Years ago after I had first visited Holy Wisdom Monastery, someone in a book study group where we were reading The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris, said, “I don’t know why anyone would want to live in a monastery!” Needless to say, I didn’t share the fact that I was considering the possibility of living in a monastery. I had a hard time articulating my desire at that time other than to say that I was drawn to the values I saw lived in the monastery.
Seventeen years later, I can say more about why someone might want to live in a monastery.
First, we don’t come to the monastery to be holy, unless being holy means becoming extraordinarily human. When an old monk was asked what he did all day long in the monastery, he said, “We fall and get up. We fall and get up.” Life can make us holy when we live it prayerfully, attentively and humbly in communion with others.
Secondly, living in a monastery is not about getting away from the world. There is much we might identify as being wrong with the world, but running away from it won’t help it. Besides, when we come to live in the monastery, we soon find that the world has come with us. We find consumerism, pride, individualism, to mention just a few “worldly” matters, are alive and well within us.
So why would anyone want to live in a monastery?
- To live her deep commitment to Jesus Christ through prayer and service in the company of others with the same commitment
- To make a difference in the world by learning to love open-heartedly and to give of oneself more than one knew one could
- To witness to the fact that a joyful, balanced life of prayer and work, service and study is possible in this world
- To let others into her life and become part of others’ lives as we fall down and get up again and again on the way to becoming fully human together
Of course, one need not live in a monastery to do any of these things. But if a community life of prayer, work, service and study appeals to you, living in a monastery might not be all that strange – or scary.
Try it for six months and see for yourself. Benedictine Sojourners at Holy Wisdom Monastery – for single, Christian women ages 21-50.
Follow the series: Living in Community – Myth busting.
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