Tuesday, April 8, 2008

RB 1: The Different Kinds of Monks

Chapter 1 in the Holy Rule draws distinctions between various forms of the monastic life. There are the sarabites, who tend to follow their own desires as opposed to a rule, whom Saint Benedict finds the most “detestable” kind of monk. The hermits, who choose the solitary life after successfully navigating the challenges of the monastery, find that silence isn’t really empty at all but filled with the presence of GOD. Cenobites, or those who live in community under a rule and a prioress, are, according to Benedict, “the strong kind of monk.” Saint Benedict had no doubt that it was more soul-stretching to live with others than to live alone. He believed that choosing to give up “freedom”, in the yoke of a rule, would make us truly free as Christ was in obedience to his Father.

This leaves one other type of monastic – the gyrovague. This one travels from monastery to monastery sponging off the hard labor of others. The gyrovague picks up and goes whenever their welcome has been exhausted. Often they are critical of the community they visit – nervy parasites receiving undue attention and having access to the prioress’ ear. Benedict has no patience for gyrovagues. It is only by staying put – what we call the promise of “stability” – that we can face ourselves before GOD. Running away is not an option for the serious seeker. Starting over means a new day in the same place, with the same people. Gyrovagues might travel light, but cenobites stockpile grace upon grace.

That said…I’m leaving for a meeting in Baltimore, MD. I have two days worth of clothes in my overnight bag and hangers bob in the rearview mirror. Vocation Ministry is about reaching out – being visible – and taking advantage of opportunities to share our life with the world. I love this job…more than I have time to tell you. But, my suitcase might make one think of the “G” word. Hopefully, traveling as I do and must, my promise of stability ties my heart to 120 acres of Virginia clay and to the women whose life and love I share in our mutual search for GOD. I carry Bristow in heart – 33 women and 140 years of ministry. My bag is light but my soul is filled with the wisdom of a tradition and the hope that our way will continue as GOD wills.

Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki