Monday, November 24, 2008

Monastic Study

It is not my place to look for or find fault with or criticize the Order that so graciously received me into it as an Oblate. I must, though, endeavor to understand its movement and progress over the course of history, take into account its reforms, attempt to keep an objective focus, and distill all of this into its essential essence as a spiritual tonic in an age where thousands of voices are hawking their miracle oils on the street corners of life.

The words written by Paul to Timothy speak to me in the context of the aforementioned. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.”[1] Studying is not an option. It is an imperative, especially considering that the Rule of St. Benedict is also the guiding rule for the Cistercians and the Carthusians – reforms aimed at returning to stricter interpretations and applications of the rule of the Founding Father of all Benedictines.

I must however admit, at this point in what I consider yet to be my own juvenal lay-monastic development, that I am much more drawn to the silent, contemplative life of the Cistercians and Carthusians than I am to the worthy educational task undertaken by Abbeys of the Order of St. Benedict. It was, after all, in reading Merton that I found myself being led out of the wilderness and toward monastic spirituality. This, though, is something inherent within the realm of my own discernment process, in understanding my own charismatic graces, and in no way implies anything scathing toward the charismatic graces of this blessed Order and Abbey where I made and intend to keep my Oblate Promise.

It takes all of us, living within any religious society, to complete and complement that society.[2] The various parts receive the necessary graces to fulfill their role in completing and complementing the whole of this society. Studying and understanding the Rule has a central role in the development of my social graces as an Oblate. So does studying and understanding the Scriptures. I can’t divorce myself from studying and understanding Sacred Tradition. I can’t negate the importance of the offerings of the Sages and Saints of the ages.

To avail myself to these, to gain from their wisdom, necessarily means that I view myself as a fledgling modern day disciple, as a student of masters whose knowledge and contemplative spirituality far exceed my own. This does nothing to detract from the validity of my own contemporary experience. To the contrary, it insures that my own contemporary experience has a solid and proven foundation to support it.[3]

[1] 2 Timothy 2:15
[2] 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
[3] Matthew 7:24-27