>Mark at the Jesus Manifesto has a dead-on critique of our gyrovague culture. This is something which I noticed a long time ago, even before becoming a Benedictine. And, in fact, was the very reason for leaving my Community! A quick recap: my Community was a rather unique organization in that while we were (are) Benedictines, we were non-cloistered, or at least some of us were not. We were out in the world, help ‘normal’ jobs and so on. The question which drove the founder of my Community to develop this model was in observing both the reality of the comings-and-goings in a normal monastery (monks are always traveling, going to meetings, helping in churches, teaching, etc) AND the deeper question of what are the “walls of a monastery” in this era of internet etc. In olden times, of course, the walls were physical, but also cultural/informational. For anything, any news, any gossip (!) to come to the community it would have to be literally brought in person and pass through the walls. But with the internet, and almost all monasteries that I know have computers, internet access and the monks (and nuns) are in regular email contact with a variety of people outside. This means there is not a lot of separation between monastic life and the world anymore. So the question remains – where are the walls? What constitutes and delineates a monastery. The answer, to the founder, was “our hearts”. Thus the concept of a “monastery of the heart” came into being.
I left, one of the reasons anyway, was because I saw that one more piece was needed for my walk. Yes the monastery was in the heart, of course, with Christ at the center of it. But more – the monastery, the “walls” which outlined the monastery were my relationships in my right-here community – the people I meet at church, at the grocery store, at the office. The very roads I travel which are paid for with my taxes, are in a very real sense “monastery roads”. So my monastery is where my heart is touched by people and things. It is not simply a spiritual thing. It is a concrete thing, outlined by ZIP code almost.
This is the commitment I had to make to really embody presence and permanence and stability – to say – I will not go anywhere else outside my neighborhood to find my monastery. This is where I live, these are people I will engage with, eat with, worry with, rejoice with.
How long can I stay put? As long as God wants me there. No plans, just a commitment to be here, for this my community – my neighborhood.