Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Opinions


“Be content that you are not yet a saint, even though you realize that the only thing worth living for is sanctity. Then you will be satisfied to let God lead you to sanctity by paths that you cannot understand. You will travel in darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with yourself and no longer compare yourself with other men.”[1]

I still like to think that what I think is important, that my views and opinions have some notable value that others should pay attention to. The idea that “my opinions”, in a world filled with opinions, are important can be a problem. It can cause me problems and it can certainly cause problems for others. After all, who is right? Whose best assessment of all the facts and variables is the one that all should accept and live according to? Or do I simply write my own rule as I go, after the manner of the sarabaites and gyrovagues that were given dishonorable mention in Chapter 1, and then get upset when nobody endorses my rule or follows it?

To have an opinion is one thing. It may be a good opinion. At the same time it may be a misinformed or malformed one. To assert that opinion on others is quite another thing especially in a world filled with so many diverse underlying currents where opinions are constantly changing based on the activity of the currents.

Benedict, keen on what we need as individuals and as communities, comes to the rescue in Chapter 3 of the Rule. He understood the need for individuals to opine on situations of importance. He also understood the necessity of one person, after hearing all the offered opinions, deciding the best and wisest course for all concerned.[2] The responsibility placed on the shoulders of the Abbot is tremendous.[3]

In all humility personally accepting and submitting to this position of responsibility is indicative of genuine Gospel poverty – the choice to give up the right to ownership of anything including personal opinions.[4] Humility opens us to the possibility that, despite our rank, position or intellectual capacity, we may not have the best opinion and that the best opinion may come unexpectedly from the least among us.[5]

Embracing the humility of Gospel poverty is really the best and most direct way to counter the effects of human pride and greed in our lives. Gospel poverty leads us along paths of sanctity that we never fully understand. We are able to see more of where we came from than where we are going. It’s not always comfortable on this path but we discover the contentedness inherent in it, contentedness that far outweighs any discomfort associated with the journey.

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 59
[2] RB 3:1-2
[3] RB 2:33-34
[4] RB 3:4
[5] RB 3:3