Called to, part 5

One of the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal order, had a dream at the time of the first vows, or maybe life profession, of another man. He wrote about his dream in Cowley, the magazine that used to arrive in my mailbox.

(If you find the article, you can ascertain just how lousy my memory is; also, if you find either of the articles I vaguely reference below, you can make the same assessment.)

The dreamer saw the postulant sitting at a table, in the classic pose with cards in hand: a high-stakes gambler.

I read an article about a Roman Catholic nun who had been raised in an extreme form of Protestantism. She said, “I remember all my family’s warnings about the Roman Catholic church, and I understand them. The life I live makes sense or not depending on whether you think Jesus is present in the cracker we eat at Communion. If he’s there, it is worth my life. If he’s not, the cracker is worthless. I choose to live in the belief that he’s in the cracker.” That was her word, too: cracker, not wafer or Host. Either God is in a cracker, or He’s not.

I read an article about the Society of St. Margaret, an Episcopal order. The writer said that, far from rendering the sisters anonymous, the habit emphasized their individuality. It took me half a second to recognize how true this is. When I make a retreat at a convent, I sit toward the back of the chapel, and watch the sisters walk down the aisle to the choir. I see only their backs. By their height, gait, posture, and probably a dozen other cues, I recognize them one by one, even though they are wearing identical grey habits.

I have a Lutheran friend who uses the word monastic to mean inward-looking, self-indulgent, comfortable. Is the Lutheran reaction against monasticism always that strong? I’m kind of surprised by the intensity of his rejection; he is someone who certainly can understand how hard life in community would be. I think that, for him, ultimately there is something small about it. I don’t see it that way. Do you?

September 23, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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1 Response to Called to, part 5

  1. Solwrker says:

    Even in the user-fundamentalist denomination in which I was raised, there was a respect for the commitment of nuns and monks. There was something those Protestant folks found comforting about people dedicating their lives to the worship of God and serving the world in Jesus’ name.

    I still remember the first time I made retreat to St. Gregory’s Abbey near Three Rivers, Michigan. Every morning, at 4 am, the monks trudge (yup, it looks like trudging!) into their stalls. They wear their cowls over their heads until they’re seated. The office begins, and it is recited efficiently and reverently. About the third day into my time with them, it dawned on me some of these men had been doing this for nearly FIVE decades! I was filled with awe and respect at their dedication to God, their community, and to the commitments each of them had made to keep them at this “ora et labora.”

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