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*


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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

 

 


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

12 Steps of Humility :: ACKNOWLEDGING OUR FAULTS

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 FIFTH STEP OF HUMILITY: a monk should not conceal from her abbess any evil thoughts entering her heart or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly.  

Centuries before the psychology industry built their fortunes on our troubles Benedict of Nursia knew the power of confessing to a spiritual guide or mentor.


One of the most difficult things to do is to admit our faults to another person. But as long as we keep our wrongs hidden they have a hold on us. The recovery community says, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” 

We destroy ourselves by failing to confess the germ of greed, ambition, anger, and lust at the very moment it is growing in our hearts. We give ourselves life by working through our problems with the wisdom figures in our lives who are stronger at that moment than ourselves. ~ Joan Chittister**

Declaring our faults aloud begins the healing process. Once we do share them we can forgive ourselves, begin new behavior and let the past go.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. ~ Psalm 32:5

Lord, remind me that when I refuse to confess my faults to you I am miserable. But when I stop trying to hide them, you are quick to forgive and all my guilt is gone! AMEN

RESOURCES:
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry O.S.B
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
St. Benedict’s Toolbox by Jane Tomaine
15 Days of Prayer with Saint Benedict by Andre Gozier, O.S.B.
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison

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BOOK REVIEW

How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: 

An Invitation to Oblate Life

by

Brother Benet Tvedten

 

 

 

 

How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job is a great place to start if you are considering the life of an Oblate.  This was the first book on the monastic lifestyle that I read two years ago. At 119 pages with short flowing chapters it’s a easy introductory read.

Br. Tvedten does an excellent job giving us historical background to Benedictine spirituality, the values for daily living and what it actually means to become an Oblate. He includes a wonderful list of Benedictine titles many of which I have read and will be reviewing here in the future.

I highly recommend How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Brother Benet Tvedten.  It was after reading this book that I knew without a doubt the Benedictine spiritual path was where I belonged.

A Monk in the World :: STABILITY

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. 


Stability is a vow taken by a Benedictine monk binding her to residence for life in the same monastery in which she made her vow. 


Many of us outside the monastery walls change jobs, houses, cars and partners as quickly as we change our clothes. The idea of staying in the same place of residence our entire life is unimaginable! 

Stability is also a critical aspect of addiction recovery. When I was practicing addiction and emotional pain would show up, the first thing I wanted to do was escape.

If I couldn’t numb out with a substance then I wanted to run away. Some how I thought the pain inside wouldn’t follow me, but of course, it always did. 

Even after years of recovery there are days I struggle with the need to escape. But God gently pulls me back to a place of stability.

  • Stability centers us in something Greater than ourselves so nothing less than ourselves can sweep us away.
  • Stability requires listening and acceptance. We must quiet ourselves and listen to what the situation is it trying to teach us.
  • Stability takes the monotonous and creatively betters it. Once we accept the situation freedom comes and we find the creativity to improve it.

The world clamors for us to change everything about ourselves.


 Stability asks us to stay and grow so that change may come.


RESOURCES:
Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict by Esther de Waal
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict by Joan Chittister, OSB

Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: PERSEVERANCE

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 hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

Step 4 of Humility: In this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, [her] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.

If you remain faithful to the end you will be saved. ~ Matthew 10:22 


In our world today we want any trial we are facing to be corrected yesterday. We don’t have time, nor are we willing to persevere through the crisis.  This leaves us living as spiritual infants.

According to Saint Benedict in our obedience, we are to hold fast when things aren’t going our way. And the only way to do that is to stay centered on God!

We must take our eyes off the circumstances and how we want things to be and remember everything in life can be a learning opportunity if we allow it.

I love this Webster 1828 definition:

perseverance: continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory.


When we are walking in God’s grace we are more likely to give Him glory. But we can’t be walking in His grace with our eyes on the ground, or on the circumstances or the rearview mirror, or on ourself.

God will only get the glory if we keep Him in the center minute by minute.


RESOURCES:
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

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