Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24 – Benedictine Vows

While passing through a succession of entrance interviews, the candidate for postulancy will become well-acquainted with the rudiments of the Rule under which the monastery operates.

For Benedictines, the more familiar vows of poverty and chastity are omitted and yet observed. There is a spiritual genius about Benedict’s order.

The Benedictine postulants and novices are moving toward permanent vows of 1) obedience, 2) stability, and 3) “conversatio.” They consider that the abbot or abbess is God’s agent to love and watch over all and each, and to see the house remain, that the praises of God will never cease in that place. Non recedat laus! To that glorious end, each must abide and obey and . . . make some interior changes!

To the Benedictine, it is nonsensical to strive for excellence of spirit and refuse to obey those whose purpose in life is to see that you get there. A prideful, petty, or persnickety Abbess would not fit that bill, and those who have chosen to obey her for the duration of her lifetime, or theirs, choose wisely in election. They choose happy leaders; exterior spirituality does not impress them anything like good cheer and patient wisdom can and fidelity to devotion. Let us master our souls cheerfully, with wisdom instead of harsh resolutions, and let us be devoted to devotion!

Stability is a vow largely unique to the Benedictines. Monks and nuns will vow steadfast love to the house that has welcomed them. See how this vow, and the vow of obedience, makes the vows of poverty and chastity redundant! When they stay, they remain chaste in obedience to Scripture and the Rule, and it is not possible to go abroad and become rich. Everything that does come in belongs to the house for the benefit of all.

Observing chastity and poverty within the vows of stability and obedience, the Benedictine has opportunity to take up the more searching vow, the more crushing vow, of “conversatio.” This order vows to “change continually” in pursuit of the likeness of Jesus Christ. We will look tomorrow at how these vows mirror our devotion, and in the meantime, perhaps we will each be asking, “where might I, here in Cor Unum, address change in my life, for Jesus’ sake?”

Grad Bistra Convent Courtyard
by permission

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