Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(57) Renewal

"Wax and wane it will...the monastics say it this way:
A pilgrim was walking along a road when one day he
passed what seemed to be a monk sitting in a field.
Nearby, men were working on a stone building.
'You look like a monk,' the pilgrim said.
'I am that,' said the monk.
'Who is that working on the abbey?'
'My monks,' said the man. 'I am the abbot.'
'Oh, that's wonderful.' the pilgrim said, 'It's so good to
see a monastery going up.'
'We're tearing it down.' the abbot said.
'Tearing it down?' the pilgrim cried, 'Whatever for?'
'So we can see the sun rise at dawn,' the abbot said.

To lose something is often to renew it."
[Joan Chittister, O.S.B., THE FIRE IN THESE ASHES:
1995, p. 77.]

Comment: Sr. Joan is a famous Benedictine, belonging
to a priory in Erie, PA. She has authored a number of books,
and this particular book is about the decline of the religious
orders--in that their numbers are dwindling, and their average
age is rising. Sr. Joan has hope and ideas how this situation
might be curtailed. But it has been some time since the
above book was published, and the decline continues.

I used to say "alas," after such a remark. But lately I have
been re-thinking this situation. First of all, the decline seems
"historical." It does not seem a temporary matter, though some
hoped it would be. It appears to be an on-going event (or

However, viewed as "historical," I have to wonder whether
the Spirit is devising new ways to be a monastic or religious.
Perhaps the hope for "renewal" might eventually be placed far
beyond the walls of a monastery--even beyond a particular
group or organization.

Still just pondering, but more and more there's continuous
emphasis on the religious life, the monastic, out-in-the-world.
Monastic forums, even back in the 1980s, talked about the
"New Monk" as described in Raimundo Panikkar's book
ARCHETYPE. Lots of ideas have surfaced during these
forums, and in monastic articles ever since.

Whether devised or accidental, these past three decades
many of the best monastic minds have essentially been
writing for a wide consumption of readers, who live outside
the walls. In effect their books are explaining their Tradition.

Once it was thought in Panikkar's forum that perhaps
monasteries could be like teaching facilities, enabling the
"New Monk" when it came to any serious monastic formation.
As far as I know, this hasn't happened in any depth--though
secular members of religious and monastic orders do receive
at least the rudiments.

Regardless, I am beginning to believe--whether unconsciously,
whether consciously--Benedictine monks and nuns have
definitely been spreading their Tradition's teachings through
the written word. And, in the end, this may be the best course
to take!

Not everybody can journey to a monastery, but they can
pick-up a book. Also, nowadays, we live in an expansive
world of Communications, where one can just flick on the
computer. In the old days one could trudge to the library or
the bookstore, but now it's easier switching to the Internet.

Anyway, the Benedictines have been busy--long building
websites, attending Net discussion groups, putting their
articles and abstracts online, advertising their upcoming books.
They seem nearly a "natural" in this world of Communication.
Why not, these are the folk who started the whole thing--way
back--with their scriptoriums!

In the end, these "historical" events could end-up strangely
surprising. Renewal is hopeful, but not predictable.

Friday, December 4, 2009

(56) A Book most Worthy

Awhile back I came across a really excellent book, as put:
SPIRITUALITY IN HISTORY,Liturgical Press, 2007.]

Comment: For now I am not going to focus on something
specific in this book, but rather generally approach it. Laura
Swan, O.S.B. is a writer and spiritual director, and a member
of a Benedictine priory in Washington State.

As the editor of this book, she must have brought together
some of the best Benedictine minds when it comes to their
traditional history. The forepart of the book focuses on
those historical Benedictines who provided the supportive
foundations of their tradition. The articles are beautifully
written, very complete--and are also beautifully spiritual.
It's a good "read" all through!

If I may, I'll list the contents:
• Benedict and Scholastica.
• The Venerable Bede, Monk of Jarrow.
• Romuald of Ravenna.
• Anselm of Canterbury.
• Bernard of Clairvaux.
• Hildegard of Bingen.
• Gertrud the Great of Helfta.
• Dame Gertrude More.
• Blessed Columba Marmion.
* Raissa Maritain.
* Bede Griffiths.
• Trappist Martyrs of Tibhirine, Algeria.
• Benedictines and the Chant Tradition.
• Conference of Benedictine Prioresses.

And I especially appreciated the extensive treatment of the
"Chant." In recent years the Benedictine Monks of Santo
Domingo de Silos reintroduced the Chant to the world--and
from their CD sales, the world has loved it!

One of my younger family members is a fairly accomplished
musician, mainly popular music. But once he heard the
Chant he was hooked. He could not get enough of it. So
it would seem there is something that is deeply attractive
about the Chant, drawing people unexpected into its quiet,
soft repose.

Also, I liked the introductory and afterword remarks in this
book--because the writers realized that there is a "future" for
the Benedictine Tradition, in that in some strangely wonderful
way, the special spirituality of the Benedictines is also drawing
people unexpected.

Monday, November 30, 2009

(55) Canterbury Pantocrator

Talking about a window at Canterbury Cathedral,
"For it is there in the centre and from it the window
still continues upward. First, the ascension, then
Pentecost, until the final panel shows Christ in
majesty, the pantocrator, seated on an orb, his right
hand upheld in blessing. *Solus ab eterno creo, cuneta
creata guberno.* Alone from eternity I create all things
and govern creation. Christ dominates the window as
he dominates the Rule.

"For the first offices of the day the light of the rising sun
would come streaming through that window. While this
for us today may be an aesthetic experience, for the
medieval onlooker it was much more. Of all the created
things which to them presented the image of the creator
in varying degrees, light was the most direct manifestation
of God. So not only did they stand daily in the presence
of a dramatic portrayal of the paschal mystery; they also
lived with the vision of the divine light transfiguring the
darkness of matter."
Liturgical Press, 1984, p.80.]

Comment: At the time of this publication, Esther de Waal
lived at Canterbury. She was the wife of the Dean of the

I was struck by her noting that the "first offices of the
day" were enveloped by the light of this window and the
great Pantocrator--the Lord of the Universe, the Cosmic

Not privy to our modern day technology and our current
understanding of Cosmology, I have to wonder how the
Benedictine monks at medieval Canterbury must have
pondered over the universe, their universe?

The world-view back then was far different, set pretty
much in concrete by the Church. It was a layered universe,
with the Earth at its center. It was a fairly complicated
world-view that strangely supported the Church. Alas,
when this world-view tumbled--after scientists were
condemned--some executed--we now have our solar
system, Earth along with its other planets whirling around
our little sun, one of billions in our galaxy, which is one
of millions in our universe.

So, where's the Pantocrator in all this? Big question, with
only a few modern takers trying to work through unto an
answer. But if we wish to continue the Benedictine quest
"seeking God," I imagine we might as well get started.
However, it might mean exercising our creativity in ways

Monday, November 23, 2009

(54) Intuition & Reason

"The experience of the subtle world depends on
intuitive insight...It is important to remember,
however, that in these investigations we do not
discard our reason. The method is to open
ourselves through intuition to these deeper
insights and then to try to understand them,
to relate them and appropriately to systematise
them through the reason. Reason and intutition
always have to be used together."
[Bede Griffiths, OSB (Cam), A NEW VISION OF
1989, p. 266.]

Comment: The late Bede Griffiths was a great
Benedictine soul, who spent many years in
monastic dialogue with Hindu thought. He
was steeped in contemplative experience, oft
based not only on meditation but also

Sometimes I wonder about our sense of intuition
when it comes towards our trying to understand
the Godhead. Probably if I really investigated
this as a project, I would encounter countless
paths--some familiar, most unfamiliar (at least
for me).

However, Fr. Bede blends the intuitive with our
capacity for reason. And that saves the day for
me. I'm not one to go off the deep end, so to speak.

On the other hand, reason can be too much of a
stern master--if we allow it. In the past, even
today, there was occasionally those who demanded
that Reason was the one and only! It was our new
toy, in that we had thrown our other capacities

But, happily, we have tired playing just with this
one new toy. We have returned to our other
toys, and are even discovering yet newer toys!

Okay--the "toys" are an analogy for our human
capabilities, wrapped in all sorts of potential.
And I do believe the spiritual milieu provides
a platform in which to play, play creatively!

Friday, November 20, 2009

(53) Truthfulness

"Realizing that we are always in God's presence, we strive
after truthfulness and reject deceit and hypocrisy."
Liturgical Press, 1980, p. 39.]

Comment: At the time of publication, Guy-Marie Oury was a
monk of the Abbey of Solesmes in France.

The above little sentence speaks of something immensely
important. Deceit is about deception--not just only about
deceiving someone else in an unseemly manner, but about
deceiving ourselves! We probably engage in self-deception
more than we realize. (Me? I'm guilty as charged.)

As to the "how and why" of self-deception, such remains a
private story for each and every individual. But when we do
engage in deceiving others, well that's another ball-of-wax.
There's all sorts of fraud. One that oft sticks out in our mind is
financial fraud. However, the one that sticks out in *my* mind
is spiritual fraud.

We have had many cases of fraudulent do-gooders, who oft
cover up financial fraud by preying on the spiritual good will
of believers. And it's not only cushioned in Religion, but also
in questionable charities. This all points to yet another issue:

People pretend to be who they are not, and such pretension
is usually connected with fraud. But this pretension, too, can
be connected with self-deception. In spiritual ways some of
us can presume a kind of "perfection" that gives them sway
over others, maybe even over themselves! Following specific
spiritual or religious prescriptions, we absolutely know that we
have "got it."

Maybe this is why I like the old Benedictine message that we
"stumble and get up again, over and over." There's a sincere
truthfulness in this old observation. There's also a practicality
in this, as I see it.

Being true to our self, admitting that we might stumble, reflects
our need to improve or to grow, to evolve. Via such truthfulness
we can become more conscious not only of our mistakes but
also of our potential.

There's that biblical adage about Truth that can set you free.
Of course, to be biblically correct, it's about understanding the
Truth of Jesus. Yet this adage has long morphed into other
meanings. But baseline, I believe, is becoming better towards
understanding the Truth about our self, about who we are,
about how we relate in this world, etc. Might take a lifetime,
but monastics realize this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(52) The Malcontent

"My monastic Odyssey is not quite [an] edifying tale...I was
even as a boy, the sort of person who hid in a barrel and ate
green apples, as a man, the sort of official who quickly became
first mate and thought of mutiny. It has been my fate to stumble
constantly into the wrong camp; my life has been a continuous
political campaign, full of chaos and muddle."
[Dom Fabian Glencross, "Monastic Malcontent," a contribution
Maria Boulding (editor), St. Bede's Publications, 1970, p.137.]

Comment: I can empathize with the late Dom Fabian, a British
monk affiliated first with Downside and later with its spin-off,
Worth Abbey. He died in Peru, where Benedictines were yet
establishing a house in the "Third World."

Continuing, Dom Fabian put: "I am going to step into this world
and leave the rest behind...I have taken off my sixteenth-century
monastic costume because I cannot meet poor men, ordinary
men in a real world, dressed like a sober character in *Star Wars;*
ordinary Christians deserve to be treated with greater courtesy
and consideration. I find more and more that the people I came
to help know more about humility in the face of adversity,
about courage and self-discipline amid real personal difficulty,
than I have..."
[Ibid, p. 151.]

Just pondering, but maybe this malcontent monk might be the
face of the Benedictine future as it moves beyond the walls,
out into the world. Dom Fabian was an honest man, who did
not worship the forms but rather worked and lived in the *Real.*

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(51) Malleable

"Unfortunately the Rule of Saint Benedict has been largely
lost to our time. While Benedictine abbeys and monasteries
still function throughout the world, their number and influence
are small. The Rule itself is written in a context and language
that means little to our secular culture. Very few of us share
the same world view or religious beliefs as Saint Benedict.
Almost none of us want to, or could, retire to a monastery.
Nevertheless, at the heart of the Rule is a core of truth about
the human condition. It contains a series of brilliant insights
concerning how one might make ordinary life into something
deeply fulfilling."
BENEDICTINE WAY OF LIVING, Morehouse Publishing,
1996, p. 4.]

Comment: As John McQuiston put, at the time his book was
published, he was a middle-aged lawyer who hadn't really
been very involved with spirituality nor the church. He
attended church, but it didn't seem to have an impact. Sounds

On the other hand, he had arrived at a point in his life where
he was looking for something "more." That sounds familiar, too!

Due to a small variety of circumstances, Mr. McQuiston
stumbled over St. Benedict. He and his wife had made a
visit to England and toured through Canterbury Cathedral.
While there he met some people connected with a group
called the "Canterbury Trust," which is an American support
group of the cathedral--and especially focuses on the ancient
Benedictine roots of the cathedral.

Upon return to the U.S., he kept in touch with the Canterbury
Trust--and through his association with the group, John
McQuiston decided to probe deeper into the Benedictine
Tradition by reading some of the recent books on such.

Mr. McQuiston readily admits that he still is not enamored by
church, however it would seem he fell in love with the
Benedictine Rule! Nonetheless, he realized that the cultural
milieu--as well as the language--out of which it came can
hold back modern people. So John McQuiston decided to
re-write major parts of the Benedictine Rule, whilst careful to
keep the meaning intact. He re-worked the Rule for people
who were looking for meaning, for a reasonable discipline to
follow, that would enrich their lives, that would still reflect
the relationship with the Holy.

For McQuiston, the Rule of Benedict can be transliterated to
be meaningful on an *universal* level, meaningful for anyone
who has eyes to see, ears to hear. So he set forth doing this,
and I believe successfully so!

I read through his little book and came away feeling that
McQuiston did *not* take away from St. Benedict's Rule.
Via modern language he makes the Rule far more accessible
to people unimagined, people out in the world who not only
have never (or rarely) set foot in a church, much less thought
much of anything about monasticism. Nicely, McQuiston
has brought forth the truth and humanity that Benedict's Rule

After reading through his little book, I felt that McQuiston's
effort has done no harm and, at the same time, has widened
the net--so to speak.

Maybe. as time rolls on, we will come to see that the
Benedictine Tradition can touch almost anyone, anywhere,
under any kind of circumstance. That's the kind of insight
that Benedict's little Rule provides. And it's malleable!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

(50) Pathfinders

"Bede had a new vision of reality: to transcend the cultural
limitations of the great religions that he saw had become
"fossilized" and to find a wisdom, a philosophy that can
reconcile differences and reveal the unity underlying all their
diversities. The need is to reclaim the 'perennial philosophy,'
the eternal wisdom in each religion. Bede was a seeker of unity.
His life's work was that of calling us to see the necessity of the
marriage of East and West...Bede often said 'My monastery is
the world.'"
[Sr. Maurus Allen, OSB, "Book Review: Bede Griffiths: Essential
Writings."] [Also, see Post 31, "Bede's Vision," in this blogsite.]

Comment: The late Sr. Maurus, OSB, was a member of the
Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama. She spent some
time at the Shantivanam Ashram in India studying the con-
templative tradition in Christianity and Hinduism under the
guidance of Bede Griffiths, a Camaldolese Benedictine monk.
At Cullman, she taught Christian yoga.

It is becoming obvious that Benedictine monastics are surely
moving onto the "cutting edge" when it comes to their efforts
to learn, to seek spiritually. No doubt I will continue to come
across some of these "new" efforts as I work deeper into these
kind of Benedictine studies. (It's obvious that these efforts
towards monastic "unity" are now no longer new to pathfinding
Benedictine professed, but they are to me!)

In my own case perhaps I could call myself a "pathfinder," but
in a different way. I have spent more years than I can count
working into an equally new realm: Science and Spirituality.
Some pathfinder Benedictines have forged into this new arena
as well.

Fr. Bede was one, when he included a section called "Western
Science" in one of his books. Indeed, he welcomed Rupert
Sheldrake--a biologist from Cambridge University--to spend
some time at his ashram where he wrote his famous treatise on
morphogenetic fields. Such a new, cutting-edge concept, yet
Fr. Bede gave encouragement to the young biologist.

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, and Fr. Thomas Matus, OSB (Cam),
were also pioneers when it came to an interchange with Fritjof
Capra discussing new explorations into Science and Spirituality.
No doubt as I plod along in the "Benedictine World" I will discover
yet more of these special Benedictine pathfinders!

It's just that I wish I could have discovered these monastic
pathfinders into the NEW years ago. Probably reflecting my
earlier ignorance of these special people, I forged alone
walking my own path. Indeed I felt guilty most of the time,
because my walk took me into territories that somehow
I felt must be "beyond the pale." And now, only to discover,
that all along we have had these Benedictine pathfinders!

My fault, no one to blame but myself. No longer, however.
Instead of blame, instead of wallowing in guilt, I will fully
enjoy tracking these "new" paths of the Benedictine

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

(49) Disciplines

"Author Richard Foster categorizes the classical spiritual
disciplines this way.
• Inward disciplines--meditation, prayer, fasting, study.
• Outward disciplines--simplicity, solitude, submission, service.
• Corporate disciplines--confession, worship, guidance, celebration."
[Loni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB, BENEDICT'S
LoyolaPress, 2000, p. 196.]

Comment: Loni Pratt is a lay devotee of the Benedictine Tradition,
and Fr. Daniel has been a monk for decades. They have also
written a book on "Hospitality," and maybe more that I have yet to
discover. This particular book is very practical, especially for one
who aspires towards living out the tenets of Benedictine spirituality.

Browsing through this book, I was really pleased to find such a
succinct presentation of the "classical disciplines." It would seem
they are all there, in a nutshell. However, working through all
these disciplines involves a lifetime.

I thought it might be interesting going to the dictionary and
reviewing what all these disciplines (words) might mean.
"Meditation" is about contemplating, pondering, musing on a
given subject. "Prayer" is a solemn request or a notation of
gratitude. "Fasting" is about abstaining. "Study" is about
devoting time and effort towards acquiring knowledge.

"Simplicity" is being easy to understand or to do. "Solitude" is
about enjoying being alone. "Submission" is about yielding to
a superior force or authority. "Service" is an act of assistance.

"Confession" can be an admission of one's guilt, or it can be
a statement of one's principles or faith. "Worship" shows
reverence and adoration for a deity. "Guidance" is about
counsel or direction. "Celebration" is about engaging in
joyful activity.

Reviewing all the different meanings of these words (disciplines),
I have to admit participating in all of them. But I won't plague you
by going into any fine detail. I can only say that these disciplines,
if tried and shown true, are seriously a great helpmate towards
achieving successful living in one's life. Doesn't hurt at all
practicing these particular disciplines. They are useful.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

(48) Peak Experience

"...looking back I will so admit that at the moment of my Peak
Experience I was more truly and more fully myself than at any
other time. And so I find myself confronted with the strange
paradox that I am more truly myself when I forget myself. When
I lose myself, I find my Self."
CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING, Crossroad, 1984, p. 60.]

Comment: Br. David is a Benedictine monk, affiliated with
Mount Saviour Monastery in New York. He was also trained
in art, anthropology, and psychology. And need I note that
he is a famous monk, who has been on lecture circuits,
leading seminars, on-line, as well as writing other books.

I met him years ago during a day when he gave a speech.
Quite frankly I cannot remember what he discussed; but I do
remember that upon my mentioning being a Benedictine
oblate, he bowed and kissed my hand--like the true European
gentleman that he is! (Getting one's hand kissed can go a long
way for a woman.)

As for the Peak Experience, I've read lots about it from other
sources. It seems like a connection with All that surrounds you.
You become a part of the landscape or the sunset or the music.
You are no longer your little ego-self, but rather are part of the
Greater Environ in which you have become. Maybe just for
a split second, this happens,

It's evidently a special experience, which I have yet to experience.
I sometimes wish for this Peak Experience, but wishing doesn't
prompt it. I've read that some people feel that they can "prep" it
by following certain rituals or observances. But that doesn't
seem to prompt it either. From my studies, interviewing some
people who have had a Peak Experience, it just happens. You
can slip into it unawares, but it is boggling when it occurs.
I've also discovered that one doesn't necessarily need to be
"spiritual" either. And it can include all ages, young and old
alike, immature or mature.

From my interviews, too, some emerge a little more enlightened.
Others can be disturbed. And worst of all, some shrug off and
completely ignore the Peak Experience.

Br. David does reflect upon this special experience--as he puts:
"It matters little whether the experience...took place on a lonely
mountain, or, say, in the midst of a crowded concert hall. At the
peak moment you were alone in a deep sense. Not that you
were reflecting on it then and there, but reflecting on it later you
find that the word *alone* applies, even though there may have
been a crowd around you. You were in some sense 'the only
one.' You were, and this is even more important, not only
singled out but of a single mind and so you were 'alone' also in
the sense of being altogether with yourself, all of one piece,
'all one.'" [Ibid, pp. 60-61.]

Besides Br. David's reflection on the Peak Experience, long ago
I found yet another who somehow connects with me. In his last
treatise, THE BOOK, Alan Watts carries forth that in "immediate
contrast to the old feeling, there is indeed a certain passivity to the
sensation, as if you were a leaf blown along by the wind, until you
realize that you are both the leaf and the wind. The world outside
your skin is just as much you as the world inside...they move together
inseparably. Your body is no longer a corpse which the ego has to
animate and lug around. There is a feeling of the ground holding
you up, and of hills lifting you when you climb them. Air breathes
itself in and out of your lungs, and instead of looking and listening,
light and sound comes to you on their own. Eyes see and ears hear
as wind blows and water flows. Time carries you along like a river,
but never flows out of the present; the more it goes, the more it
stays...[and] all space becomes your mind."

My reflection: we are far more than we know.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

(47) Spiritual Explorers

"...I consider [Carl] Jung to be one of the great visionary and
spiritual explorers of our century, along with Pierre Teilhard
de Chardin and Thomas Merton."
[Donald Corcoran, O.S.B., "Contemporary Forms of Spirituality
and Monastic Life," an article in THE CONTINUING QUEST
TRANSITION, William Skudlarek, O.S.B. , General Editor,
Liturgical Press, 1982, p. 242.]

Comment: Sr. Donald is a lady after my own heart. It has
been so long ago, but I actually remember when I first got
into Carl Jung's psychological philosophy. It was because
of some Benedictines, with whom I had traveled to Greece.
They belonged to an abbey out in New Mexico, and they
employed a lot of Jung's thinking both in their retreats and
in their Spiritual Direction school.

Goodness! I had never heard of Jung before then. Freud,
yes, and I didn't like him. Anyway, I began to study Jung and
became a devotee. Not only did his teaching help me
personally, but it helped me better to understand our religious
projections and god-imagery. Most importantly, Jung's
ideas about individuation exhibited how so much of this
religio-spiritual symbolism dwells right in our minds. Somehow
discovering this, myself, it made the Spirit Within far more
real--because I had *experienced* it.

Interestingly, later retraining as a philosopher, studying with
the Jesuits, I chose to focus on Teilhard. He, too, talked about
a Within--not only within ourselves, but a Within of the Universe!
Comparing Teilhard's theory of "Cosmogenesis" with David
Bohm's Implicate Order, I was able to modernize Teilhard,
linking him with the new scientific understanding of modern
Quantum Physics.

As for Thomas Merton, well again I can trace my interest in this
great spiritual explorer via my connection with the Benedictines.
What I love about Merton was his willingness to evolve
spiritually, growing, moving into what might be called an
"Ecumenism of the Spirit." He dared to study other cultural
expressions about the World and God, i.e. Buddhism. Today
monastics from both East and West come together, teaching
and learning from one another. Merton helped get the ball
rolling, so to speak.

But best of all was my discovery that Benedictines are *great*
spiritual explorers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

(46) Universal Monk

"The hermit, the sannyasi, freed from caste and family
responsibilities, is a sign of the Absolute for those still
bound to them, but he does not form the seed of a new
society; no spiritual community gathers around him. "
[Thomas Matus, O.S.B. (Cam), ASHRAM DIARY: IN INDIA
WITH BEDE GRIFFITHS, O Books, 2009. p. 47.]

Comment: Thomas Matus is a well known Camaldolese
hermit, whose community in Northern California is part of
the Benedictine Order. An author of a number of books,
he is also a noted musician and is devoted to yoga and
religious ecumenism. And, especially, he spent lots of
time, over a number of years, in India--with the late Fr.
Bede Griffiths, also a hermit, who established an ashram
devoted to the life of the sannyasi.

Frankly, the sannyasi--which is a kind of "universal" monk--
is a whole new territory for me, especially when considering
that some Benedictines have adopted this lifestyle. Yet,
Fr. Thomas does make mention that he still holds to his
Christian orientation. The late Wayne Teasdale, a lay monk,
also said the same. (See Post 30 in Benedictine Beacon.)

I don't know if I ever will move into the sannyasi territory,
but I do know the appeal it holds for me. And that is
being a "universal" monk. As a lay person, monastically
oriented, I felt guilt over decades because I marched to a
universal drummer rather than to a institutionally prescribed

Perhaps on the fringe of the Benedictine world, I eventually
crawled away from my sense of guilt but nonetheless held
strong to Christ--even as his god imagery shifted into new
phases, as I continued to broaden my horizons.

Anyway, it is such a relief to discover a sense of Benedictine
"universality," whether by monks involved in religious
ecumenism, in depth psychology, in studying new forms of
theology and Christology, and even in comparative studies
that try to relate modern science theories with spirituality.
And now comes the sannyasi!

It's all about what I call the "Challenge of the New," or
sometimes the very old. I am always happy to find
Benedictines who are not afraid to be spiritual explorers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

(45) Peace & Place

"We need to live at peace with the natural world around us,
and also with other men and women, our neighbors. If we
fail to do so, our temporal well-being and even our survival
will be at risk."
[Christopher Derrick, THE RULE OF PEACE: ST. BENEDICT
AND THE EUROPEAN FUTURE. St. Bede's Publication, 1980,
pp. 97-98.]

Comment: From the cited book, I cannot discover exactly who
Christopher Derrick is or was. In the Preface there is mention
that this book was "originally written for the Association of St.
Benedict, Patron of Europe." Also there's mention that people
outside of Europe need not be excluded, in that the boundaries
of the Benedictine Tradition really do not exist.

Reading through Derrick's book, it becomes obvious that he is
quite miffed by our modern technological civilization and would
love to harken back to a more ideal time. Won't happen of

But I certainly can understand his concern--especially recently
when I had occasion for a stay-over at a "casino hotel" in Nevada.
It was the only lodging in the middle of a desert. Night came on
quickly, and I had little choice. I don't gamble, so this occasion
was an eye-opener. The place seemed like chaos, machines
clanging, lounge singers moaning, glasses clicking everywhere.
The place was loaded with all sorts of people, talking, gambling,
drinking. The servers were obviously exhausted, thus rude.
It all seemed rather uncivilized to me. Thus I quickly retired to
my room, watched the TV weather, and went to bed early. I
left early, too! Glad to be rid of the place.

However, this experience illustrated how really important it is
to gather peace within yourself and all around you. It can be
tough to do some times, but it's well worth being able to do this.
I suppose "peace" can be likened--scientifically speaking--to
making Order out of Chaos.

On this trip I was returning from a remote canyon in Arizona,
a place of vast red-rock mountains, millions upon millions of
years in the making. Quiet, at peace in that place, I felt myself
surrounded by God's very own ancient temples. Within, there
was also a Indian ruin where the Sinaqua People once lived.
Sometimes they are called the Western Anasazi. These people
honored the Earth and the Spirit.

Standing in the midst of this great canyon, I realized where these
ancient People were coming from. Maybe not high-tech folk,
having never lived in great urban conclaves, they were most
fortunate to live right there in the very center of these great
and beautiful mountains--of many shapes, looking truly like
glorious temples with a lovely river running through. Swaying
cottonwoods along the river lent to the peace that permeated
this place. I really felt a love, felt myself standing in the midst
of God's Garden of Temples.

So, what a contrast--after this--having to spend a night of
casino chaos, if you will.

Yet, I had the good sense to withdraw from the chaos, even
if it meant clearing my mind with the weather report. Looking
at the weather map, I kept looking to the place where my
red-rock canyon was--and, lo, there was a word placed over
it: Sunshine! That charged me, and I felt better. It was a place
of Life and Light, quiet, enormously peaceful, presenting its
beauty and power.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

(44) Personal Integrity

"It is at this point, we must face it squarely, that the
behavior of the externally 'good religious' who, in good
faith, unconsciously, certainly without guilt, has in fact
compromised with one of the most basic demands of his
humanity (the demand for authenticity and personal
integrity), is a scandal to those who are still deeply
aware of their need to attain to a fully human and
personal integrity..."
ACTION, Image Books, 1973, p. 83.]

Comment: The more I read Thomas Merton, the more
I like this late great Trappist. Of course I suppose it's
natural to agree with people with whom you agree. And
speaking of "natural," I suppose this is a good time to
inject my appreciation of the Ancient Stoa.

The Stoa was a school representing Stoic Philosophy
all over the ancient Mediterranean World--founded
some 2300 years ago by Zeno of Citium in Athens.
Interestingly, I encountered both the Benedictine
Tradition and the Wisdom of the Stoa nearly at the
same time. I won't go into detail about Stoic Philosophy,
only to say that a few of it's tenets correspond somewhat
with those of the Benedictines. (Indeed the early
Benedictine monks saved a lot of classical works,
including Stoic writings, by both securing them and
maintaining them by making copies in their scriptoriums.)

But the point I want to make here is the Stoic emphasis
on following your personal nature. They were all about
coming to "know thyself." Good advice, because when
it comes to integrity we need understand our personal
proclivities, our natural inclinations!

That does not mean we have to throw away the text
books or the rules or regulations, but rather see how
we can personally operate under their aegis. In some
cases, circumstances might be so extreme as to disallow
one from following some rules, some regulations. Here
it's about choice.

And I must admit that occasionally I have worried when it
comes to my choice to hold close to the Benedictine
Tradition. When I first entered the Benedictine world, I
was about as "unconscious" as I could be. I was operating
on instinct, I guess. I was dying of spiritual thirst, and for
some odd reason I chose a monastic oasis.

Interestingly, it was this encounter with the Benedictines
that I eventually strived to come to know myself, strived to
understand what made me "tick." I cannot even point to
what it might have been that jump-started me. I'm just
grateful that it happened.

Slowly I learned how to mesh Benedictine wisdom with
my own natural interests and proclivities. But I must
emphasize the word "slow." Earlier I surely was a midget-
sized scandal, when I was trying to be a "good religious."
Rote, all rote, with little natural input. Eventually, from the
depths of me, I nearly walked away from the Benedictines--
thinking that I had made a mistake, thinking that they were
all wrong for me.

But something just as deep in me, said "stay." And it was
at this point that I began accommodating the Benedictine
tenets with my own inclinations. It was not easy. I had to
get my head out of the box, so to speak. And that can
sometimes be disturbing. Because you think that you are
breaking the rules!

It took me a long time to accommodate, seeing the
Benedictine tenets in new ways with new eyes. And
after years of inner struggle working to accomplish this,
I did. And guess what? After I woke-up, so to speak,
I discovered that Benedictine authors were writing about
the very same things over which I had struggled for so

There's room for personal integrity in the Benedictine world.

Monday, September 21, 2009

(43) Spiritual Authenticity

"The important thing, always, is that our experience in the
spiritual life be authentic."
[Jean-Marie Howe, OCSO, THE MONASTIC WAY, St. Bede's
Publications, 1989, p. 12.]

Comment: At the time of publication, Sr. Jean-Marie was the
abbess of a Trappistine abbey in Canada.

I certainly agree with her sentence, quoted above. But what
can I say about "spiritual authenticity"? It's like saying that every
one is different. Yes, there are communal environments behind
the walls, but definitely in these places there's still differences in
approach. And beyond the walls, our spiritual differences are
surely up front in our lives. We might read books about any
given monastic tradition, we might try hard to live by rote the
rules and regulations of a monastic system, but in the end we
have to face our own spiritual experience. And if we don't, well
I suspect down the road we will be in for some pain.

As for myself, well I felt the pain before I finally decided to get
on track with my own life's experience. And I hate to admit it,
but I was (and still am) a dreadfully slow learner.

But one thing that I have finally learned is that the Spirit will
keep knocking at your door, demanding that you follow
through authentically--or sometimes playing, when you enter
into its flow, providing a good sense of enthusiasm for any
"right" effort.

Sometimes when I am at peace with myself, I wonder why the
Spirit provides so many different ways for us to follow. Some
go inward, some lead an active life, and some (like the
Benedictines) strive towards balance when it comes to the
art of authentic living.

I guess we have to learn our way through. It can take a lot of
time and keen observation when it comes to figuring what
the Spirit may be asking in our life. Me? Well I still am not
sure I am on the right path. It's only with a smattering of
hindsight that I can see more clearly. It's just the Present--
and occasionally the Future--where I oft feel unsure.

Not speaking for others, but I seem to go through phases.
That's natural, I suppose, especially if you live long enough.
Indeed I have grown beyond even the development theories
put forth by academics and spiritual directors. We surprised
them by living longer.

Regardless, the Spirit doesn't stop prodding. At least that's my
experience! I guess we have our duty, our calling, right up to
our last breath. And the quicker we can move from spiritual
rote to spiritual authentic, the better off we will be! And who
knows, but this process might portend a much larger story
than our own.

Friday, September 18, 2009

(42) Test of Maturity

"Our ideals must surely be tested in the most radical way. We
cannot avoid this testing. Not only must we revise and renew
our idea of holiness and of Christian maturity (not fearing to cast
aside the illusions of our Christian childhood), but we may also
have to confront inadequate ideas of God and the Church."
[Thomas Merton, LIFE AND HOLINESS, Image Books, 1963, p. 46.]

Comment: Perhaps we might be surprised by what the great
Trappist said above; but, thinking about it, not really. Years after
his death, volumes of Merton's personal notes were finally published--
and they were a real eye-opener. Not one to remain long in the
mundane, Merton took to task a lot of worn-out ideas held by both
Tradition and Authority. In his later years it would seem he just got
tired toeing-the-line, so to speak. Nonetheless he remained true
to his monastic vocation, though at times sorely challenged.

Now long-in-the-tooth, I surely can relate to Merton's later years
of challenge and challenging. I had sad engagements and
disengagements when it came to religious Tradition and Authority.
Not very monastic, I suppose. But my spiritual childhood could not
prevail under the assault of spiritual maturity, no matter what the
rules and regulations might stipulate.

Still I can understand that for the most part--when it comes to
Institutional Religion--there need be rules and regulations in order
to hold together, to keep order, to provide a socially safe haven for
the greater good of its congregations. Not everyone can be presumed
a *Mature Merton.*

On the other hand, what happens when a person does begin to
mature when it comes to their religious or spiritual outlook? Where
do they go? Where are their companions going down a similar path?
Perhaps it is meant that each person in this situation need find their
own way. Some stay, some leave, when it comes to their familiar
religious environment. Some remain inside their old circle, some
seek other circles. For some it is a matter of "Accommodation," and
for others "Adventure." And for a few, it is somehow Both Together.
That's quite an achievement when it can be done, but Merton did it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

(41) Beyond the Pale

"Leisure introduces into every activity an element of play, an
element of doing whatever it be also for its own sake...Thus leisure
provides the climate in which one can be open for meaning."
[David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., A LISTENING HEART: THE ART OF
CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING," Crossroad, 1984, p. 26.]

Comment: Interesting, but I found this little gem about leisure
and play providing some small insight into a trip I soon will take.

Quite awhile ago I decided that I would no longer take any long
treks, far away, mainly because I felt that I had reached the point
where I might not be able to travel afar comfortably. Getting older,
so I was quite surprised when I decided to take this trip into a
remote canyon in Arizona. There's the natural beauty, of course,
but I was drawn to see yet another Sinaqua "ruin." Not a positive
known, but the Sinaqua are sometimes called the Western
Anasazi. They occasionally did occupy the same places as
the Anasazi.

Anyway, I had to wonder why I had decided to take yet another
"Anasazi" trip, if you will. Over the years I had visited sites of
these Ancient One's in Utah, New Mexico, and other places in
Arizona. Years back, when in the Santa Fe area I had special
dreams of these ancient Indians-the Early Pueblans--dancing
within my mind. Not visions, but rather persistent dreams!

In the midst of these encounters, I had special experiences as
well. So I have studied these mysterious Anasazi people--and
occasionally wondered why they were such a draw to me. I still
do not quite understand, but I am letting my "leisure" draw me
forth into this remote canyon.

And one morning recently I woke early, and suddenly all sorts
of ideas stormed into my mind. I'm a story-teller, focusing on
different spiritual, philosophical, and scientific perspectives.
And somehow I manage to blend all these perspectives into my
own God quest. Fascinating--but these ideas, that morning, nearly
composed a complete story that circled first around the Anasazi
unto the modern period, featuring a monk-psycholgist focusing
on the Psi Sciences.

These ideas storming into my mind leaped out-of-the-blue.
Mysterious, but fascinating! Strangely I felt strongly that this
forthcoming trip into that remote canyon, into yet another
stronghold of these ancient People, is somehow spiritually
significant for me.

My particular "leisure" in this case is about both spiritual
Mystery and Adventure. And believe it or not, that's what
Benedictines do! Seeking God involves wondrous paths that
oft can take us Beyond the Pale.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

(40) Death

"Death had lost its sting. We are free in the face of death because
we have put our stock in the deeper, unending life of the Spirit."
[M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O., LIGHT FROM THE CLOISTER,
Paulist Press, 1991, p. 124.]

Comment: Recently I read online the obituary of an old friend of
mine--a tireless priest, who not only served his Church, but also
his country as a military chaplain. But above all he served God.

Born in 1918, he was just shy one month turning 91 years old.
He was an "old fashioned" priest, if you will--somewhat autocratic
in his ways. I never could figure whether it was because he was
a priest or whether it was because he was a "bird" Colonel (USAF,
Retired). Some folk did not love this priest, but incredibly I did.

Thinking back, it was kind of an odd relationship--between this
old priest and me. He was really very ultra-conservative in his
religious outlook, and I was anything but. Still I had to honor this
priest, because he stuck to serving God in the face of a lot of
adversity. I won't go into the problems this good priest faced,
some his fault, most no fault of his own. Through it all, I think
he tried to be gentle with others who were not so gentle with him.

But perhaps I was biased? Regardless, he has now passed on.
When he died, we were a continent apart. Having gone frail,
losing his eye-sight, we stopped corresponding. And at his age,
well the computer and e-mail were not part of his world.

His obituary said that he was lovingly cared for in his last days,
by younger members of his family. And he still enjoyed his
clerical life, enjoying a weekly meal with priests in a nearby

In an online "remembrance," I made mention that I enjoyed his
sermons/talks on Church History. Though he served as a parish
priest and military chaplain, he was most comfortable as a scholar.
He studied and received degrees from some fancy academic
institutions. This good priest got me started when it came to my
own interest in the history of the Church. (Warning, however,
history oft shows-up the blemishes as well as the bloom.)

Anyway, my priest friend was not a Benedictine, not even a
monastic, though in spite of all his experience in the world, he
was a solitary sort of fellow. I think sometimes this might have
made it tough for him, kind of going against the grain.

Now Fr. Bernie is gone, like so many other of my friends. Over
the years I have collected their obituaries--and the pile is growing
thicker. Of course this situation happens to all of us, sooner or
later. As for "Death," well it becomes more prominent. I cannot
say how I might respond when actually facing it myself. Yet I have
some good examples of these friends, who took their leave with

(39) Change & Commitment

"Because scientific explanations of natural phenomena
change so rapidly in the light of new knowledge it seems
that any understanding we may have of ourselves or the
human situation can only have limited and temporary
validity. Consequently, our time has become an age of the
half-hearted commitment..."
Crossroad, 1982, p. 90.]

Comment: The late John Main became a Benedictine monk
after serving in the Far East with the British Colonial Service.
He was also a specialist in International Law.

Though John Main wrote the above quote well over a quarter
century back, I believe his words still ring true. Most thinking
folk now know that we live on the cusp of a New Time. Since
World War II *technology* has proliferated; and, in turn,
technology has enabled scientists to observe more specifically
both the outer universe and the inner universe.

In my role as a philosophical story-teller, I recently put together
a short tale about a scientist who was trying to discover what
he called the "Plenum of the Universe." And what he discovered,
beyond the few seeming facts we believe we know, was that
we are barely fledglings when it comes even to what we think
we know! Indeed, it's rather shocking arriving at this conclusion--
as I did while researching for this story. (See the link for
"Sol Scientia" on the sidebar.)

Nonetheless, where--even what--would we human beings be
if we didn't ponder, try to investigate our Reality? Not very far
along, I suspect.

I can only speak for myself, but even before I decided to take
on Reality I seemed already to have a *deep faith* in the Lord
who holds the All altogether--as St. Paul put. Indeed it was this
faith that set me off on my own adventure, poking around in the
far corners of Reality.

Naturally I'm disappointed that we have only begun to cope
with the challenges of this New Time. On the other hand, I feel
that we are a privileged few generations that now stand on the
precipice of this great cusp--or gap that differentiates a lot of
what came before with what might come in the future. Generations
upon generations before seemed to move nearly in slow-motion
compared to how we are forced to move today.

I could go on and on about these differences, but rather I would
like to say something about the business of commitment. It's
obvious that the West has begun to experience institutional
breakdown--and it's not only in the monasteries, or in religions,
but also in our economic and even our academic institutions.
What once were perceived as bedrock havens seem to be
crumbling. And I'm not positive this fragmenting is necessarily
connected with our scientific observations--though, I do think
this situation might indeed be "natural."

Time changes! Change always takes place over Time. This
happens time and time again, no matter how we yearn and
seek security. Nature demands *adaptation* when it comes to
survival. Why, one might ask? Mainly its about evolving,
developing into "more" and maybe "better."

So what might any of this to do with commitment? Could be because
our institutions have not responded to our Time, if you will. They
have not adapted, much less evolved. So who shoulders the blame?
All of us, probably. If we cling to what is no longer relevant in our
lives, eventually we all pour down the drain. And others who no
longer place their stock in failing institutions have little choice but
to re-build and refine their purpose. Otherwise we become an
aimless people. Commitment towards the New would seem in
order, yet somehow retaining the better aspects of the Old. Not an
easy matter, this!

(38) Seeking God

Today--the Third of September--is a special day for me. No
need for details, only to remember generally how it all started
after I walked into a monastery one fine day. Like any human
endeavor, there were issues. But now years away, perhaps
viewing through a more mature prism, I am remembering far
more the good cheer and even adventures I experienced
"Seeking God."

It's a major mandate of the Benedictines, trying to find God
in the world, in your own life. When an oblate novice, I
worked through the Rule, through other Benedictine manuals,
figuring I would find God doing this. At the time, I felt
unsteady. Finally, nearly unconsciously, following my own
nature, I drifted into seeking God via study--serious study
with the Jesuits, of all people!

I have to give praise where praise is due. The Jesuits provided
me with intellectual adventure when it came to seeking God.
No apologies, but I found that my God queries were actually

God took my life, spinned me about, threw new ideas and
perspectives my way, made me think more deeply, and even
pushed me to travel. I sought beyond the books the places
where one might find God's footprints. I spent time in Israel,
following the life of Jesus as well as I could. Later I island
jumped, tracing the steps of St. Paul, finally ending at the
Hagia Sophia where I stood mezmerized by the Pantocrator
at the Emperor's Entrance.

Beyond this, I looked towards God anew--studying the
spirituality of the Red Road. Again, the need for the
physical touch, visiting the great parklands of the American
West where the indigenous People raised their arms in praise
and prayer towards the Great Spirit.

Over time I have written stories, little essays like this,
documenting my experience. So where has this "experience"
brought me, one may ask? Base-line, it has made me
immensely grateful that God came into my life. God
"fits" one's nature, in my view, and asks that one be
honest, going Due North, if you will.

As for my soul development, well if I hadn't walked into
that monastery that day so long ago, I would have to wonder
where I might be in life. As it stands, I am glad who I have
become, who I am.

As for seeking God, well I am grown-up enough to know
that God is a Mystery, far and beyond any of our human
concepts, yet *with us.* I cannot claim that I am perfectly
God possessed, meeting other's standards, but I can claim
some semblance of integrity when it comes to my love of
God. I just love more and more seeking God, in more and
more different ways!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

(37) Weakness

"Most important is the place of personal weakness in Benedictine
spirituality. This is only a 'little Rule,' Benedict wrote. 'For Beginners.'
And nothing 'harsh or burdensome' is prescribed (RB 73). This is a
rule for you and me, in other words."

Reading over these above lines by this good Benedictine sister,
I nearly sighed with relief. Maybe it is about living too long, but I
see ever more clearly my own weakness. Happily, I've also lived
long enough finally not dwelling on such as much. And ultimately
I was able to turn my perceived weakness into a strength. However,
earlier in my life I used to browbeat myself for not being the perfect
little Benedictine.

When I first encountered St. Benedict's Rule, I didn't see it with any
sense of ease. I was rough on myself, trying to live out every word,
every letter, as perfectly as possible. Rigid! Rigid! Until I began to
feel a "dis" ease if you will. No longer comfortable, suffering from the
guilt of not being able, sad because of my stumbling, I felt a failure.

That's when I finally took myself to a spiritual director, who at the
time was my good Abbot. He brought a Benedictine *cheerfulness*
into my life. No great pronouncements, but rather a simplicity on
his part. He listened, and by doing so he taught me that it was all
right to be weak. We all start out as fledglings.

I only had a few years with my good Abbot. He died in his prime.
But he left me with enduring memories, especially those of kindness,
consideration, and love. For me, he reflected well the Christ Life.

As for myself, I was of a different nature. And that's something that
finally I had come to understand. My good Abbot had the nature
of a Father. I have more the nature of a Solitary. He realized that
and probably wondered why I was attracted to the Benedictine

It was about my "great need" to belong to a *community.* He
pointed out that, yes, I was a natural solitary--but all along I had
belonged to one community or another. I was not a hermit. I
belonged to the community of my universities, of my workplace,
of Church, and of my monastery. And later to those special
volunteer communities wherein I served.

My perceived weakness was feeling detached in the midst of
community, even when serving intensely. It always lingered as
a serious defect, or so I felt.

But my good Abbot helped me turn around this sense of weakness,
and actually turn it into a strength. By nature I was introspective,
but with help from many I was able to turn this introspection into
contemplation. A research scholar, which is more often a solitary
pursuit, I came to realize that over the years I had dedicated my
efforts towards the *service* of the Greater Community. And later
I dedicated my solitary research capacities towards trying better to
understand the Greater Reality that stands behind the All of it.

In the end I turned my longing, my loneliness, into solitude.
And one day I woke-up and felt that warm cheerfulness within
me that I once witnessed in my good Benedictine abbot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

(36) Great Needs

"Is there some new possibility, some other opening for the
Christian consciousness today? ...If there is, it will doubtless
have to meet the following great needs of man:

"First; His need for community, for a genuine relationship of
authentic love with his fellow man...

"Second; Man's need for an adequate understanding of his
everyday self in ordinary life...

"Third; Man's need for a whole and integral experience of his
own self on all its levels, bodily as well as imaginative,
emotional, intellectual, spiritual..."
Directions, 1968, p. 30.]

Comment: The late great monk, Thomas Merton, was a Trappist
who followed the Rule of St. Benedict. He was also a mighty
spiritual writer who inspired multiple generations. In this
particular book, he hit the nail-on-the-head when it came to
spelling out our deep human needs. These great needs of ours
follow us right into the present day. They seem rarely to change.
It's not just a "Christian" concern, either!

Regardless, Church has been perceived as the "Body of Christ,"
nearly like an organism of different parts, participants, building-up
Christ on this Earth. It seemed a magnificent promise, and some
still put their faith in it. Church is still perceived by its adherents as
a community, but I do wonder over its focus. Is it now more social
than spiritual? That remains a question for some. And what of
deep relationships in Church? For some, perhaps; for others,
barely a brush of human touch.

But Merton gets down to basics when he narrows down to the
individual. About this business of every day living, Merton seems
to be asking whether we really think it through. Do we dedicate
our self in some way to the way we live, react, respond, give, etc.?
Maybe some do, but I doubt very much that we start our day really
giving it much thought. Cynical? No, just human. I'm guilty, not
focusing as seriously as I should when it comes to the "daily."

As for the "ideal" self on all levels, well some of us surely have a
clue who we are. Sometimes it is simply experience and time that
brings us to this understanding. Sometimes it is deep thought and
contemplation, more the monastic orientation I suspect. But even
here, can most of us make our "ideal" real?

The answer would be, I imagine, by inputting our "ideal" into the
"daily." And surely some of us really do try. Monastics have been
trying for centuries. It's about what they call *Conversio Morum,*
a slow, hopefully steady conversion into the Christ Life--an Imago
that represent the finer, greater human qualities of our existence.
Others may hold different imagery that represent this inner "Ideal,"
if you will. But spelled out, comparatively speaking, it's about our
best qualities.

In the end, our "great needs" likely can only be alleviated by us--with
the help of God.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

(35) Remembering

The sun is setting, the wild life all around has grown quiet,
some watching this great blaze of Day swooping down into
the West. For nigh on 30 years I have been grasped by the
great Benedictine Tradition, whether in a monastery setting
or outside beyond the walls. But of late I have been
contemplating over all this that Life and Experience bring.
It brought me some wonderful people, like my oblate friend
Francis Jean, and especially my esteemed friend--once my
spiritual director--Abbot Leonard Vickers, of both
St. Anselm's Abbey, Washington, DC, and Douai Abbey,
Woolhampton, England (near Oxford).

Both of these special Benedictine friends have long passed
away. I still cherish them, and somehow in remembrance I
honor the great Benedictine soul that they represented.

Monday, August 10, 2009

(34) Francis Jean

"In this culture, is it possible to recover the gentle art of hospitality?
Is there a way to enliven it, a way to recreate it so that personal safety
is not at risk, but still the stranger is welcomed and honored?"
[Fr. Daniel Homan, O.S.B., and Loni Collins Prat, RADICAL
p. 15.]

Comment: Fr. Daniel has served as the prior of a Benedictine
monastery in Michigan, and Lonni Prat is a journalist who lives in
Michigan. Both lead retreats and workshops.

As for radical hospitality, I fully understand the question above
when it refers to a "personal safety" that might be involved. Years
ago when I lived on the East Coast I had a close friend, probably
close to 20 years older than me. She was a Benedictine Oblate
and we shared a lot, whether ideas, whether events, etc. Francis
Jean was a little bird of a woman, seeming always frail in some
way. But her eyes were luminous, her mind exciting. And upon
occasion, as we walked in different parts of the city we would
predictably encounter the homeless.

Me? Well I oft falter in many ways--and one is encountering
homeless men, who seem to threaten. They usually are begging;
and I have to say it straight, but sometimes they get in your face
and make demands. That kind of behavior frightens me, and I
usually have tried to avoid such situations.

But Francis Jean never budged. Rather she would pull out some
money from her pocketbook and hand it to the homeless beggar.
Maybe the lady was a saint, because the recipient somehow
changed his countenance, somehow understanding that what she
was doing was very special. I witnessed this situation many times
and always walked away incredulous.

Francis Jean is now long gone, but she had to be one of the most
beautiful Benedictine souls I ever knew. In today's world, being civil,
being hospitable might not really be very easy. But my good friend
just instinctively reacted, practicing one of the great traits of the
Benedictine Tradition. She had honed her soul in such a way
that her nature had become Benedictine without ever preaching,
but rather just doing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

(33) Being a Prayer

"To learn how to pray is not to learn new poetic words. To learn
how to pray is to learn how to pronounce your own sacred word--
go speak yourself! To learn to pray is not to learn some method.
It is to know who you are and to be who you are supposed to be!
You are prayer. You are a special and sacred word of God made
flesh. To pronounce your own unique word is to pray the most
beautiful--if not the holiest--of prayers."
[Quoting Father Ed Hays, by Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O., in
PRAYER FORM, Image Books, 1982, p. 57.]

Comment: More years back than I wish to confess, I had occasion
to hear the Cistercian Basil Pennington give a talk on Centering
Prayer. Then a monk at Spencer, his abbot (I believe) then was
Thomas Keating, who eventually established a Centering Prayer
movement. I have tried Centering Prayer, but eventually I returned
to Father Hays idea about prayer--as quoted above.

Maybe I am just not that much of a contemplative, at least when it
comes to my prayer style. Indeed, when I read about prayer I oft
feel confused. I stand amazed at "true" contemplatives who follow
a totally dedicated life of meditative prayer. Perhaps I'm just too
much a practical person to understand this kind of dedication;
but, nonetheless, I honor such in others who can do it.

I guess I like Father Hay's approach to prayer, because I sincerely
believe that we are literally "consciousness points" in a living
universe in which the Holy is present, in which there is not only
vast systems of inter-relationship, but that ever present Connection
with That Beyond us. I suspect as Time moves on, if we are
fortunate enough to grow into ever Greater Understanding, we
will come to *know* ever better who we are--Part and Parcel of
the All of it, standing within the Whole, the Holy.

Hence I believe that our life "being a prayer" is singularly important.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

(32) Prayer Wheel

"Perhaps our assembling in choir at various intervals of the day, to
dedicate those times explicitly to the love of God and to renew our
own spiritual strength, is the greatest test of all. We have to be
unselfish enough to drop the work we are engaged upon, however
interesting, and go and be apparently 'unproductive' in church. We
have to make the serious effort to empty our minds of our pre-
occupations and have the dispositions of the poor in spirit, empty of
self, waiting on God."
[Dame Paula Fairlie, OSB, "Forshadowings" in A TOUCH OF GOD:
EIGHT MONASTIC JOURNEYS, St. Bede's Publications, 1982, p.116.]

Comment: At the time of publication, Dame Paula lived in Britain.
But Benedictine houses all over the world have their daily prayer
schedules, called their great work--"Opus Dei." I remember when
I first started reading books by Thomas Merton, a Trappist who
followed the Benedictine Rule and schedule, that he envisioned this
as the Great Prayer Wheel of the West.

I've visited monasteries, and have attended their scheduled prayer.
On the surface it does seem rather perfunctory--and maybe it is
for some, but for others it may serve as a means to move into
greater depths of prayer and reflection.

As for myself, being beyond the walls, it oft seems difficult to
maintain any sort of schedule. I do manage prayer in the morning
and night, which may be enough considering my circumstances.
Rather, the problem for me is about the "depth" of prayer. No
doubt I'm not alone when it comes to this situation, but I do feel
nagged over my lack of effort.

Sometimes I don't really feel that I am actually communing with
AnyOne. Is God really there, listening to my prayers? I certainly
hope so. Over the years nagging at myself, thinking about this
issue of prayer, I have come to the conclusion that if God truly
dwells within us, well then S/He knows our innermost thoughts,
and that really how we live forth our life is actually the most
significant prayer we can pray. How we respond to the urges of
the Spirit is also prayer. We are *listening* to God, who (I believe)
actually initiates communing with us. For me, there seems no
trouble listening to, discerning what I think are messages of the

Still, I nag at myself--really feeling inadequate when it comes to
initiating prayer towards God. It's like I'm not doing my part in this
relationship. So, maybe the traditional Benedictines have it right--
in that they schedule their prayer, engage in their great Prayer
Wheel, day in, day out. And being wise folk, they know that often
they are remiss when it comes to the depths of prayer, but they
continue and continue until it hopefully becomes a very rich
relationship between "Thou and me."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(31) Bede's Vision

No, not the medieval Bede, but rather the late Benedictine master--
Bede Griffiths--who years ago traveled to India and created several
ashrams that stressed inter-spiritual contact. While perusing
Templegate in1989--I found some points he made that may stand
behind the universal perspective of the *sannyasis* mentioned
in my previous post.

If I may, I'll list some of Fr. Bede's points, as put in the above book:

• "There is a general feeling today that we are at the end of an age...
[and] we go on now to ask, what will the pattern of the new age be
like? [pp. 276, 281]

• "The first thing is that human society will be based on a new
relationship to the world of nature, arising from an organic
understanding of nature in place of a mechanistic view of the
universe...We have to learn to see ourselves as part of the
physical organism of the universe. [p. 281]

• "Secondly, the sense of communion with an encompassing
reality will replace the attempt to dominate the world. The different
understanding of ecology and a greater sensitivity to its realities
would revolutionise our understanding of nature and of the world
in which we live. [p. 282]

• "Thirdly, these new values would give rise to a new type of human
community...a decentralised society. [p.283]

• "Then we turn to the great religious traditions, Hindu, Buddhist,
Jain, Sikh, Taoist, Confucian, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Judaic, Muslim,
and Christian. These are systems of religion which have their origin
during the first millennium before Christ. All are based on the
perennial philosophy, developed under different situations and in
different circumstances, and all embody in their different ways the
ancient wisdom and the wholeness of life. These different traditions
will all be seen as interrelated and interdependent, each giving a
particular and unique insight into ultimate truth and reality." [p. 286]

Comment: Utopian? No, since over the twenty-year period since
Bede Griffith's book was published, we are rapidly coming to the
understanding that we are part and parcel of the Natural World.
After centuries of sad misuse of our planet's resources, we have
arrived at the question of Sustainability. Over populated, how do
we now appropriately and fairly sustain the world's citizens?

Without being a worry-monger, I can only hope that our destructive
misuse and treatment of the planet will not plunge us into despair.
It would seem now that time is of the essence. Scientists have
discovered that the Earth is a single Complex System, consisting
of system upon system, whether ecological, whether climatic,
whether oceanic, whether biological, and even perhaps mental,
all Inter-related. But can our leaders, as well as the commonweal.
digest all these new findings and potential paradigms before we
experience destruction? Let's pray so!

As for the world's religious traditions--or systems, as Fr. Bede
rightly puts it--will their "authorities" come to understand their
Common Source and somehow not only engage inter-spiritually
but also perhaps integrally?

As for Fr. Bede's hope that we may harken back to a decentralized
society--moving from cities to small towns and villages--I wouldn't
even venture a guess. His hope was that such a move would help
us to re-engage with one another. Of course the World Internet
was not as fully established back when he wrote his book. As a
participant of the Net, it's obvious (to me) there's engagement with
one another. But it's perhaps lonely and too superficial. We still
need deep-down friends and family--and many of us languish in
this respect.

Nonetheless, I surely believe that Fr. Bede was right. A new age
certainly beckons, but we need keep our fingers crossed as to how
it might unfold.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

(30) Sannyasis

"Perhaps one day we will witness the eventual emergence of
a universal order of *sannyasis*: contemplatives or mystics
from all traditions united in their awareness, their love, and
their dedication to the earth, humankind, and all sentient beings."
SPIRITUAL LIFE, New World Library, 2002, p. 16.]

Comment: Interestingly, today I decided to re-read the above
book by the late Wayne Teasdale--a truly universal monk, yet
who remained a Roman Catholic. Like Thomas Matus, OSB Cam,
who I mentioned in my last post, Teasdale was initiated as a
sannyasi by Fr. Bede Griffiths, a famous Benedictine monk, who
established an inter-spiritual ashram in India.

Not a surprise, of course, but Benedictines have been involved
in an inter-spiritual movement for years. I once remember
attending a Benedictine monastery, amazed seeing visiting
Buddhist monks--in their saffron robes--flocking out with the
black-robed Benedictines. So for quite awhile I have realized
the Buddhist-Benedictine connection.

But I am new to the Sannyasis connection. But I plan to study this
connection more carefully. Just yesterday I came across an
announcement of Thomas Matus' ASHRAM DIARY: IN INDIA WITH
BEDE GRIFFITHS. It is an account of how he became a sannyasi.
To quote from his blog site, he notes that his book is "a story of
immersion and induction into the freedom of the sannyasis, India's
'renunciants' who paradoxically embrace all reality, sacred figures
who are free from all rituals of home fires and temple fires."

Need I say that I am going to acquire this Benedictine monk's book
as soon as possible. Mainly I am interested in the evolution of
monastic thinking when it comes to an universal perspective.

But returning to Wayne Teasdale, the monk in the world, well he
accommodated this universal perspective by living his professed
monastic life in various ways out beyond the monastery walls.
He taught Catholic theology, he worked with the homeless, he
danced on the edge trying to promote change, and he firmly
worked towards what he called a "New Catholicity."

Monday, July 27, 2009

(29) Ancient Intuitions

"THOMAS: As far as theology is concerned, the dialectic between
the new and the old is somewhat different from what it is in science.
You said, David, that what we call the new theological paradigm is
the recovery of our most ancient intuitions. This is true, and it is
also where science and theology are methodologically distinct.
The development of new theological paradigms does not entail
the falsification of the 'old' ones, any more than the adult involves
the falsification of the Saint Paul said, 'Now I have put
childish ways behind me.'"
[Fritjof Capra & David Steindl-Rast, OSB, wtih Thomas Matus,
1991, p. 80.]

Comment: The book cited above is the result of an interchange
between a well-known scientist, then working at the Esalen
Institute and two Benedictine monks who were residing nearby
at the Camaldolese Hermitage at Big Sur, California.

Reading through this book many times, I really liked the comments
made by Fr. Thomas--an incredibly gifted monk and contemplative.
And I especially took note of his paragraph above, because in
recent days it strikes close-to-home for me.

Over the past several months I wrote and completed a particular
series of stories that addressed my present interest in both
science and spirituality as well as natural history. And in terms
of my spiritual (or theological) quest, I have found it more
relevant to harken back to the early, original *intuitions* we
humans have discerned over time.

However, ancient intuitions of special note sometimes are over-
ridden by opinions that ultimately detract from their original
form. In Vatican II there was a term used that described this
situation: "Concretion." This term is actually a geologic term
which describes the Original Rock deemed nearly
unrecognizable because of all the extraneous residue that
forms around it over the ages.

So what Fr. Thomas seems to be saying is that somehow we
need clean away the residue and get back to the original intuition
when it comes to our theological conceptions.

The question I have is to whether the "ancient intuitions" actually
are theologically relevant in our diverse, often secular-oriented
world? I really cannot answer my question very well, because
the rock-cleaning has barely begun. Still, I am grateful that there
are theologians--and monks--who recognize the situation. They
propose a new avenue of approach.

I'm inclined towards this new avenue that approaches the "old,"
too! After I have dug deep enough, I am actually able to see a
Continuum--a connection or flow theologically--come down
through time. When I "see" this way, I almost can detect the
work of the Spirit in our midst.

However, my next question is directed towards the Future. Even
if we spy the Continuum of our various god-imagery, will this very
ancient intuitive habit of ours be relevant enough in these
tough-minded technological civilizations we have built and in
which we live? Can these ancient intuitions address the
spiritually (and non-spiritually) diverse populations that are
forthcoming on larger and larger scales?

Some scholars suggest tossing aside our ancient intuitions,
start over, working towards totally new theological or deistic
concepts. I suppose that could happen, but I am inclined to
think that may not be a wise move.

Rather, I agree with Fr. Thomas that the more mature way to
"Seek God" is to build upon our ancient intutions, ever building
our god concepts and imagery upon a strong base that has
been with us from the beginning of human awareness.

Friday, July 17, 2009

(28) Choice

"The function of religious life is to make obedience to the highest
law visible...Obedience, in other words, depends on choice.
Obedience is a criteria for personal determinations, not a set of
rules for living...institutionalized. Who can possibly admire religious
robots...Only choice makes witness real. Only choice makes growth
real. Only choice makes virtue real. For religious life to be real,
we must all beware of anything that makes choice suspect and
maturity a sham."
[Joan Chittister, O.S.B., THE FIRE IN THESE ASHES: A
Sheed & Ward, 1995, p. 135.]

Comment: A former Benedictine prioress, Sister Joan fully
recognizes the plight of religious orders in her book cited above.
It's the old story about dwindling numbers and advancing age in
the monasteries and priories. However, this particular book
addresses new ways that might revitalize religious life. As I read
through it, I saw that many of the ideas that Sister Joan advances
might be really valuable for those monastically inclined who live
outside the walls.

The one tidbit I chose for this post is about *choice.* Really, as a
mature adult, just about everything we do boils down to choice.
Our decisions determine how we live, how we interact with the world,
how we forge our own life, etc.

Once a friend provided an analogy about choice. She said that what
we choose is like a toboggan ride. We make our choice at the top of
the run, and there's no changing it until we have arrived at the end of
the run. Perhaps true up-to-a point, though I believe occasionally
there is a chance to make a correction. When thinking about that
analogy, I kind of got scared. If we paused to ponder such, some of
us just might be paralyzed to choose anything at all. That's probably
why many of us don't think before we make a choice. Me? I'm oft
guilty as charged.

Again, maybe just my opinion, but within the Benedictine world or
in its tradition, there are factors that can lead the monastic to mature
and grow towards making evenly balanced choices. The structure
is there but we can't always guarantee the "chooser." There's that
old monastic maxim about "falling down, getting up--over and over."
As much as we might wish over the thought of perfection, it's never
quite a reality.

Still, as Sister Joan puts, there are "religious robots" who perhaps
adhere too much to blind obedience. Let the Boss or the Abbot be
the grown-up Father, if you will. Don't think, just do. Still there is a
necessity lurking behind all this business, when it comes to
obedience within the monastery. Sometimes the Abbot or Prioress
need be obeyed for the greater good of the monastic community.
Again--choice--a determination need be made about obedience.

Of course my interest about obedience and choice, as Sister Joan put,
is from the perspective outside the monastery, beyond the walls, out in
the world. The milieu is totally different. Lots of diversity, lots of calls
towards obedience that are not necessarily to be honored. Hitler
demanded obedience, and so do gang leaders. So right off, the
question begs to whom/Whom are you obedient --especially if you
are monastically oriented?

Maybe being out-in-the-world can make one more tough-minded.
That's oft been my case. In the end, I try to discern the action of the
Holy Spirit in/upon my life and, from such, attempt to be obedient to
its Call. This can be a treacherous undertaking, in that being human
I can really make some big mistakes. And I have! Discernment, in
itself, is not easy--but finally I have narrowed down my discernment,
my choices, perhaps in the most simplistic way.

I view the outcome of my choices, when it comes to obedience. More
than I would like to admit, I have had hit Brick Walls. Hence my choice
hurts me--maybe even others--and the more I insist on "my way, well
the more painful my given road becomes. On the other hand, I have
experienced Open Doors wherein I breezed through when it came to
my discernment and subsequent choice. Going for the Positive just
makes common sense! Or, as St. Paul once inferred, you can know
what's right from the fruit of your labor.

Friday, July 10, 2009

(27) Consider

"The world is dependent on human intelligence in the framework
of human life...Men naturally strive to create and sustain a unifying
understanding of the world, in order to give sense and purpose to
the complexities of human experience and natural phenomena."
[Daniel Rees and Other Members of the English Benedictine
MONASTIC LIFE TODAY, Cistercian Publications, 1980, p. 29.]

Comment: The above book is one of the Benedictine works that
celebrated the 1500-year anniversary of the Order. It's a very
thorough examination of the monastic life in our modern day.
But what caught my eye in the quoted paragraph was the emphasis
on understanding the world, the universe, and our experience in
such. It was interestingly apropos, because only recently I had
just completed two short stories that try to understand how the
Spirit works within us, through our minds, and how the Spirit
might be operative in the universe. See "Mind Link" and
"Sol Scientia" on the left margin.

I'm still striving to comprehend better our human experience of
God. I've lived long enough, now, to realize that there are many
experiential avenues of approach when it comes to our connection
with that Greater Reality we call God.

From what I have come to understand, the experiential isn't always
necessarily related to our Consciousness nor our Intelligence.
Special experiences are oft more luminous, more pronounced,
more boggling, whether we call them "peak experiences" or
"eureka moments." Theologians (and even some philosophers
and scientists) have long considered what they call the Imaginal

From what little I know, the Imaginal Realm is not some sort of
mystical land outside, out there. Rather it's part of the Inner
Universe, the Implicate Order, if you will. These days it is being
given more attention. Could be we might become more comfortable
with these complexities of experience we face. Could be, too,
that if we better understood this inner aspect of the universe,
our creativity will let loose in unimaginably rich expressions.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

(26) Harmonious Labor

"In the Benedictine tradition, labor is dignified and so are the
laborers. In a society where work was a sign of lower status in
society, where nobles never expected to work a day in their
lives, where slavery was considered a natural state to life,
everyone worked in Benedict's community."
1990, p.89.]

Comment: Sr. Joan is a former Benedictine prioress and
well-known author of monastic books. And her notation
about labor is striking, in that it addresses the early period
of the Benedictine Order. St. Benedict himself hailed from
a Roman aristocratic family, but many of the monks in his
early monasteries were illiterate. He wrote his Rule to be
an equalizer amongst fellows. They were laymen, and he
was dubious about priests in his community. Seniority
basically was dependent on one's entrance date into the

However, after more than 1500 years, the priesthood had
infiltrated the monasteries. Many of the priests became
"choir monks," whereas the common brothers came to be
known as "field monks." Status entrenched itself almost to
the present day. In modern times, this kind of status has
broken down. And now everyone has their share of common
duties in the monastery.
[See essay (12) Discrimination.]

Years back I knew a very erudite scholar monk. One day I
encountered him involved in back-breaking labor, doing
yard work, dressed "down," with shirt off because of the heat.
I asked him whether this was a usual chore. "Oh, yes!" And
he did not resent it, because it provided a balance in his life.

He loved the classroom where he taught young monks. He
enjoyed the quiet of the library where he did his research.
And he loved the serenity of his room, where he wrote his
findings. But, above all, he loved doing yard work for the
relaxation of his body.

It's neat when a person can live a balanced life that includes
both mental and physical effort. And sometimes one can
discover creativity in both kinds of effort.

Like the monk, I have long been a scholar. And I was lucky,
in that I found an escape engaging in landscaping. I spent
most of my days researching and writing, but by a stroke of
luck I was asked to sit on a neighborhood committee created
for the purpose of landscaping a large portion of land where
we lived.

Working with nursery professionals, I learned lots about different
kinds of trees and plants, about soils and maintenance. After
this neighborhood project was completed, I stood struck by our
accomplishment. We had created a place of beauty. In time I
started doing personal landscaping for myself, for friends as well.
I came to realize what a creative outlet this had become for me.

Still I continued as a scholar--still do. And even as I grow older,
I labor in the yard, building gardens, patios, where we can rest
and meditate. Probably I knew deep-down that this was a
monastic endeavor, creating both intellectually and physically,
giving time to both, becoming a seamless effort that is natural.

No doubt this sense of harmony exists in many spiritual traditions,
but I'm glad the Benedictines stress such.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

(25) The Edge

"As human beings continue to evolve, so do our conceptions
of God...And it is through our very conceptions of the divine
that God's voice can speak to and through us, finding more
volume and resonance as the architecture of thought becomes
more sophisticated and inclusive."
[David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.,"Integral Christianity: Theory and
Practice. Part 1. The Relationship of the One and the Many,"

Comment: The above paragraph is from the summary of an
interview with Brother David, a world famous Benedictine monk.,
who has been long involved in the Buddhist Dialogue undertaken
by the Benedictine Order. He also has interfaced with scientific
pundits as well, working towards a new theological understanding
in light of new scientific discoveries.

Reading this specific idea about our evolving conceptions of
God, I was comforted--in that this is how I have felt for a very long
time. I have felt lonely, too, amongst the religious circles in which
I have frequented. Talking to one "authority," he sympathized with
me, implying that I was stepping ahead.

Well maybe so, but I've long felt uncomfortable with this so-called
stepping ahead. There's little doubt in my mind that the finer monk
minds are indeed stepping ahead, but perhaps they have a built-in
support system amongst their own. Maybe.

And whatever might this "stepping ahead" mean? Well it points
right back to Brother David's thought about our evolving conceptions
of God. The more trained a person might be in theology, philosophy,
and science, probably the more sophisticated conceptions they might
hold about God. That makes sense. But where does this stepping
ahead lead? To the Edge?

No doubt people in this situation vary regarding their conceptions.
I can only speak for myself. Long aware of our propensity towards
god-imagery down through the ages, historically it's possible to trace
the evolving sophistication involved. Our images of God do indeed
shift and change over time--and, eventually, some of these "leading
edge" concepts might filter into more traditional religious systems.

But in the here-and-now pioneering, those on the cusp of new god-
imagery usually have to pay the piper when it comes to relating at the
parochial level of religious systems. In the old days, some pioneers
were literally persecuted and even killed. Nowadays, it's more like
being ostracized--or worse, being ignored. Still, no matter the religious
system, the God it worships is a result of earlier pioneers. In time new
god-imagery does appear. It's all a process, I guess.

As for myself, I am much engaged in evolving god-imagery. I try very
hard to connect it with my own religious tradition. Sometimes it is quite
difficult, in that I feel I am manipulating raw data to fit a pre-conceived
hypothesis. However, I am finally beginning to break away from this
kind of position--and trying to be more impartial, more honest if you
will. I am now inclining towards simply letting the new knowledge
come into our consciousness unobstructed by archaic notions.

No doubt it will get even more lonely in the midst of this effort, still it's
a comfort to know that some Benedictine monks are sharing this Edge.

Monday, June 22, 2009

(24) Sharing

"The development of Benedictine houses into centres of civilization
drew to them not only aspirants for the religious life, but many and
divers persons desirous of sharing in various ways the benefits
accruing to that life."
[D.H. Turner, "Guests, Who Are Never Lacking in a Monastery," in
THE BENEDICTINES IN BRITAIN, George Braziller, 1980, p. 54.]

Comment: This publication was first sponsored by the British Library,
commemorating the fifteen-hundred anniversary of the Benedictines
back in 1980. At that time, D.H. Turner was with the Department of
Manuscripts, the Reference Division, the British Library.

Back in the Middle Ages the Benedictines had both an inner school
(for the monks) and an outer school (for the children of the European
aristocracy). And in modern times the Benedictine Order--at least in
Great Britain and the Americas--have established preparatory schools.
Originally they were schools for boys, but now some are coeducational.

Never a great many, but now these schools are occasionally closing.
I knew a monk who became the abbot of his English abbey. He
began attending the abbey's school when he was ten-years-old.
And following graduation, he stayed on as a monk. His heart was
always with his school, so close-by. By the time he became abbot,
hard times were hitting the monastery. Too few monks, too, growing
older by the minute. He passed away and did not see the sale of his
beloved school. The monks just could no longer manage both the
abbey and the school.

Hence the school was turned into a rather elegant condo project.
As for the few monks left, well most have engaged in the abbey's
retreat program.

As for retreats, Benedictine houses have long been available for
both individual and group retreats. Focusing on contemplative
spirituality for the most part, they reach a goodly number of people.
These days it seems there is such a need for such.

So even as their schools fade away, the Benedictines still share
their tradition by opening their doors to spiritual seekers. And more
so, now, the monks are publishing books, creating websites, that
extend their monastic benefits. It would seem that the Benedictines
are keeping-up with the times.

It would be interesting to speculate over what new ways that the
Benedictines might share their tradition in the future. Maybe
eventually we might spot different ways the monks are discovering
when it comes to their sharing.