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

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 :: 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

A Monk in the World ::OBEDIENCE

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. TODAY WE’RE FOCUSING ON the vow of Obedience.



Closely linked to Step 2 of Humility is the discipline of obedience.  In the Benedictine monastic community the members profess three vows: obedience, stability and a life of on-going conversion. Implicit in these are the evangelical vows of chastity and poverty.


Obedience… is not one of our favorite words. Most of us like to think we don’t have to follow all the rules. Some would even say rules are made to be broken. But the truth is most rules are made to protect us from something. 

The root word of obedience is a Latin word for listen. When we want someone to obey us we are really asking them to listen to us. Thinking in this way obedience doesn’t seem so harsh. Isn’t this all God is asking of us? That we listen to Him? After all, He has our best interest in mind when He asks us to do something. 

In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul says obedience comes from faith, (1:5) faith comes from hearing God’s Word (10:17) and that we are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12). Which leads us to our next point.

In the spirit of Benedictine obedience, I should practice “mutual obedience”  obeying not only those in authority over me but also my fellow brothers and sisters. This fosters harmony in our communities and households. When we see others as the voice of God we will be better listeners.

Obedience is not what we expect from others, it is what we do ourselves for others… Obedience says: Set aside what you are doing. Focus your attention on the person before you to discern what God is asking you to do.  (St. Benedict’s Toolbox)**

Our response to obedience must be joyful and spontaneous. More than the action itself, what matters is the attitude of our heart. When we respond without grumbling, replacing competitiveness with consideration we can live a life of obedience as Saint Benedict teaches in his Rule.

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful worship song by Chris Tomlin.

RESOURCES:
**St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
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

LOOK WHAT’S AHEAD IN 2014!

For the last seven years God has allowed me to share my recovery journey with you. I’m very grateful and have learned a lot.  Now it’s time to share the new direction God is taking me.


A few years ago I began learning about Christian Mysticism. Then in 2011 I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality, which is is derived from The Rule of Benedict written by St. Benedict of Nursia for the monks in his monastery over 1500 years ago. Known as the founder of Western monasticism, St. Benedict and his rule have had a tremendous impact on the Christian church. Surprisingly, the rule provides extraordinary insight into today’s major spiritual issues. Once I began studying it I knew I was home.


Since studying monastic spirituality I’ve been led to become a Benedictine Oblate. Oblates are ordinary people who dedicate their lives to God like monks. But rather than taking vows and living behind the wall of a monastery, Oblates make spiritual commitments that are lived outside the wall. I’m excited to share the things I’m learning with you this upcoming year. I hope you’ll tag along as my spiritual journey continues to unfold… Blessings!

Here is the Reaching Hurting Women monthly schedule for 2014:


First Wednesday: The 12 Steps of Humility 
What I am most excited about this year is my focus on the topic of Humility. Each month we are going to learn one of the 12 Steps of Humility from St. Benedict. I think you will be amazed at how they line up with the recovery steps and principles.

Second Wednesday: A Monk in the World  
In this column we will learn how to implement monastic spiritual practices into our daily life, enhancing our Christian walk with Benedictine principles.

Third Wednesday: The Twelve Principles 
This year we are going to take a different turn on our 12 Step journey. My recovery columns for 2014 will focus on the Principles behind the 12 Steps rather than the Steps themselves. This will add a new dimension to our recovery study and growth process.

Fourth Wednesday: Books Reviews 
As I have these last few years, each month I will continue to publish a Book Review.  Again the topics will focus on Humility, Christian mysticism or monastic spirituality.


During Lent 2013 I studied about St. Hildegard of Bingen. 
She was an incredible woman far ahead of her time. Among her many accomplishments, St. Hildegard is credited for composing the first Western opera. I’d like to share her beautiful music with you. If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE.  Enjoy…


PHOTO CREDIT: ryanking999 / 123RF Stock Photo