I am going to ask you a question and I predict that your internal answer is either going to be, “What!? Who does that!?” or, “Well, Yeah, who doesn’t?”….or maybe somewhere in between in this range: “…Yes. Yes I do. But it never occurred to me that other people did too….”
Are you ready for the question?
Do you ever fantasize about joining a monastery or a convent? And the word “fantasy” is an intentional part of the question. If you actually feel “called” to the monastic life, please call a spiritual advisor now to help you with your discernment. It is a special person who feels called to this, and no one wants you to slip through the cracks.
I feel called to my baptismal, priestly, and family identities, I do not feel called to the monastic life. But I have found myself (in the chaos of modern living) fantasizing about living in a convent. And here is why:
Our modern life is so frenetic. Monastic life is intentionally rhythmic. I do not intentionally romanticize monasticism, but there is a richness there that does sometimes allude the rest of us.
I was recently reading about Christianity’s history with monasteries in Gerald Sittser’s book, Water from a Deep Well. It struck me as very poignant that the chapter on Monasticism is titled “Rhythm”.
We humans are made for rhythm. We know this when the rain makes us tap our feet or when the swishing windshield wipers put a song in our head. We know this when we see a small child drumming in flawless time.
But rhythm goes beyond song. Rhythm is predictability, familiarity, knowing what will happen so you can forget about the details and sink in deep to the beauty of life.
When my children were very small, I learned that they were happiest (and thus loveliest to be around) when they had rhythm; when things happened at the same time each day and each week, with the same little accompanying songs, and the same expectations. I remember when I was a child and I knew that weekdays were for cereal, orange juice, and the school bus. Saturdays were for sleeping late, watching Saturday morning cartoons, and then cleaning the house. Sundays were for church. This was comforting as a child (and that has not changed with age). This was rhythm.
Monasticism invites a rhythm of work and prayer into each day, each week, each month. In the words of Sittser’s book, “Monasteries sanctify time, as if to show that all time belongs to God and our use of time finds meaning only if we do all our tasks, both religious and secular, to honor and serve God.”
To sanctify time and honor that it truly belongs to God, it seems right to me that we be intentional about how we make use of the gift of each hour.
When I am rushing through a to-do list, cleaning the house on the fly, answering a few emails here and there, letting each email or phone call dictate how I will spend the next bit of time, I know in my heart that something is off.
And then I remember the monastics, and I take a deep breath, and say a prayer, and ask God to help me make a plan. I ask for predictability. I ask for rhythm and ritual and the wherewithal to create and stick to the kind of flow that has some space, some quiet, some productivity, and some room for the holy spirit to be discerned.
As we approach a new program year here at church, I invite you, as an individual or as a household, to be intentional, to seek rituals and patterns in life, to breathe, to be grateful, to pray, and to find a rhythm that makes your heart sing.
Yours in Christ,