Sunday, July 17, 2005

RB 38: The Weekly Reader

The use of reading during supper is a small detail of monastic life, but it is a telling one. It illustrates well the observation of John Cassian (later echoed by C. S. Lewis) that friendship is about two or more persons valuing the same goal rather than on persons valuing each other. This is a counter-intuitive idea for our world. We would normally want to use meals as a time for persons to get to know each other, share news, laugh and so on. These things are not bad things, and in many cases are quite appropriate. But among monks who do not share familial ties, but are rather united in the pursuit of a holy life, solidarity is forged not so much through personal sharing as by a unified vision of the goal of monastic life. Table reading, well chosen, fosters this unity by forming the brothers' minds in common with each other. This also happens at the other crucial community gathering, the Divine Office, where we mediate on the same Scriptural readings and Patristic commentaries as everyone else. Whatever personal preferences we might bring to these community moments, we all hear the same text.


georgia said...

Maybe families could use this insight, using it to identify their common goal(s).Maybe one night a week, instead of the usual gab fest at dinner, let it be a time to listen to a book on tape- a book that helps them toward their goal.

Prior Peter, OSB said...

Dear Georgia--I like this idea very much. I have a very creative aunt (she writes Catholic childrens books) who always read to my sisters and me when we visited. My own mother did this too, to a lesser extent. As a result of this, my sisters and I share a whole host of common material that helps to keep us close even when we don't see each other regularly.

I also know of a group of priests in Michigan who regularly convene to read Catholic fiction to each other--not unlike our own Catholic Readers Society. In any case, there is something very powerful about communal reading.


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