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Benedictine Spirituality: Maureen’s story

Wednesday March 16 2016

Benedictine Spirituality: Maureen’s story

Maureen is 45 years old. She speaks at retreats, serves as a spiritual director for several individuals, and frequently teaches at her church.  Twice she has spent several days at a monastery.

It makes sense that I was around 40 when I first went to stay at a monastery. I was ready to explore God in new ways, not just through the mind. The time at the monastery helped me experience God in ways that were less cerebral, less focused on ideas about God, more focused on the ordinary stuff of life, the rhythms of work, play, and prayer. I experienced the rhythms of God’s care in everyday life.

On one of my trips to the monastery, someone I knew was there. It was the daughter of an old college friend of mine. I never expected to see her there. At the time, I was wrestling with mid-life issues. This young woman was the same age as her mother was when I knew her mother. Her presence there enabled me to confront aging in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have done.

When I go to a Benedictine abbey, I enter into something that is already happening. I don’t have to make it happen. The Scriptures in the prayer services are there for me without effort on my part, and there is often a connection between the Scriptures in the services and the issues God is speaking to me about. Often in my everyday life I feel guilty for not praying enough, but at the monastery it’s built in. There’s a real freedom to it.

The rhythm of the schedule at the monastery is comfortable for me in decompressing. It takes a while to get into the rhythm of the divine office – the prayer services – but I slowly begin to enter in.

The monks’ offer of extended hospitality is a true gift, allowing us to enter into a different pace and a different rhythm for a time, a rhythm based on God’s presence in everything.

It’s the pictures from the monastery that I hold on to. I can remember watching a monk mowing the grass in the middle of the track where I would run for exercise. He’s using one of those riding lawn mowers, and he goes slowly, stopping often to empty the container that holds the cut grass. He shows no hurry whatsoever. He works until the bell rings for prayer, and then he stops. He doesn’t work until the job is finished. It was such a contrast with the pace of my running. You really can’t get too compulsive about your work if you’re going to get interrupted over and over all day by the prayer services.

This is the last post in a series on Benedictine spirituality. I’ll conclude the series with a quotation from Heart Whispers: Benedictine Wisdom for Todayby Elizabeth Canham:

Most of us are not called to the cloister, yet we find the practical common sense of St. Benedict and his commitment to finding the holy in the ordinary readily accessible to us. Even the three monastic vows, stability, conversion of life, obedience, translate readily to life in the world. All of us need an anchor, a place of inner security in the midst of a mobile, transitory world, but as we consent to stability, to being where we are instead of escaping into some temporary bolt-hole, we are called to conversion.

The earlier posts in this series about Benedictine spirituality were
     Embracing Structure
     John's Story    
     Who was Benedict?   
     Monastic living in ordinary life    
     The first vow, stability      
    
The second vow, conversion of life
     The third vow, obedience    
     Hospitality, service and work
     Balance and paradox

Excerpted from A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife (InterVarsity Press, 2002), copyright © Lynne Baab. The photo is Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, one of the several beautiful Benedictine monasteries where I have spent entered into monastic rhythms.

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For further reading:

Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday, 1999).

Timothy Fry, OSB, editor, The Rule of St. Benedict in English (Collegeville, Minn,: The Liturgical Press, 1981).

Elizabeth Canham, Heart Whispers: Benedictine Wisdom for Today (Nashville: Upper Room, 1999).

Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, (Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse, 1989, 1997).

Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996).

Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants (Grand Rapids: MI: Brazos Press, 2007).

Gifts of Freedom: The Sabbath and Fasting, article by Lynne Baab that draws on her monastery visits.



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