Saturday, May 14, 2011

Universal Monastics

Back in the days of the Feudal Lords,during the time of the Dark Ages,A rich person would buy up great tracks of land for serfs to work,farm and live on.
When harvest time came and the crops were sold,the towns people would pay the land owner his fee and he in turn would protect the village from those of the outside world who may do them harm.
At this point and time in history many monasteries were built,the land owner would agree to have monks come to their property and set up their Buildings and in return the Feudal Lord would pay for the support and upkeep of both monastery and monks.
Like today,some landlords were good and some were not.
Back in this period most people never left their homes or traveled father then a neighboring village,everyone,including the monks,would live out their entire life in this one community.
It was very easy,back then to entice men and women into these growing monasteries and convents,since most people felt the outside world was dark and dangerous,they had few choices in their village,either you were a working serf or a monastic.
Today we are a very different people indeed.
Most of us have traveled to many places and may have lived in different homes in multiple states or even countries.
We are no longer a stationary group living in one town or doing one job for the rest of our natural days.
opportunities abound all around us,all we have to do is go and meet them.
Most people have no issues with getting into their car and driving off some where every day for no special reason,other then because they want to.
We live a fast paced life with many worldly choices around us on an hourly basis.
The idea of a person giving their life up for one idea is becoming very foreign to us.
This is a throw away society,if we don't like were we are or who we're with,we leave.
Jobs,marriages,families you name it and we know how to dispose of it.
The idea of people going off to be monks or nuns has become less and less of an attraction.
Its hard to decide to turn away from all that the world has to offer and lock ones self up in a building filled with prayer and rules,a place were self importance is on the bottom,rather then the top of our list.
We have now become the Feudal Lords,not the serfs.
With that said,many people today are becoming more turned off by what the world has to offer them,an overload of materialism but very little spiritualism.
Some are now turning their own homes into a sort of personal monastery.
Most of us live in the world of jobs,families and friends but are becoming more aware of our need to get closer to God on a more personal level.
I know of people who have set up,in their homes,small prayer areas in an attempt to get farther from the secular and close to the spiritual.
These people may not know it,but they are a growing trend and some monasteries are embracing this idea,allowing these small clusters of people to join into their monastic groups.
When St. Francis of Assisi was alive he and his followers traveled around the villages,embracing this rule based worldly monastery.
He once said "The world is my cloister,my body my cell and my spirit my hermit."
Many people today understand that a need for more discipline in a religious life is necessary,that we,as Jesus said are in the world but not of the world,unfortunately most of us have come to this realization after establishing a career and family,making running off to a monastery not in our future.
What to do?
I am in the process of reading a book written by the musician John Michael Talbert called "The Universal Monk",about his own hermitage in Arkansas,who are now embracing this concept.
They have allowed outside people living in communities all over the world,to join this new monastic idea.
With this comes an understanding that you may be of any religious denomination but you must be willing to follow the rules laid out by their Catholic Community,most of which are Benedictine in nature.
Becoming a member of this group is a lifetime commitment and can not be taken lightly,even vows before the community are required.
It is not a throw away idea which can be discarded on a whim,it requires full daily dedication and challenges.
The difficulty of this idea is you remain in the secular world and must be self motivated,its not like living in an organized daily functioning group where every one has the same daily regime.
Back in the days of the desert fathers and mothers,it was believed that the evil of the world lived in the dessert,so these people were not running from evil they were really running toward it.
Today this idea is that those who live in the world fight evil every day and we are not running from the wickedness of the world but toward it,like a candle light in a darkened room,we emit our glow.
Those who embrace this new idea of personal monasticism,living on the daily front lines are like the desert parents of old.
This new life style is one of great challenge and can not be entered into lightly,just has a novice spends many years being discouraged by the abbot,before being allowed to be a monk,so we must understand that such a lifestyle takes much time to see if we are truly called to a deeper religious conviction.
Every day is a trial and not every day will be a success,but one day at a time will win us the discipline we need to get ever closer to our goal of conversion,or change,thus making us more Jesus like in our faith and actions.

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