumn re-reading of the Rule of St Benedict and I was struck, yet again, by popular misconceptions of monastic life as being leisurely to the point of laziness. True, much of our life is routine, and in that routine there are rarely any grand projects or huge enterprises to engage our energies (I speak of nuns here; monks, at least the ordained among them, frequently have different paths to follow). But if we read the Rule carefully and note the verbs Benedict uses, we can see at once that monastic life is meant to be anything but lazy. In the first few paragraphs we are exhorted to listen closely, faithfully fulfil instructions, labour at obedience, wield strong and glorious weapons — and pray. Today’s portion of the Prologue, vv 8 to 13, has us being roused from sleep, opening our eyes to the light, listening hard and running while we have the light of life. Tomorrow, the Lord will be seeking out his worker and giving us a programme to follow. It is all just a little exhausting, especially at four o’clock in the morning.

I jest, of course, about the four o’clock in the morning exhaustion. The truth is, anyone who signs up to monastic life is signing up to searching for God in every moment of every day, in all that we are and do. It is an urgent quest. Benedict’s contrast between the sloth in which we mainly exist and what I call the monastic awakening is stark and demanding. He knows that we will fail often, but we are never to give up. Perseverance isn’t a showy virtue but it is essential to monastic life. Our motivation is God; he is the prize, too.

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6 thoughts on “The Monastic Awakening”

  1. Dear Sister Catherine

    I like your monkie blogs. You seem to have the essential of monastic life- perseverance! The ‘sloth in which we mainly exist’ is an interesting phrase to ponder. I am curious about your second sentence of second paragraph, is that because to search for God as you describe you can only have a chance of doing that in a monastic framework, or for particular individuals that has to be their way. If the latter, then , for non- monastics ‘ searching for God in every moment…..’ is achieved in what ever way they perceive, such a being a dentist? I am not challenging, I am just trying to work out what is the essence that keeps you persevering being a monastic.

    • I like being challenged and always try to put an idea or a phrase into my posts that will make other people react/think/ponder, however you like to describe it. I believe that every one of us is a vocation, i.e. we are called by God in a special way, and he means us to find him, not just search for him. He has, I’m fairly certain, called me to be a Benedictine; he may have called someone else to be a family person. I will fulfil my vocation and best seek for God as a Benedictine. The family person will fulfil his/her vocation and best seek God by being a family person and all that flows from that. Neither is to be preferred to the other. It is pleasing God that matters, and we do that by being faithful to the grace he has given us. A Cistercian monk used to tell a lovely story of a ‘bus conductor standing before God to be judged at the end of time. And God just asked him, ‘Did you ‘bus conduct with all your heart?’ And because he had tried, God welcomed him into heaven above some of the ‘professionally religious’ — who may well include Benedictines like me. So, be encouraged. You don’t have to do anything extraordinary (most of the time!) to be pleasing God.

      • Well Sister, it seems a most wonderful thing to me that God is so very willing to be pleasing to us all the time. He has given us so many things to be pleased and delighted with. He is the giver of all good gifts which include the ability to make a living to care for family and loved ones!

      • Thank you for taking the time to attempt to explain. So you desire to be pleasing to God- you are fairly certain that means being a Benedictibe Nun – so you choose to be Benedictine to fulfil your desire to please God- and by God’s grace you persevere in that choice.
        ‘the sloth in which we mainly exist’ ? Less lazy, more alert to and find what is pkeasing to God – do your best by the grace of God. I guess it is not up to us to judge or determine what is pkeasing to God? – God does what he wills.
        ‘ and he means us to find him’ – I like that bit , although I wonder if sometimes he is n plain sight yet we still don’t see. – thanks

  2. I heard a monk talking a few years ago, not a Benedictine, and he said that we all have a particular job to do. If we don‘t do it, it won‘t get done, so that bit of God‘s jigsaw will always be missing. I rather liked that image. Means we just have to conduct buses to our best ability!

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