31 March 2013

Lent: Christ & My New Monasticism

In May 1995 I attended a Benedictine Experience in New Harmony, IN. hosted by The Friends of St. Benedict. Fr. Benedict Reid, OSB, a recently retired abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey, Three Rivers, MI. led our week of living according to St. Benedict’s Rule. I was enmeshed in crisis searching to structure day-to-day life. Regularly praying and leading Morning Prayer was one lifeline to an anchor that worked. One year later I completed Education for Ministry (EFM). And so I began to implement life changes that mirrored what Father Benedict wrote 6 year later.
“How can we simplify the life of the parish so that people of many backgrounds do not stumble over one another’s culture? Can many small groups in the parish be allowed to explore various kinds of spirituality —classical Western, Eastern, AA, holistic health, journaling, meditation, exercise and diet, biblical, sacramental, environmental well-being, justice for the poor, inner-transformation programs, healing of memories, world peace, and many more? If a particular way of spirituality promotes health and growth, then even if not named directly, Christ and the Spirit must surely be there. Bringing all of this spirituality to the Eucharist could make it a celebration and a feast of extraordinary richness.”[1]
My relationship with prayer, scripture, worship & sacraments is active. I attend worship service in my spiritual home and contribute to maintain my holy place. There I am fed and I glean spiritual insight of God in the world. I observe and respect traditional catholic sacraments. I believe in so doing I’m blessed and place my little ego in proper perspective. I don’t feel badly if I skip.  I’m working to break out my religious & spiritual practices beyond bricks & mortar into my daily living. Father Benedict Reid’s spiritual practice list liberates.
Monks live inside a monastery, a campus-dei behind definitive boundaries and apart from everyday distractions. Living is ordered in a balanced way to reflect God in the monk, their cloistered community and the world. Monks are called to God. Monks must pay attention; monks are supported to pay attention to God. I like the Benedictine Way. I read The Rule of St. Benedict and Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living, a contemporary restatement of Benedict’s Rule for a start. The Benedictine monastic practice is a balance of prayer, worship and sacrament, study and reflection, and labor.
St. Benedict says to labor with your body is to pray. Now I earn income with my body push-mowing lawns. I help some, who have a poverty of resources, as I am able. I pray anyplace that suits. The Book of Common Prayer is my go-to source for narrative Christian prayer. I use my handheld to go to it or to read Morning or Evening Prayer. I read religious literature & reflect upon it most often with Old & New Testaments. I don’t limit myself to those words of God. I sit in silence in a Centering Prayer group. I practice Taoist Tai Chi and so doing I pray in silence and movement and gentle strength with my body. Usually I pray at night with a thanksgiving and a hope ending with my lay-me-down to sleep. I choose to pay attention beyond the bricks & mortar. Choosing to practice is a part of The New Monasticism.
“The New Monasticism seeks to marry contemplation with action, often in response to the needs of the poor and the marginalized in urban locations. It seeks community among like-minded people who want to live out a radical expression of Christianity in a “post-Christian” world–a life that cuts to the bone of the Gospel. It denies cheap grace. It seeks forms of worship that emphasize inclusion, participation, lack of hierarchy, contemplative practices, the unleashing of voices. Its followers formulate and write personal Rules of Life (Franciscan) to guide them in personal spiritual practice that foster the delicate balance between contemplation and action.”[2]
The New Monasticism living model fosters observant completive religious & spiritual life without walls. New Monastic acts are concrete steps one can choose, take, eat, make, do and re-make. The New Monasticism is not limited to one religion, one denominational practice or one single spiritual practice. This living model weaves a personal relationship with God through prayer, scripture, worship, sacraments, learning, reflection, music, and work into my order of living. I believe it offers a living reformation and an alternative practice to contemporary consumer/secular market culture. The new monastic model gently transforms me. I tell my wife I’d like to form a foot-washing ministry.
Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. I’m a sinner, no question. I’ve often failed to do what I ought to have done. I’ve often done what I ought not to have done. All that I was, all that I am, and all that I will be is the life I have in, by, and through Christ and God’s church. And I believe spiritual and religious walls are coming down. Christ and the Spirit are surely there too.

[1] www.stpaulcathedral.org/files/SSPsummer2001.pdf: DOM Benedict Reid, OSB, first Abbott of St. Gregory’s Abbey of Three Rivers, Michigan, now retired, writes in the 2001, PRINTER, the newsletter of The Society of St. Paul: A Monastic Order of the Episcopal Church

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