Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Conversatio Morem Suorem"

Today marks the first day of our Cor Unum “regime.”  Fear not!  We are about to address CHANGE in a way most of us have never imagined.  It will be personal, productive, painless and profound!  It’s going to be delightful instead of dreary! 

There are three monastic vows unique to Benedictines.  Conversatio morum suoremis the second, and we will take a look at its fellows tomorrow.  We might well leave “Conversatio” in Latin, because it is a hard-to-translate promise, but as long as they live, Benedictines vow NOT to remain as they are!  “Conversatio” is conversion, but not once-in-a-lifetime and not one size fits all.  In their pursuit of Christ Jesus and His likeness, Benedictines make a commitment to keep changing, to keep conforming to the image of Christ all the days of their lives.
What a great vow!  Most Christians are a bit uncomfortable with that word.  It was Jesus Himself told us not to make vows, but to let our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No.”  There is a catch, when we don’t think things through.  He also told us to “Be perfect, as I am perfect,” and “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me.”  Shall we answer “No”?  We ought perhaps to give an answer . . . “Yes,” or “No.”  Too often our failure to answer turns out to be a “No” in the end!  Gladly, we in Cor Unum may say “Yes!” when He says “Come, follow me.”  We don’t have to call it a vow, but we do need to keep our “Yes!”  Never to turn back is our "Yes" is “Conversatio.”

This is our first shared practice.  Today if possible, before night falls, let us each take time to ask the Lord to show us where we might undertake one small and lasting change, for His sake. What we do for His sake will always be to our own great benefit.  Listen for the very small, even the tiny endeavor.  (We are going to talk further about listening for His Voice, but for today, just do your best.) 

If you are one who can choose in a moment to lose eighty pounds and make it happen, what a blessing that must be, but most of us put on extra pounds because we haven’t put small, do-able changes into effect as we went along!  Perhaps you will choose to surrender one of your favorite television programs in order to spend that time in prayer.  For some, that might be too large for a first-time “Conversatio” commitment.  Perhaps you will decide to make eye contact with cashiers when shopping or reduce the sugar in your coffee by one teaspoon.  This is our Cor Unum rule: We choose only that one thing that we WILL DO.  Let it be as small as a decision not to bite ONE out of all ten fingernails, but it must be something that will not fail to be done or surrendered.  This one thing we will do, and we won’t turn back.  We can do all things in the strength of the Lord, but here is where we make a start!  Great strengthening results when we say, “Yes” and let our yes, be yes!   

Benedictine Monks Singing Vespers
John Stephen Dwyer, by permission

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