A Monk in the World

SILENCE

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.

 

There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. ~ The Rule of Benedict

I kept quiet, not saying a word, not even about anything good! ~ Psalm 39:2 (GNT) 

Words, words, words… They are everywhere! Billboards, sides of buildings, flashing street signs, bumper stickers in traffic, even the sky isn’t immune with its skywriters and planes tugging advertisement banners. The plethora of words in our world dilute their meaning to the point of overload and burnout!

Where in the world can one go to find silence?

Even if we find a place with the precious quiet we’re craving we still have the noise in our mind to deal with. We must somehow change the internal noise into a gentler sound.

The one who sits in solitude and quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, and seeing; yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is his own heart. ~ Anthony of Egypt*

As our body needs rest, our spirit needs silence for our inner life to grow. When we keep out the weeds (noise) the garden of our soul can flourish. Too many words can hinder our relationship with God, preventing us from hearing the most important Word of all!  

Spiritual growth requires insights that only solitude and silence can provide. No one can do this work for us. We must be intentional to build times of silence into our day. It won’t happen otherwise.  

In Buddhist countries children routinely spend time with monks and are taught to sit in the lotus position and learn to meditate. Quaker communities also have silence as a regular part of their daily routine. 

Who is teaching us or our children how to sit in silence? Instead of hiding away in our prayer closet we must include our children and grand children in our practice of silence. They will learn best by watching our example.

If you are unaccustomed to silence (I was and most people are) begin with a simple plan. You may choose an activity that can be done in quiet: gardening, painting, walking or cooking. You may just want to sit. Either way start out small. If you want five minutes of silence, give yourself ten minutes. You will need the buffer time to get settled in. Gradually you will add more time. Before you know it you will prefer the silence!

Silence is an indispensable discipline in the spiritual life. It is our portable monastic cell that we take with us into the world to minister to others. 

RESOURCES:
The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison*
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith OSB
The Rule of Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry, OSB
The Oblate Life Edited by Gervase Holdaway OSB
Originally published September 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

St. Benedict's Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine

 

St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living
by
Jane Tomaine

 

Readers who have been following my blog will be familiar with the title of this book. It has been listed as a resource for many of my columns.


As the title suggests St. Benedict’s Toolbox is just that… an excellent tool for applying The Rule of Saint Benedict to lives outside the monastery wall.

Jane Tomaine does a incredible job laying out the chapters in a user friendly fashion with ideas and resources that will blend with your personal lifestyle and faith practice.

If you were to buy only one book to help you begin applying The Rule you must buy St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine!

I’m crazy about Jane’s book and plan to use it for years to come! Every time I open it I get more excited about putting it into practice. Thanks Jane!

 

Originally published Aug 27, 2014

A Monk in the World :: BALANCE

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.  THIS MONTH’S TOPIC IS BALANCE.

 

Balance

bal·ance noun

: the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall

: the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling

: a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance

If there is one thing we all have trouble with it’s balance; between our daily schedule, priorities, money, food, exercise, media, rest, work, play, etc…


Just as King Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun. And the challenge of balance isn’t new for sure! Saint Benedict of Nursia knew this well and it was a priority in his Rule for the monks under his charge.

Balance is a running theme in Saint Benedict’s Rule. It’s easy to romanticize the idea of being behind a monastery wall thinking that once away from all the worldly influences and distractions we could actually achieve balance in our lives.

Even in Benedict’s day the monks struggled in this area, so they were given strict guidelines to follow. Yet with almost every rule exceptions were made. Benedict not only accepted humanness but gave grace for it.

KEYS TO FINDING BALANCE: 

  • Create a daily routine: Write out what your perfect day or week would look like and plan toward it. Give yourself grace when life shows up with a kink in your plan.
  • Use timers: Use your smart phone for more than games or FaceBook. Timers or calendar reminders are critical to keep me on my schedule.
  • Be flexible: There are exceptions to all our plans. Just when I think I’ve got the perfect plan, God shows up with something better!

I quickly admit that I don’t have this balance thing figured out. Some days and weeks I do really well, then life shows up and there goes my perfectly planned schedule. The best thing I can do then is start again.  Recognition that there is need for balance is the beginning of actual change. I believe moderation brings about balance. So my life motto today is:

MODERATION IN ALL THINGS INCLUDING MODERATION!


RESOURCES:

Spirituality For Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

 



*Definition courtesy Mirriam-Webster.com
Image credit: paktaotik2 / 123RF Stock Photo

A MONK IN THE WORLD

The Liturgy of the Hours

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.  

 

THIS MONTH’S TOPIC IS THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS.

 

One thing that attracted me most to Benedictine spirituality is the custom of praying The Liturgy of the Hours.  Fixed-hour prayer has its origins in Judaism from which Christianity came and is still widely used today. The connection to this ancient practice is fascinating to me and draws me in with an incredible sense of unity to my spiritual family.

In a previous blog I wrote a book review on The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.  Ms. Tickle has done a marvelous job compiling scripture and prayers for daily use built around the seasons of the year. If you are just learning about this type of prayer routine Phyllis Tickle’s books are an excellent place to start.

By far my favorite way to pray the hours is with my iPhone app The Divine Office.  This wonderful ministry has developed beautiful productions of worship experiences and brought them to us via technology.  Not to worry, if you don’t have a smart phone you can still participate through their website.

What an incredible experience to join the live recording and gather with a world-wide community who are praying together. This takes Christian community worship to a whole different level!  As the earth rotates and each time slot changes we pass on the prayers like a baton to the next time zone.  I find this such a sweet thing to imagine. I’ve been using The Divine Office app for 2 years and look forward to hearing the now familiar voices each day.

As a recovering addict this prayer routine has been a great tool especially in rough times. When I can rotate my day around praying the Psalms it helps to push out things of the world by keeping my heart and mind focused on transformation.

I encourage you to consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  It has given my prayer life new direction, energy and purpose.


RESOURCES: 
The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003
The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer by Phyllis Tickle
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

The 12 Steps of Humility

RESTRAIN SPEECH

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 

 

zipped lips

THE ELEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:  

A monk speaks gently, without laughter, with modesty, briefly and reasonably without raising [her] voice. ~The Rule of Saint Benedict

Speak concisely, say much in few words; be as one who knows and yet holds [her] tongue.~Sirach 32:8

This is the third step where Benedict addresses communication. Step Nine calls us to listen more than we speak, followed by Step Ten which asks us not to be excessive in our laughter.  Today we are encouraged to be brief and gentle when we speak. 

 
When I grew up we were taught “If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.”  This might be considered a modern version of St. Benedict’s 11th Step of Humility.
 
By restraining our speech we are putting others before ourselves, allowing them to share something of themselves, honoring them with our attentiveness.
 

Much of the time when someone is talking to us we are too busy in our mind crafting our fabulous response. St. Benedict asks us to restrain our speech with a humble, honoring attitude toward others.

Having listened attentively to the other we can now have our say. We aren’t to be boisterous, bragging or loud. The best rule of thumb might be to remember to respond vs. react.

When we are reactive we are being led by our emotions. But by responding we have given more thought to the words we will say.

This is often difficult and must be practiced consistently for it to become a natural habit, especially with those we are closest to.

Again Saint Benedict comes to us with words of wisdom from an ancient time that are vital to our lives today!

 
 
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
 

Image credit: dervish37 / 123RF Stock Photo

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

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

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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