Reflecting on Monastic Life this Fall

A reflection by Mother Maria- Michael Newe, OSB.

Fall is such a reviving and reflective time of year.  It is also a time to look at our own monastic life to reflect on the fruits it may – or may not – be bearing in t
he community.  We reap the harvest of our life just as we reap the harvest each fall for our winter storage of food.

In The Way of Life, Abbot Dom Gabriel Braso writes:

“We touch here on what is, perhaps, the most serious and delicate problem for Abbots and Abbesses, to know how to maintain the firmness and clarity of principles without falling into an intransigent and inhuman concern for perfection.  To know how to remain understanding, discrete and liberal, while neither letting go of the tiller nor opening the monastery doors to laxity.  In chapter 64, St. Benedict seeks to give the Abbot rightful measure of this prudent equilibrium: ‘He must hate faults but love the brothers.’  [St. Benedict] tries to explain further what it means, ‘ By this we do not mean that he should allow faults to flourish but rather he should prune them away with prudence and love as he sees best for each individual.’”

It is important for people to hear of the concerns of an Abbot or Abbess.  We really do care about how the life is lived without breaking the monks, without causing the monks to be stripped so they have no movement, and yet without letting them be so liberal that they forget where the lines of the Rule are.

It is also important to remember that we do not hate anybody.  Every person is a child of God.  Every one bears the image of Christ.  But the Abbess needs to help those under her to recognize where they need to bear His image more, where have they have lost that image in their lives.  She also needs to remind them of the virtues of a monk.  What makes a monk different?  What makes us pursue the life we are living?  Are we looking for perfection or a place to nest and be comfortable?  Do we only do just enough to make it work?  I don’t think that is what St. Benedict would have wanted.  His way is a simply seeking the right way, the way of Christ, within the view of the Rule.

It is good for us here at the Abbey to examine how we live the Rule here in our community.  Could a guest walk in and say, “My goodness, they really are Benedictines to the core.  I walk these halls and I breathe the air of Benedictines.  I go the choir and am astounded at their reverence and love.  They all are one body singing for Christ.”  We need to ask ourselves: Do we serve one another as Christ?  Do we keep the tools and goods of the monastery as we would the sacred vessels of the altar?  Do we clean house so that Christ can be present in it?  This should be our reflection for the fall, not as a criticism or a shaking-a-finger at somebody, but as an act of love for the monastic life and for the community.   By doing this, we can better urge one another on to become an authentic alter- Christi.