Thursday, January 17, 2013

Conversatio's Other Brothers

We looked yesterday into the second of three Benedictine vows, that of “Conversatio,” the monastic promise to “keep changing” until the likeness of Jesus Christ can be seen in our love and peace and joy and faith.  Our first step here in Cor Unum was to choose a very small, absolutely-will-take-place "conversion" of lifestyle, something that we will not fail to do or to surrender, for Jesus' sake.

“Conversatio Morum Suorum” is sandwiched between two extraordinary siblings: “Stability” and “Obedience.”  The first, stability, is the vow to remain cloistered in the House that first welcomed you.  One might later be sent out to start a new monastic foundation, but no one is ever forced to go.  To Benedictines, this is not a law but an inheritance.  The Benedictines are the “house proud” monastics, in a good way. 

The third vow, obedience, which sounds traditionally monastic and moralistic to us, is to them the raison d’etre; that is why they are there.  They trust that the workings of the Divine Office, Lectio Divina, community, silence, Ora et Labora (“Work and Prayer,”) and the commitment to obey a wise and loving superior, will get them where they want to go, and those who persevere, by vast majority, end up with their hearts’ desire.

The interesting and engaging truth is that those of us who have been walking with the Lord for awhile probably already have a Divine Office in one form or another.  We practice a Marketplace Monasticism at some level, observing regular intervals of 

Lectio Divine (Bible study,) 

everyday work and prayer (Ora et Labora,) 

fellowship and communion with those within our families, friendships, jobs, and churches, 

and in almost all cases, there will be some necessary and some voluntary submission

Here in Cor Unum we maximize these.  We get the most out of what we have been given, and with the end in mind that we will walk with God.  We turn boundaries into great liberty, as we have long suspected they might become.  We ourselves become stable and consistent and very fruitful, as the Lord has expected us to become (John 15:1, 2.)  Bible reading, work and prayer, fellowship, each can be of supreme value or barely advantageous, depending upon our vision.  Donning habits and living behind a grille and locked doors, with every hour accounted for by others has helped hundreds of thousands of men and women to settle down into the peace of God and a vital friendship with Him.  We are among those that won't be denied.  We have everything in common with them, minus the monastery, so we have formed our own.  Hidden away, in the monastery of our own hearts, we pursue the Presence of God without the trappings, without protected devotional hours, and despite the distractions that come with our manifold responsibilities.  

There is only one way that we will be sure of success.  We have to make the world, our world, our cloister.   

Did you notice something missing from the devotional list?  

Yes, silence.  Even if all those other elements are in place, we seldom have a strong relationship with quiet.  Tomorrow provides a look at “wellness,” and from there, on to perhaps the greatest health benefit of all . . . genuine rest. 

Carmelite nun and novice
Eugenia Hanson, by permission

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