Monday, May 09, 2005

RB Chapter 1: The kinds of monks

When people ask what a monk is, the temptation for me is to describe only the best qualities and ideals of monks as if merely holding such ideals and professing certain qualities as desirable will make a person holy. Saint Benedict, perhaps a bit more mature and experienced in his own profession, turns an unblinking eye toward the fact that talk is cheap. The truth is that there are many who would call themselves monks and profess the values of monastic life but fall short in the carrying out of the ideal in action. In fact, many monastic commentators today point out that since we are all sinners, every monk and nun, even the holiest, still retain a bit of the sarabaite (the self-willed) and the gyrovague (the unstable) inside.

For Saint Benedict, the mark of authenticity is perseverance in a community authorized by the Church. Monks are proven by having to dwell in the school of charity under obedience. Those who would want to retire to the hermitage without this apprenticeship would be fooling themselves. As Blessed John Cassian teaches, they will merely take their vices with them into the desert. May God see to it that we truly opt to be the 'strong kind' of monk, the community man who seeks always the good of others and not of self.

Peace to you and be assured of my prayers for you!
Prior Peter, OSB

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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