See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An authentic manly life.


The safe harbor of monastic life.
.
I've been reading the chapter talks by the abbott of New Melleray, Fr. Brendan.  They are very Trappist; plain and simple and straightforward.  Now that I am older, I appreciate spiritual discourse like this very much... after everything else has failed.  
.
"Ordinary, obscure and laborious"

.
Our Cistercian life has been described as ordinary, obscure and laborious in our Constitutions, no. 3:5.
.
[L]et's look at the description of our life a little closer. Ordinary lets us occupy ourselves with things of the spirit; laborious keeps us from getting lazy and obscure keeps us sharp and focused; it keeps us searching. We cannot settle down when something important in our life is obscure. We want to clarify it, get rid of the ambiguity and vagueness. If it is really important, we search for answers until we are satisfied.
.
We have to admit that many things in our life are obscure but we can live with that because they are not that personally important. Almost anything that has to do with numbers, mathematics, chemistry, in fact, science in general, is obscure to me. This doesn't matter because it is not essential that I understand it. If a person wanted to be a doctor, then it is a different story. We have chosen to focus our lives in a different way. We have made the search for God primary in our life. This would be our passion. To do this we have chosen a way of life that is ordinary. In other words, there is not a lot of excitement. Having Vespers like we did during the solemn blessing of the icons last May 12, 2006 was exciting but we wouldn't want it every week or every month or every year for that matter. I know many monks whose favorite days are ferial days in Lent! They have a simple liturgy with the focused Gospel message of repentance. Our contemplative life cannot tolerate a lot of distractions. In fact, we have chosen to live in an enclosure—a cloistered life to keep distractions out.
.
Ora et labora—prayer and work make up the rhythm of our days, very ordinary, all at the service of the inner life. I like a few statements from Cassian, "Those who are full jeer at the honey comb." When we are filled with all kinds of exciting things we can easily forget about God. We lose our hunger and thirst for God. The other statement has to do with his long description of the prayer, "O God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me." He says something like the "poverty" of this phrase will keep us in close contact with God. In other words, we don't need a lot of diversity in our prayer. We don't need a lot of information in our reading. We do need what seems like a poor few words to form our hearts in the ways of prayer—"the poverty of the phrase". This keeps our mind sharp and wanting more. It is a fasting of the mind, not the stomach.
.
When we say our life is obscure, we mean this in a few different levels. It is obscure to the people who see or hear about monks. We are often asked, "What is the purpose of your life?" No matter how much we try to give a clear answer to this question, it is still obscure. Why is this? Because the object of our life is obscure to us. Obscure means it is not readily understood or hidden, vague, even dark. The dictionary says dark in this definition implies an imperfect or clouded revelation. God, the object of our life is obscure to us; hidden not readily understood. I believe it was St. Hilary who said, "I have a firm grasp on something I do not understand." St. John of the Cross says faith is a night to our intellect. So yes, our life is obscure, hidden from others and even hidden from ourselves. It is difficult to live in an obscure place. Our intellects demand clarity. We cannot easily settle down or rest in obscurity but it is the lot of all who live by faith and not by vision.
.
This is especially difficult to our modern minds that have been formed by the scientific outlook. We are children of our culture and are accustomed t finding answers to every life situation. Our culture is good at this until it comes up against illness and death. Many people can live most of the lives in the obscurity of faith without realizing it. What shakes them out of their torpor is a life threatening illness or the death of a loved one. Then they search for answers and there are not satisfying answers on the level of science and technology. It is only the certainty of faith, more certain than science but more difficult to understand. - Dom Brendan Freeman, O.C.S.O

.
I would strongly advise/recommend any man seeking a monastic vocation to contact New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa.

7 comments:

  1. Beauatiful!
    I can relate...Oh, can I relate!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I attended Mass there once when I was in the early stages of my reversion.

    As I went up for Communion, as I heard the priest say "The Body of Christ", my only thought was "He really means that!"

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Terry! You lead others to the Rock that is our Savior!

    What I can tell you is that I don't pray about this enough. Your reference to this particular vocation... oh, goose bumps.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love our Trappist monastery in Huntsville, Utah....

    The plain walls, subtle decorations, not alot of gingerbread and frosting..one magnificant stained glass window of Our Lady of the Trinity, the name of the monastery...they also do chant.

    wonderful place to go and pray, with few distractions. Don't expect luxuries. They also hold men'sr etreats.

    They too are sorely in need of vocations...

    Calling all farm boys..they have a magnificant ranch in need of hard working experienced farm hands :) Lovely area in the Ogden Valley surrounded by God's favorite mountains :)

    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  5. New Melleray is very peaceful, prayerful place. They are located in the heart of DBQ Co. 1 small think, it is real easy to miss the turnoffs.

    Unfortunately, I don't have the chance to get out there as often as I would like.

    Also, & I know this sounds a little morbid, if you are looking for a casket, they make some very beautiful wooden caskets as a part of their work to support themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Al: You probably don't remember me; I was at Loras from '77-'81...but I remember you (I actually rode in your car several times!! I was John Gilbert in my previous life...friend of Annie S. and Dave H. (now Fr.))
    N. Melleray was a place of retreat for us seminarians every January...cold as hell...but I really appreciated being there.
    I'd love to be buried in one of their caskets...in fact, our community here may be ordering some of them (not that we'll need them soon, God willing!).
    Bless you, Al!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ordinary, obscure and laborious...I was just meditating on that this morning and thinking of God in Mundane Reality...

    ReplyDelete


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.