Secular Monasticism: A Journey
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I faithfully spent at least one or two overnights a month at the Mission and nearly every Sunday went to the Monastery for Sunday Solemn Vespers after my three Masses at the parish I was interim for in San Clemente CA.
During this time I was living alone as my spouse was in Mexico trying to find a way to reunite legally after our marriage had been discovered in the Anglican Church in Mexico and I was forced to retire from active ministry in the Anglican Church in Mexico. As I barely began to experience a deeper peace and acceptance of my situation after months of remorse once again, many tears of sadness and anguish that went deeper than I could ever imagine, my life began to find a deeper rhythm and focus as I spent significant times of prayer day in and day out, one day at a time, observing the ancient traditional hours of daily prayer.
Where does this longing for new new and old monasticism forms of living come from? Are my desires only my desires or are there others out there who are feeling what I am feeling?
These were the things that I too was so deeply looking for in my own personal setting and circumstances. I am married, I do not have the freedom to live in a monastery in Community with a bunch of monks. But I want this rhythm, this rule, this structure, which could become the backbone of my religious existence.
Some form of Benedictine Monasticism seemed to hold the answer. It is almost impossible to speak of monasticism in the singular as there were many monasticisms. As any historian would agree. Monasticism is multi faceted and multi layered as a tradition and movement within historical christianity. Everyone is to be treated with the same respect and honor.
So what about me? Is there some way that I can experience more deeply this long and historic tradition within Christianity and in many other religions without compromising the current commitments I have made publicly before God and Kin? How and where might I find them? For months I had seen lovely postings by the Prior Peter Pearson osb who is both a monk, and an episcopal priest, an Icon writer and master and the founder of the community.
His simple posts with simple phrases about the monastic life spoke to me time after time as I followed his musings.
His visuals always left my heart soaring. One day I decided to investigate what this was. I sent a private message to Peter inquiring what this group was all about. We do this, filled with prayerful reverence and in community with one another, in the hopes that our lives will serve in whatever way God wishes and wills. We will strive to live this vision, bringing forth the best of all that has gone before us, in a manner that is fitting for this place and this time. This also requires that we remain open to new ideas and expressions of all kinds: religious, political, social, artistic, intellectual, and cultural because the whisper of God may be present there too, leading us into a new way of experiencing and expressing the Reign of God in our midst.
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For those of us who are called to this way of life, these words set our hearts on fire and there is nothing for us to do but respond with our whole being. We invite you to join us on this quest for God in community. The clincher! Even now as I read these words my heart sings at their perusing.
It all came back to Longings and Dissatisfaction. If I was to begin this new path in life, this new vocation I had to understand what these longings and dissatisfactions were leading me in to. The longing is that to which St.
Augustine alludes as the inner restlessness: an unrequited desire until the divine satisfies the deepest of all needs. The longing of course are the longings that all of us feel from time to time and from season to season. They run deep. Some call it existential angst!
Secular Monasticism : Jane Fitz-gibbon :
We face these especially during times of change and transition. St Augustine new it well. He spent most of his adult life in that process which resulted in his famous Confessions. The Monastic path I believe more than anything is an awakening to that longing for God which runs through the blood of our veins and continues on until the very last breath. It is longing to savor.
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The dissatisfaction, on the other hand is negative. It arises with the frustration that societies, clubs, organizations, and churches too often work against the deepest longings of the soul. The routinization of religion quenches the spirit. The banality of bureaucracy pours water on fire. There must be something more. Longing and dissatisfaction lead to the monastic path.
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But they are really complimentary. One attracts, the other repels and distances. It is the Pulley that George Herbert talked about in his mystical poetry. It was not until I was fed up with what was not fulfilling and nourishing in my life that I could return to the Well and fountain of life. So strength first made a way; Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
This well was found in following the traditional practices of monastic life and in joining a monastic community, better said communities that I could be part of. Not taking the journey alone. C Cummings a Trappist Monk from Australia and frequent writer on Monasticism speaks of this journey that we partake in when we embrace a God given or at least God inspired call, or a vocation in life. This is our WAY! The inner meaning of our vow of stability is that we embrace the life as we find it, knowing that this, and not any other is our way to God.
So it had to be. I needed touchstones where I could understand better this call and discover it afresh and anew. I found it as I began the journey with the NBC as an aspirant and latter as a novice now professed simple vows for a minimum of three years. I discovered this place or again it discovered me on line as I knew that I could not spend every day of my life in a monastery but maybe, just maybe there was a place I could connect to wherever I might be in the world and on a daily basis.
And there it was The Arch-abbey! Since I was just learning German when I found this site it took me more than a few years to make it a daily part of my routine. But it was part of the longing to learn german and understand the monastic path that just kept leading me deeper and deeper.
So much so that finally I was able to physically visit this place and stay there for 10 days. It was like a dream come true. For the first time in my life my past; my childhood growing up on a farm in a family of germans from Russia Ukraine- Volga Deutsch , my present; my new found monastic vocation, and my future; a professed life as a Benedictine Secular not living in a monastery and member of the New Benedictine Community was beginning to come together.
At the end of my 10 days I wrote this poem about my life changing experience. I found a part of myself in St Ottillien It was always there!
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Why did I have to travel so far to find it? Pilgrims must travel. What did I find?