A Monk in the World

HOSPITALITY

 

EACH MONTH IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. Our focus this month is on Hospitality.

 

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He Himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  (Matt 25:35; The Rule of Benedict 53:1)

Much of our entertaining today is focused on impressing others. Fearfully, we work ourselves into a frenzy cleaning, decorating, buying this and that, and creating extravagant recipes, all in the hopes of being approved by our guests.

…only those who are truly at home in themselves can offer genuine hospitality, which is not controlling or manipulative, but welcomes us as we are. ~ Kathleen Norris*

Benedictine hospitality has two simple goals: 

Did they see Christ in me? Did I see Christ in them?

  • Benedictine hospitality is about others, not us.
  • Benedictine hospitality calls for balance and self-care. 
  • Benedictine hospitality includes the forgotten and poor in our world.
  • Benedictine hospitality means caring for the earth God has given us.

Sometimes hospitality shows up at inconvenient times. Without hostility, we must see the interruption as a call to serve others and our world lovingly.  This is our chance to practice obedience in responding to God’s call.

Welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. ~ Rom 15:7

Hospitality is an incredible gift that we can give one another.  It all begins when we can be truly present to another person. When we are present, focusing on the person before us or acknowledging the need of people who live far from us, we become channels for the Spirit of Christ. ~ Jane Tomaine**

When we are struggling with our own problems and drowning in our own negativity one of the best things we can do is take our mind off our self. We need to lean back and make a space for hospitality. By keeping our eyes, ears and hearts open we will be ready for what God leads us to do.

RESOURCES: 
The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003*
Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monks Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Benet Tvedten
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine**
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

Image credit: yencha / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility

Avoid Excessive Laughter


EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 
 
 

THE TENTH STEP OF HUMILITY: 

A monk is not given to ready laughter.

A fool raises [her] voice when [she] laughs. ~ Sirach 21:20

Today’s humor leaves much to be desired. The stand-up comic routines and movie humor are often sarcastic, mean and usually at the expense of others. This is what Saint Benedict is referring to when he asks us to avoid excessive laughter.

Humor allows us to see life from the lighter side. Laughter on the other hand is an emotional expression which, for many years, was looked down upon in the upper classes of society. It was considered to be a lack of self-control and vulgar.

The prideful use this negative, hurtful humor to hide their weaknesses. Avoiding their own internal pain, they use arrogant jokes to make themselves look better than others.

In the Tenth Step of Humility, Saint Benedict encourages us to take our humor very seriously. We must guard our laughter taking care not to use it in a hurtful way. 

The humble person cultivates a soul in which everyone is safe. ~ Joan Chittister*

 
RESOURCES:
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister*
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry

A Monk in the World :: COMMUNITY

EACH MONTH IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.




com·mu·ni·ty   

a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common culture and historical heritage.


The idea of community is basically lost in our American culture. We may be a community by shared location or government but most of us know few of our neighbors. If we have any type of community relationships it’s probably with co-workers or classmates. 


Sadly, we are locked in our gated subdivisions refusing to make room or time for others. We sit behind our smartphones and computers surfing social media, believing we are in a “community” of live people. But is anyone actually looking at, talking to or physically touching us?

This, then, is the good zeal which monastics must foster with fervent love: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other”: (Rom. 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weakness of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what is judged better for self, but instead what is judged better for someone else. To their companions they show the pure love of sisters or brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life. ~ The Rule of Benedict 72:3-11

Saint Benedict’s community of monks lived in small dormitories, eating, sleeping and praying together. Their days began in the dark hours of the morning with prayer, followed by alternating work, study and more prayer, retiring again at dark. 

…simply living with people does not itself create community. People live together in armies, prisons, college dorms, and hospitals, but they are not communities unless they live out of the same reservoir of values and the same center of love… We have to share a common vision… to want good for one another… to be able to draw from the same well together. ~ Joan Chittister*

It’s easy to zoom in on myself and hide in my books and writing. I feel most loved when someone reaches out to me, takes time to look into my eyes and really hear what I have to say. I crave that and so do others. 


The call is to zoom out and broaden my community reach in a physical way. 

How can I be an active monastic outside the walls of my cozy office? 


RESOURCES:
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister, OSB*
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
Spirituality For Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine

Image credit: deepgreen / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: LEARN FROM OTHERS

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

THE EIGHTH STEP OF HUMILITY: The monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by [her] superiors.


Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. ~ Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)

It’s difficult to find young people who respect, listen and learn from adults.  In the 1970’s, my generation of youth, no one over the age of 40 was to be trusted much less respected.

We can’t just pick on the young, many adults are hesitant to learn from others. We think we’ve got life all figured out and don’t need advice from anyone. 

The ability to learn from others is a sign that we are at ease with ourselves. If we’ve worked The Seventh Step of Humility, found and accepted our own weaknesses, then we are well positioned to learn from those around us. 

The eighth degree of humility brings us to such respect for others that we can follow the great rather than get lost making the path as we go. ~ Joan Chittister*

Those who are unteachable are usually not concerned with their spiritual growth.  That’s why I must regularly examine the “pride” barometer of my heart. 

Am I blindly walking the same path over and over again? 

Am I willing to asks others for direction?



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister*
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry


Image credit: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

A Monk in the World :: SOLITUDE

EACH MONTH IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.


In ancient times the early monastic father’s heeded the call of the Holy Spirit and withdrew themselves into the Egyptian desert to battle their inner and outer demons. This type of solitude is unfamiliar and possibly frightening to most of us.


Modern humans haven’t a clue what true solitude entails. We are so consumed by the external chatter that we can’t hear our own thoughts much less the Holy Spirit.

Not only are many of us spiritually unconscious and deaf to God’s voice, society has taught us to create a false image; a self that is built around a compulsive need for admiration. At its core lies a trembling fear of failure. 

Solitude is the furnace where the transformation of this false self takes place; where we are transformed by Jesus Christ. 

For me solitude usually includes a book or a magazine, my dogs,  maybe some music. But this is not the transformative solitude that we are learning about here. Only when we can completely remove ourselves from social and worldly influences can we find the true healing. 

Henri Nouwen says the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.*

It’s up to us to create our own desert. We must set apart a time and place where we can tap into our inner hermit and find the healing presence of our Lord.

RESOURCES:
The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri Nouwen*


Image credit: travnikovstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: RADICAL SELF-EXAMINATION

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

THE SEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:
A monk not only admits with [her] tongue but believes in [her] heart that others are better than she is.



It is good for me that I was humbled so that I might learn your statutes. ~ Psalm 119:71

Again the ancient language of Saint Benedict goes against our grain and everything we are taught today. But without a doubt the Rule is Biblical!


This radical self-examination, seeing ourselves as inferior to others is not to be done in a self-deprecating, undervalued way. 

When we can find joy in seeing the value of others over ourselves we allow ourselves to be teachable.

“Once we stop pretending to be what we know we are not, we are free to except ourselves and except others as well…  In this acceptance of our own meager virtues and our own massive failures, we have a chance to understand the failures of others.  We have the opportunity to become kind.” ~ Joan Chittister*


The seventh step on Benedict’s ladder of humility is asking us to make room for personal growth. 



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister*
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

Image credit: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo

A Monk in the World :: KINSHIP WITH CREATION

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. 

Let [her] look on all the utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar.**


The “Green” movement may seem like a recent development. But the care of creation is a Biblical and monastic value. 


Creation was our first gift from God and the care of creation His first command. 

We must not take it lightly.

No matter the differences in faith, there is only one planet. 

We have common ground with equal responsible.

Whether plants, animals or possessions made from materials from the earth…

We are called to reverentially care for them all. 

Repurposing, recycling, not being wasteful with food and natural resources are all ways we can exercise kin-ship with creation. 


By doing so we honor God and what He has lovingly given us.

**Rule of Benedict 31:10

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The 12 Steps of Humility :: CONTENTMENT

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven.  ~ St Benedict


THE SIXTH STEP OF HUMILITY: 


A monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment.

I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. Christ gives me the strength to face anything. ~ Philippians 4:12-13





At first glance in the original language of Saint Benedict from 1500 years ago, this step seems to be putting ourselves down. In a way it is because we should let others go before us.  


It’s important to remember the root word of humility: humus (dirt)!


We aren’t supposed to be the one to look for our promotion. Rather, we are to sit at the back and be asked to move up front. 


We should be willing to accept the circumstances of life as they come; not thinking we are above certain things. 

We are to be content with who we are, with what we have and where we are. Trusting God for the outcome as He can see around the corner of our life.

Humility is peace. It grasps life lightly and takes it as it comes. Humility steps lightly, not intent on having the now be more, but simply aware that the now can be better. Humility enables us to see that the present holds riches for us that we have not seen before because our eyes were focused beyond the present moment. ~ Joan Chittister**


We all go through times of adversity and trials. The key to knowing if our hearts are truly fixed on God is when the external challenges in our life don’t effect our moods.

Oh I wish I could say that I am there! But my practice is getting better. I’m learning to take myself back to my breath and ask: 

What relationship do I have with this moment or this situation? Is it healthy or dysfunctional?

Am I accepting or resisting what I am?  Who I am?  Where I am?  

I must seek The Peace in the moment!



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister**
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry



BOOK REVIEW

Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister

Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited

by


Joan D. Chittister

 

 


Shortly after I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in 2012, I found Joan Chittister. The title to this book was intriguing to me since I’ve been walking the recovery road for a while.

In The Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited Joan does a remarkable job breaking down Saint Benedict’s 12 steps of Humility into easily applied life principles. I’ve read this book twice and use it regularly as a resource.  I also enjoy Joan’s blog and other books which you can find here:  joanchittister.org.

Sr. Joan’s writing is beautifully descriptive.  She is one of my favorite authors today.  
I highly recommend everything by Joan Chittister! 

 

A Monk in the World :: HUMILITY

As MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. 


humil’ity, n [L. humilitas.]
freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God; self-abasement; penitence for sin; and submission to the divine will.** 


Showing respect to the Lord will make you wise and being humble will bring honor to you. ~ Proverbs 15:33


One of the toughest things to learn and practice is humility. Certainly not a topic of daily conversation. But in the last couple of years this is exactly where God has had me parked. And I am reminded of it regularly.  


Why? 

Because I struggle with pride, vanity and every possible opposite of humility.

I will sit and think lowly of myself, having a pity party, imagining no one cares about me, thinking that nothing I do matters to anyone.  I never imagined doing this was prideful.

In fact I am having an immodest estimate of my own worth. I am thinking I should be more important to everyone else than they seem to be showing me.

Everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored. ~ Luke 14:11

This saying demonstrates that all exaltation is a type of pride. ~ The Rule of Benedict 7:2

Saint Benedict’s Rule has humility at its core because humility is at the core of the Gospel. That means it should be at my core as well.

I might be walking around with humble behavior. But if in my heart I am always seeking more recognition… I’ve still got a lot of work to do!

**Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary