Saturday, June 03, 2006

More on the city II

"[T]he polis [city-state] an enterprise which aims at the achievement of human good as such....The polis, at least the best kind of polis, is directed toward achieving all the good of its citizens, and for human beings the highest good to be achieved."
Alasdaire MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

One of the classic studies of early monasticism, The Desert a City by Derwas Chitty, notes that while the Desert Fathers withdrew from usual society, inevitably their own 'way of life' (what Benedictines call conversatio) drew others and eventually a new society bloomed. This new society was based on gospel and humanistic values, providing an alternative to the economic and social structures based in power, money and prestige that tend to dominate the cities of this world.

I believe that most who come to the city do so because they see in it a place of opportunity, of a new life and of new possibilities. The problem with the city in the modern world is not urbanism as such, but in the problematic and even sinful values that govern it. Br. Augustine remarked to me a few days ago that the very organization of Chicago is prejudiced toward the exploitation of factory workers (a fact that was made easier by the Chicago fire and the temporary workers housing that sprouted up in its wake). Furthermore, I believe that it can be fairly easily demonstrated that the transportation infrastructure aims at the segregation of blacks from whites (this is breaking down now because of changing demographics, but since the 1950's it has had a devasting effect on the prospects of African-Americans on the South Side).

We received word yesterday that we will be receiving two Vietnamese monks soon. They will join us because their own government restricts their educational opportunities. We are also working to have a monk from Glenstal Abbey in Ireland join us. If this all comes to pass, we will be a community of eleven men from four countries and including representatives of Asia, Africa dn Mexico. In the Monastery, race should not be a factor. Nor should economic or class background. Monks take up rank by their date of entrance, period. They serve and obey one another and seek each others' good. Given enough time, fidelity to this gospel conversatio will cause a new polis to spring up where before there had been wildness and lawlessness. Please pray that our urban monastery will be blessed by God for this task.

Peace to you in Jesus Christ!

1 comment:

The Archer of the Forest said... monks. That's cool. I hope that all works out for you.

I will be away from Chicago for a while, working on a mission in South Dakota, and then a term at a Seminary in Cambridge, UK, but I promise to make a visit to see you all before I graduate from seminary. I hope I get to visit an international community when I return.


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Origen of Alexandria
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