The Idea of the Monastery…..

….versus the monastery itself.

I want to know God. There was beautiful promises made about how the monastery was the place to carry out that quest. I\’ve been out of the monastery and carrying on that quest for 10 years, using many spiritual opportunities. These opportunities are not Catholic so might not have been available to me had I stayed at the monastery. My body mind and spirit are free to accept all opportunities offered me by Spirit since I am not locked in a box.

What follows is a distinctly negative view of what I saw during my recent visit to the monastery where I was in formation: death and ghosts of people. Yes there are positives to convent life, but that is not my current focus. And my comments are somewhat framed by the final profession of one of the sisters which occurred this weekend.

I am on the last day of a 6 day vacation. I slept late, dreading facing the Texas heat. As usual, my mind had wandered into my monastic problem. That is, all the various questions regarding why I went there and why I didn\’t stay and the God quest now. I got up and went to turn off the fan by my bed. It suddenly struck me. I wanted the idea of the monastery, but I see now, not the monastery itself.

The idea of the monastery was \”a school for the Lord\’s service;\” a place away from the world where undistracted prayer could be carried out. For me, it was a place to practice contemplation with people who I thought were as intensely interested in God consciousness as myself. Perhaps they all go to the monastery with that quest. Formation, the process of training nuns, is exactly that: formation. Formation is a process of changing people from who they are to what the other nuns think is acceptable.

I say now that the monastery cripples people. What I saw was people crippled by their life in a insulated box. Obesity in a world where there really isn\’t that much food. White skin which never sees the sun. A sister with a bony disfigured upper body, yet she is my age. Dull colors and decorations from the last century. The most color was from a small pile of M&Ms a sister sitting at the reception desk had obtained from the stock kept for guests. Oh my God, how terrible that half a days work for two young sisters was to sit at a reception desk where hardly anyone ever comes! A sister telling me about her programming of automated machines, not even guessing the sophistication of the machines used in my chemical plant. In the monastery, few have to worry about the day to day survival issues of obtaining food, going to work, dealing with money, maintaining a house or car, health care, making life decisions.

While I was doing my spiritual study, the thought struck me that the monastery was a practice similar to Chinese foot binding of women long ago. That is, the monastery is a binding of religion and place which causes people to grow in strange unnatural ways.

Then I flashed on the picture of Abbot Gregory putting the nun\’s wedding ring (to Jesus) on the finger of the newly professed nun. I thought with horror how that is so symbolic of male power in the Church. I couldn\’t stand it.

So, my quest for God consciousness goes in in the world. My learning result from my visit is that I cherish the idea of the monastery, but continue to thank God that I didn\’t make a profession. Yes, my ego will still worry over the experience of being asked to leave and the dogma that vowed religious are somehow special to Jesus. These are synapses which will always be in my brain; but my mind knows more. Everyone is either equal before God, or our God is a terribly cruel God.

I am reading a scholarly tome about the Q source of the gospels. It will show a quit different picture of Jesus. I have the ability to carry out monastic practices: silence, solitude, prayer, simplicity, poverty (meaning poor-in-society not poor financially), chastity, Lent, spiritual reading, vows of obedience, stability and conversatio made to God.

And I am about to go outside and enjoy an hour or so of walking in the Texas heat. Tomorrow it is back to work.

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1 Comment

  1. Ultra Monk says:

    I just went for a walk jog in Brummerhop park. I was thinking about my assertion of a monastery being a binding. I guess all domesticated humans are bound in various ways. The only way to be free is to be mentally free. I don't think mental freedom is possible in a Roman Catholic Benedictine semi-cloistered environment. You are not allowed to take up alternatives. My employer is a box and it is easy to see that people who have worked there for 20+ years think only inside the box.That I go for a walk in the Texas sun means I have broken out of the AC box. Physical fitness is outside the American disease box. No TV is outside the box.But most of all, I seek a spiritual freedom. I allow God to do what He wills.

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