Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pathways Of Contradiction And Hope

Quite a number of years, investigating and pondering the roots and history of monasticism, predicated the day that I eventually knocked at the door of St. Bernard Abbey, an event that coincided with a parallel journey of beginning RCIA[1] classes at St. Lawrence Catholic Church.

These parallel paths first appeared as paths of contradiction. And they are. They contradicted much of what I had been taught as a Protestant believer. They also appeared, bizarre as they may seem to intellects groomed to oppose them, as paths of hope in a deep and dark forest crisscrossed with so many trails and the echoing voices of a confusing chorus of denominational and independent criers.

I could not though, for the spiritual life of me, once my weary pilgrim feet had started walking these parallel paths, turn aside or cease the journey. This journey, replete with certain pending costs in regard to personal relationships, was far too important. Its dividends were far too valuable to trade for less valuable tender.

The voices of the criers in the proverbial woods no longer appealed to my ears. The many crisscrossing paths were no longer inviting and held no attraction to my eyes. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had become real to me. The need for the authority vested in Apostolic Succession had become real to me. My own deepest personal need, after decades of professing Christ and serving him as a Protestant minister, had become real to me.

It was in the realization of my own deep personal need and the means[2] to satisfy my own deep hunger and thirst that I also began to realize my vocation in becoming a layperson in the Catholic Church and in becoming an Oblate of St. Benedict.

Though I’ve known Christ throughout most of my life, I found my spiritual Mother in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Mother Church established by her Son. In the monastic way of spirituality, particularly through St. Benedict, the Holy Rule, and a daily horarium of prayer, lectio, and manual labor, I found an effective, time proven, and unchanging way[3] to live the Gospel Ideals in this crazy and fractured modern age.

And I endeavor to do this in relationship with the monastic community at St. Bernard’s and with other Oblates living outside the cloister. This is a relationship that readily assists in keeping me from my own easily accomplished errors in interpreting the Gospel to meet my own fickle and changing moods and desires.

A life given to the practice of holy obedience and conversion of life, when viewed in the context formed by monastic spirituality running alongside the framework authoritatively provided by the governing Church that is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic[4], is something far removed from any ideas of a life hedged by religious subservience. Its perimeter and bivouac host a spiritual freedom filled with its own characteristics that are more easily experienced than explained. It is a freedom easily resisted, neglected, or taken altogether for granted.

The labor of holy obedience and its subsequent fruit of conversion of life is honestly the only means available to deliver me from my own sloth of disobedience.[5] So I do my best, as an Oblate, to keep the monastic pathway under my feet. And, when I do wander off the path, it doesn’t take long for the brambles and briars to get my attention.

[1] Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults
[2] John 6:22-69
[3] 1500 years of usage surely deems something reliable.
[4] The character of the Church as defined by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
[5] RB Prologue 2