May 13th, 1981, Serial No. 00877

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Monastic Spirituality Set 3 of 12

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Down to page 118 in Roberts, and we were talking about, continuing on stability, we were talking about the love of the order – number 116 – the love of the order, and the difficulties that we have with the love of the order. One of our difficulties is our lack of knowledge about it, and then the difficulty of getting our own way of life, our own experience, together with the history. Since we have what you would call a small tradition, the monastic tradition may be broad, but our particular tradition is a thin one, and has been particularly thin for the past couple of centuries – remember when the Canal Vista nearly became extinct – added to which there's a breadth in our tradition, despite its thinness, there's a breadth, which makes it difficult to get a hold of easily because it's both cenobitical and aromitical. And somebody can identify with the aromitical part of the tradition and then have a big problem with the present situation of the congregation, in which the cenobitical part


is stronger. Similarly, now there's the international thing, with the tension and the difficulty in communication and understanding that that brings about. So it's not as simple for us to acquire a love of the order, to have the spirit of the order resonated, and it's something we have to work up to. There's a love of the community, and then there's a love of the order, and one for us I think is much easier than the other, in a sense. We can love the Comanche tradition in an idealistic way, and then not find ourselves accepting it as it is right now. Certainly, you can do the same thing with the community, but since we're closer to the community, and, I don't know, we tend to experience the community, it's a little harder for us to experience the order, added to which a lot of the things, a lot of the documents of the order, we don't even have acceptable because they're not all in English, they're not all in English. He talks here about the difficulties that we have in acquiring a love for the order,


and one of them comes from a lack of realism. Roberts is pretty good on that, and so is Merton, we read that passage from Merton last time. Just let me read this line of Roberts. Idealism blinds us at times to the imperfections of our order and its members, as if our way of life were to be thought of as the best and the most perfect within the Church. When we started out here, back in the early 60s, we were soaked with that, you know, soaked with it. And also a kind of contempt for, I'm not looking down on any other form of religious life, any other form of monastic life. Insists on the superiority of the contemplative life over those who lead an active life. It cites the texts of the Council and of recent Popes. Because the Council texts and the speeches of the Pope are always encouraging, you see, they're always... They say to the contemplatives, you're in the heart of the Church, like the Pope's speech to the nuns, Pope Paul's speech to the nuns in Rome back in the early 70s, I guess. And that kind of thing. You get the idea just by being what you are, that you're perfect and that you're better


than everybody else, and that's disastrous. Disastrous is a total inversion of the reality of the monastic vocation, which is to be a seeker and is to live in compunction, in the sense of oneself as being imperfect and on the road. And yet, of course, those statements are right, theologically, but existentially they can be disastrous for us. Statements like that have to be made. We need that encouragement. We need that sanction. And you see the difficulty of getting together those two sides. Now, the monk is exactly the person who represents that other side of the Church, you see. He represents not the theology, not the word side, but the existential, experiential side, which knows its own imperfection, which sees itself in the light of the word to be far from the word, in a sense. Comte talks about the monks as representing the line of the spirit instead of the line of the word, and that's got something to do with it. Because the word is, as it were, the ideal. It's the structure, it's the perfect, it's the theology. But the spirit tells us where we really are. And, in a way, it carries beyond the word because it carries into the experience that


emerges from the word. On the other hand, it shows us how far we are from the word. So there's a big risk of vanity there. It's highly pleased when guests or preachers praise our life or our monastery, when they wax eloquent on our utility for the Church, as if the world depended on us, that we are the salt of the earth, the widows of the Lord. I mean, we may be quite the opposite. They may be responding a lot better to the challenge of the vocation, to the voice of the spirit. Besides fixing our attention too much on ourselves, it's not healthy in reality, and in reality this idealism often produces a reaction against the order, and justifiably so. In other words, at a certain point the person tends to see, well, it's not true, and his thing collapses and he vomits it all up, and he turns bitter. But it's his own mistake, unless it was sort of pushed on him and preached to him. Such a reaction also is dangerous inasmuch as it's directed against the order, and


not against the immaturity of some of its members. It can even lead to the loss of a vocation. And here again we have to recall again the difference between those two levels of relating to your ideal. Identification versus interiorization. Identification is you claim the ideal, and you come into the community, you come into the order, and you say, well, that's mine, and I love it, and it's just what I want. Moreover, it's the gospel, you know. And then, that's one stage, and you identify yourself with it, and in a sense you say, I'm Kamal Halisa, or I'm a monk, or whatever it is. And that gives you a certain status, you know, it gives you a certain glow. And then gradually the glow begins to fade, and you realize that you're that, and you're not that at the same time. That you're that, and you're nobody. That you're that wonderful spiritual thing, and at the same thing you're just dust and ashes like everyone else is. And what's interiorization? Interiorization is where you're not connecting yourself with a kind of ideal or image or


theological reality outside of yourself, but where somehow the thing is in you, and you know it because it's you, and that doesn't really lead to any pride. Because the thing itself is not vain. It's that identification that's vain. It's that reflection of our own ego that we see in this magnificent mirror of a monastic vocation. It becomes a mirror in which we bring ourselves, you know, and which throws back a certain glow on us, an illuminated mirror. But the other thing isn't that at all. After you interiorize it, it puts you right where you should be, which is in the spirit of compassion, the spirit of humility and transparency. The identification thing leads you to this illuminated, this bright mirror, and the interiorization thing leads you to transparency, where you don't even see yourself anymore. And yet somehow the ideal, what would you call it, the vocation is shining through you. The vocation, you're transparent to it, but it's shining out through you. You've made it yours. And this whole question of identity, we want so much something to give us security, something


to give us a sense of importance. This false love then is the fruit of a childish conviction of our superiority in the Church. By a subtle search for security more than for truth, we try to convince ourselves and others of our own excellence. Instead of causing true security, this desire to excel produces insecurity, aggressiveness and doubt. And it produces phoniness too, as we try to play up to the image that people accept of us. Because people will feed this thing for you. Because when they go to a monastery, they like to get their money's worth. In other words, they like to be visiting heaven. They want to be visiting Mount Athos, and so they'll tell you you're Mount Athos. They'll tell you you're anything, because they paid their money and they want their show. But don't believe it. True love accepts the order as it is. It flees from that desire to be ranked higher than others. Since it is based on the reality of things, it feels a repulsion toward a spirit of boasting.


We do not love the order because it might be theoretically superior or privileged within the Church, but because it's the sacrament of the mercy of God towards us. That's good. It's the concrete sign of the personal love that God offers us at each moment. And at the same time, the instrument that God has personally chosen for us in order that we may grow in His love. The notion of sacrament, which combines the particular, the concrete, you see, and which gets right down to the flesh. This is another author. It's in this Consider Your Call, by David Huggins, English Benedictines. Incarnate love for one's own community, as for the family into which one is born, is not the same as an unrealistic idealization of it, or a sense of superiority with regard to other communities. Stability implies a total acceptance of it with all its shortcomings, an acceptance of


an inheritance which has, in large measure, made the community what it is. A monk loves his own community not as unchangeable or static, not as already perfect, but as the sacrament of the divine mercy in his life. It's the same expression, sacrament of the divine mercy in our life. The same as your parents are the sacrament of the divine mercy in your life, the sacrament through which God has given existence to you, the community is also. He acknowledges his need for his brothers, the needs which is well fulfilled in a stable community. He needs others because of Jesus Christ. If acceptance of one's own poverty is the original conversion, then to be a Christian is to be needy and to recognize that this is a state of blessedness. Remember the Beatitudes. Only the poor man can grow rich in the gift of another, so only a poor man can be enriched by God and saved in Jesus Christ. But this enrichment, this salvation, comes to the Christian above all through other people. He needs his brothers to express his love for Christ. He needs them if he is to hear the word of God proclaimed.


And he needs them in order to communicate and share the word of God which he has himself received. It's very easy for us to overlook that and just to get all into our own thing. And it's very hard to get out of that. The only way that you can get out of that attitude is through other people, is through their help in some way. And if you're in that attitude, as I think, I know I spend a lot of time on the attitude, I'm just going to tell you, then you're precisely blind to that which is going to help you out of the attitude. So in a sense you're in a place of inaccessibility to grace and to exactly the grace that you need, which is liberation from that pride and that individualism, which has to come from other people. And to the extent that we're blind to that need, we're blind also of that good in the others in the community, and we put it all into ourselves. And we can do that very easily by idealizing the community, hooking ourselves up to that growing ideal, and then really despising our brothers and despising the country. And what are we doing then?


We've got a big split between this point in our will, in our spirit, in our heart, and where our freedom is located, where this kind of ideal, this bubble is located, and the actuality of our own being, our actual flesh and blood human being. We're rejecting that, we're putting that off and we're clothing ourselves with something else which is imaginary, and which unfortunately has been fostered by so much of the literature and so many things that are said. Now he gets into the way that he prefers to think of the Order. The Order offers us what our heart has sought and desired. The Order represents for us that interpretation of the Gospel which best responds to our needs and desires. That's the way it should be, and that's the way we should see it. And not some kind of status.


It gives us invaluable aids for seeking God and finding him, for living the mysteries of Christ, for living in Christ and centering our lives on him. And then he talks about the conflict that comes from this tension between the ideal which is bound to be the love of the Order, and then the actualities and the poverty of the Order, the poverty of the community. There can be interior conflict and anguish when a genuine love of the true spirit finds itself frustrated by the lack of this spirit within the community. Yet a certain amount of tension is a sign of life and growth. Without high ideals and personal convictions concerning basic principles of monastic life, the monk will never come to be the person that he's destined to be. He'll always be passive, somewhat infantile, out of orbit. Be realistic. This means love the Order and your monastery as they are, not only as they should be. Remembering always that subtle form of hypocrisy which condemns the faults of others in order


to whitewash one's own lack of generosity, one's own impatience and infidelity to grace. So you've got to love the ideal and at the same time love the community the way it is. This business... It should be. That's not what we generally think of in the vow of poverty, but it moves right into that. In other words, that's spiritual poverty. And actually, what are we doing when we, you know, when we vow poverty, when we give poverty, and especially when we... All that we're doing is admitting the way we are. We're getting closer and closer to the actuality of our own being, so we're making it easier and easier to receive truth, because we're bringing ourselves into existential harmony, closeness to the truth. And then the truth can catch. The truth, you get close enough to it so it can flash into us, you see. When we get our actual life close to what we really are, close to our actual inner poverty, our existential situation, our situation of mortality, our situation just of, you know,


all the things that we are. The other arithmetic community is considered a lower form of community, because there isn't the communion which is... There isn't the poverty and the communion at the same time. The spirit of individualism, which means each person is keeping... We can do the same thing very easily. People have said that our kind of life lends itself very easily to... Do you see how this whole business is kind of a reflection of the mystery of the Trinidad and Tobago? The kind of humility which is accepting one's own poverty means basically that one is empty


and that one lives... One's life is the life that comes from the Father, moves through you and flows out to your brothers, as well as the life that flows into you from your brothers. But there's very little that's your own. The ability to love your community, the ability to love your brothers, means that you are able to see your life in them, you see how you depend on them. And if we've really been isolated at some time in our life and felt the poverty of that, we know how much we do depend on other people. And if we've ever been stifled by the lack of affirmation or the lack of love of others and just unable to grow and just depressed and miserable, we know how... We simply can't exist without other people. We begin to value our brothers. And to see them as given to us by God. Now, it's easy to do that in the abstract and it's easy to do it talking about communion and communion and all that in nice theological terms. What's hard is to do it face to face, in the flesh, because when we see our brother concretely


physically, we see ourselves concretely physically. And we're not ready to accept that. Remember that accepting our brother is accepting ourself. Loving our community is accepting ourself and is liberating us. It's liberating us from our phoniness. Liberating us from our false position. And that's what monasticism is about. Now, he contrasts here two things. He contrasts idealism and generosity. And one can look very much like the other, okay? Idealism and generosity. You find people who inspire you with, edify you, impress you with the high ideal that they have in the monastic life. And yet you discover at a certain point that they're using it in a very judgmental fashion in order to criticize everybody else. And then maybe they're not trying that darn hard themselves. Generosity and idealism. Generosity requires that you give yourself and maybe you don't look too hard at other


people. You have to to a certain extent. You give yourself. In other words, you commit yourself to the idea. You interiorize the idea. You get it inside yourself, not outside yourself. And you measure everything by the degree to which you correspond to that idea. The degree to which you make that idea yours and express it actively in your life. Idealism, you can sit right still and say, well, there's the ideal. But boy, look at this miserable community around me. Look at this bunch of people. There's no hope. I'm going somewhere else. Idealism doesn't call for any commitment at all. You just have this glowing ideal, which is the same thing we bring with us when we come in slightly elaborated. And then we judge everything else by it and say, well, this is impossible. Of course I can't do anything. Of course I can't get anywhere. Look at what I'm in. Look at this mess. Where generosity is that Christopher came in. I'd better to light a candle in the dark than it is to curse the darkness. Better to light one candle. And we find that we can always do something. That there's no such thing as a place that God didn't make, in a sense.


Even if it's not the right place for us ultimately, it's the right place for us right now because we're there. And there's always something we can do there. That a place comes from God. And there's no place where God isn't. There's no place where his grace isn't. If we can find the secret of our relationship to that place, and which first of all is that attitude of willingness to give oneself to the place, give oneself to what's around one, and then miracles can happen at that point. But the other thing is standing back, closing up, and judging. And judging separates us, separates us from the situation, isolates us. We find ourselves gradually excommunicated. And we find ourselves gradually out of the picture, as a matter of fact. Because we've rejected the picture. We've rejected the context, so it's ejected us. In a sense. But if we give ourselves to it, it becomes more and more difficult to do that. It becomes more and more difficult to be ejected from it. Why? Because it becomes our life, you see. Our roots are in it then.


And it's us. It's us. And so, you know, that whole thing. Idealism, says the prior of Taizé, is not an evangelical virtue, but generosity is. There are different kinds of generosity. It would be interesting just to write those two words down and think about them, how they relate. There are different kinds of generosity, and one kind of generosity that you see very much in the Fathers is the generosity of not judging. Generosity means to give, right? And giving and forgiving and thanksgiving are all very similar. And giving and forgiving and thanksgiving are ways of moving beyond ourselves, of transcending ourselves. Whereas the other thing, the idealization, can very well be a way of swelling ourselves, and a way of separating ourselves, and associating ourselves with a kind of luminous fiction, you see, which makes us better than everybody else.


I talk about that a lot because it's a big risk in the monastic life, and especially in our kind of monastic life, where solitude or isolation is essentially threatened. True love of the order cannot be based on what we get from the order. And yet he's talked about it on a page before. The order represents for us that interpretation of the Gospel which best responds to our needs and desires. So that thing has two sides. But here he says it can't be based on what we can get from the order. Vanier, in his book Community and Growth, it's worthwhile reading that. In the first few pages, about pages five to seven, he talks about moving from the community for me to me for the community, something like that, or at least the community in itself. It's that growth from a kind of infantilism which demands that everything serves me, which thinks that everything is for my benefit, to that kind of generosity, that kind of giving of self to the community, which makes me really understand it, which makes it really mine.


And not just as a kind of ideal which is all my own and nobody else's, but actually as my brothers become mine in that way. It's a matter of relationships, a matter of community. To the community for me, to myself for the community. And that's the way God made us, and that's what Jesus is saying in the Gospel, which he indicates in so many ways, and especially with the washing of the feet once again. That symbol of which, there's so many levels of interpretation, but which certainly means that. That's what we're for, that's what the human being is for, that's what the religious is for, that's what the monk is for. To serve. Now, some people serve just interiorly. The recluse can serve just interiorly. He still has to serve. If he's not serving, if he's the master instead of the servant, then he's got it the wrong location, he's in the wrong place. Is there an expression of that same idea of laying down your life? I think there is. Jesus says, I lay down my life and I can take it up again, and that's a mystery because usually we think of the Father raising him up. For us, do we lay down our life and take it up again?


We lay down our life and we certainly get it back again. I think, in a sense, we do take it up again, because if we lay it down in service for another, we're going to, in forgiving say, we're going to have to take it up in an active way. You have to take up your life, otherwise it's not your life. So, that's true. You lay it down, and because you give your life in that way, in service, it comes back to you and you're able to take it up. But you do have to take it up, and not to take it up would be in a kind of slavish service, a kind of prone service, which is really a bit resentful, like the Marxist thing of the slave and the master. That kind of service is not it. You lay down your life in order to take it up again, because it's going to be given back to you. And that taking it up again is, I don't know, you're full of yourself once again, or more yourself than you were before. I don't want to get into too many subtleties. You give up your life and you get it back increased, but you have to take it up again.


And that means something about the kind of service we have to give. It can't be just a slavish service. It has to be a service in the courage of truth, which gives up without, I don't know, there's something there that's a kind of resentful passivity that's not there. If you want love in your monastic life, put love into your monastic life, lest you withdraw love from it. That's Saint John the Apostle. But if you only hope that the life will do you good or will make you happy, you will be deceived. Because a monastic life is designed, is it not, to move us from that point of everything for me, that point of the search for happiness, to somewhere else. But we don't know what that somewhere else is. We don't know what it is. We don't know how it tastes. We don't know what it feels like. We hardly know what to call it. We call it love. We call it a bunch of other things. But we have to go through the needle's eye and sort of disappear to our own experience before we can experience what that other thing is.


Which, once again, is easy to say and hard to do. But we have to remember these things when the crunch comes, when we are called. There's that moment of conflict, that moment of challenge. There are so many things that we can confront correctly if we see them right. If we understand them, we can confront them well. We can face them, and then it's part of the game. If we don't understand them, or if we shirk off what they truly are and push them aside and say, well, that's not it, or how did this happen, or this shouldn't be, or whatever. But they should be. The conflict should be. We put them in the centre and face them, and somehow they enter right into the road that's been laid down for us in our testing. Okay, the other problem is when somebody doesn't have a location. That's a simple one. Then he isn't going to love the Order. Well, at least not for the right reason. So it's a question of that being tested in the formation. Which means that people have to be brought into pretty close contact with the actualities,


the actual spirit of the Order and of the community. Is our own vocation genuine? The tests, the way of verifying that. Let us recall how we came here. The graces of the first days, the certainty that led us to pronounce the vows, the interior and exterior fecundity with which God has blessed our lives. All these things are signs of a true vocation. That's very good. You can go back to that passage sometime. The graces of the first days, the certainty that led us to pronounce the vows, the interior and exterior fecundity with which fertility, the growth that he's given us in the context, the life that's come through our roots and moved out into our branches. The only difficulty is that you look at that and you say, well, what happened then? How come I have to go back to those signs in order to verify my vocation? How come I don't know it instinctively? How come I don't experience that all the time? Well, that's this business of going underground,


of the sea going underground. And the fact that God often gives extraordinary graces at first. He often puts a big signpost up at the beginning of somebody's vocation, at the end of the road, the beginning of the road. And then there aren't any more signposts for a long, long way. And he goes down that road and he gets into all kinds of doubts and conflicts and he just has to recollect, you know, well, what was that word at first? What was that grace saying so strongly in my heart right at the beginning? What did that sign say? He has to go along on faith for a long way. But at the same time, when he looks deeply into his heart, he should see that there's nothing really that I want more than this. And when he brings the focus of the vocation clearly into his consciousness, into his mind, he says, this is the only thing that has any value for me. This is all I want. Whether I do it here or whether I do it somewhere else. This is what life means for me. Now, for a monk, that's fairly simple, because for other vocations you could say, well, I'm doing hospital work and I should be teaching. Or, gee, I ought to go and get my Ph.D. or what?


In a monastic life, you're Ph.D. That's what it's like twelve years, cheer up. In a monastic life it's fairly simple, because you don't have all this, this or that. That is, if you want that kind of simple thing at the center, in other words, that kind of total thing, which is the goal of the monastic life, which we have so many names for, but none of them really adequate. It's easier to know, I think, whether you have a call to the monastic life than it is to know whether you have a call to a specific other congregation. And yet, to say that you have that central call to union with God doesn't say necessarily that you're not called to another form of religious life. But if it tends to be all-absorbing, if it tends to be total for you, if it tends to say, if I have that, I don't really need anything else, essentially.


I can do this or that, but I don't really have to have anything else. Well, then it looks like a monastic vocation. And, of course, the prayer element, the prayer element and the self-transcendence element, those two. To want to see the seed fall into the ground, to bring forth new fruit, to want to be reborn, to want to be transformed. And just that hunger for God, which is the desire for prayer, which is already the experience of prayer, those two things, if those are big enough, then those are the signs. On the other hand, if a monk in vows cannot love the order, and if his whole attitude is destructive and negative, perhaps it might be better that the superior is able to obtain a dispensation. In other words, we don't want to absolutize the commitment that's once been made. It's always conceivable that it may have been a mistake. And especially when it turns real sour, when it turns real bitter. There's a kind of a poison, you know, that just doesn't do anybody any good.


When we talk about hoi there and the sign of communion, that will become a little corny. It's a kind of union. Yes, because in the past, things were conceived in such absolute terms, in such structural terms, that once you made a commitment, it's as if it was supposed to be forever, no matter what happens. That's inhuman, right? It's not only inhuman, but is it possible? You have to ask yourself on the other side, is it possible to make a wrong commitment? Is it possible to make a mistake? What if two young people get married when they're seventeen years old, and they find out a year later that it's just impossible for them to have any kind of relationship? Does that mean that they should stay together for the rest of their life? What if somebody is really unbalanced, or in some way off-centered, and makes a permanent commitment to the monastic life, and later the scene totally changes? Should he remain in that?


And especially if he's getting bitter, and if he's getting resentful, and maybe sort of communicating a kind of resentfulness to others in the community. Should he stay with it? No, you have to measure the actuality of the situation in that case. Even St. Benedict talks about the case in which a member has to be amputated, it's an ugly language that he uses, but he's tried everything else by that point. So we can't absolutize those things. We'll get to that question of when later on. It's not an easy question to solve, when a person may withdraw from a permanent commitment. Okay, then he gets to talking about two other things which are somewhat united. Talking about the different kinds of religious vocation, and the different kinds of monastic vocation, and how they're getting closer together. Since Vatican II, it used to be before Vatican II that everybody sort of stayed in his own store. They were all on Main Street, and everybody had his store.


He was selling his wares, and his were better than the other guys. They may have been selling just about the same thing. This is very poor language here. They may have had the same article almost, but his was real special. I mean, this was the only product. So the Comaldes would be here, and the Silvestrons would be here, and the Carthusians would be here, and all the way down the road you'd get all these shops. But at a certain point they discovered that they have nearly the same thing, that basically, for instance, the monastic life is one vocation, basically. It has variations. There are different nuances, different emphases that you can have here and there, but basically it's one vocation. And if we insist just on a specific element, it gets to be typical of the situation of the division of Christianity, where everybody's got the whole truth, and yet there are a hundred different sects, a hundred different churches, that then just get propagated inside the religious life. So it's a big benefit, and clears the air tremendously, and contributes to unity to find out that all monks have basically the same vocation, and that they can relate to one another without a lot of professional jealousy,


things like that. You're a lot more sensitive to that, I think, in Europe than you are over here, because in Europe there are so many religions, and they all tell jokes about one another, and there are Capuchin jokes, and J. Lewis jokes, and all kinds of jokes. Not too many come out of these jokes, except for the canonical ones. But we realize that with the unity of the Christian life, we realize also the unity of the religious life, and within it the great unity of the monastic life, and that there aren't that many differences, and that the uniting, the identical things are much more important than the... I shouldn't accent that too much, but more important than the things that divide us. And it's not as if somebody had a uniquely... a unique vocation to only one type of order, to only one type of community. At least I don't think that's true. I think those are juridical terms, juridical ways of thinking of vocation. If somebody's got a specifically Carthusian vocation,


which could never in the world be anything else, or a specifically Carnavalese vocation, which could never be anything else, I'm not sure about that. It may be that a vocation develops, that God steers somebody, gives him a monastic vocation, and then steers him, gradually, historically, by the movement of his life into a particular place, and then nourishes him there, like a tree. But maybe the tree can be planted somewhere else too. But once it's planted, it's important that it stay rooted, because that's how it grows. So we shouldn't be too categorical, I think, about the question of vocation. We shouldn't make too many distinctions. He talks here about monastic life and how it's related to other forms of religious life and how it differs from them. And then he talks about the possibility that all of the monastic community, sooner or later, will become united into one monastic order, as he calls it, the Tapa 120, the Ordo Monasticus.


You don't hear much about it now. I think, after Vatican II, there was quite a bit of interest in that. But now, sort of, I don't know why, but it seems less practical. Father Tarsicius Connor, who gave us a retreat some years ago, he was one who was very interested in that and wrote an article about it. He was a monk of Gethsemane with Merton there, and he moved to Christ in the desert. Now he's with Sister Pascoe and Tarsic. Don't hear much about it now. But you can certainly see how there should be a greater mobility, a greater liberty within monasticism, also for communication, so that people won't... So that there'll be more sharing of ideas and sharing of the spirit among different monastic communities, rather than each one growing isolated all by itself and not benefiting by the whole climate. It gets into that whole thing about the need for a monastic culture too. Monasteries are just too scattered.


And when they remain scattered, they remain poor, left to their own devices, just like individuals who are totally isolated. They are impoverished. Then he talks about how this would influence our attitude. First of all, a sense of identity, and secondly, a sense of openness. This seems always to be the thing. We have to have a strong sense of what we are, of our particular monastic vocation, and not as if there were a wall between it and everything else, a hermetically sealed compartment. So that openness to other forms and the ability to exchange with other people. And to the extent that you have a deeper sense of identity, you're likely also to have a more secure sense of openness. There's one kind of sense of openness which comes from insecurity and looking on the other side of the fence, and always shopping around for the key. The person that's always looking for the handle,


it hasn't quite got it yet, and he thinks, well, maybe this guru has it, or maybe that one, or whatever. You're looking for the fountain of youth, the key to life, the magic casket with all the secrets in it. And we shouldn't be doing that. After we enter a religious community, a monastic community, we should realize that the life is in what we have, especially if we're Christian. There's no monastic secret that's going to open all the doors for us. It's about responding to the life that's planted on us, to the seed that's planted on us. And that means our being planted somewhere and sinking our roots into the southern land. There's something else connected with this that he gets to talking about. What about this love of the order and the love of the way things are, the love of the tradition, and then the changes that come along? And we get to the same answer, according to him. You've got to have a stability, a love of your tradition, even in its externals, and then sufficient flexibility


so that when things are changed you don't panic and leave the church. Really, they're both, as you can see, aspects of the same thing. This ability to have a sense of identity, to have a sense of stability of who one is, based on what one has done and so on, based on a kind of experience. At the same time, openness to new experience. Stability in faith. Love of the order is made concrete in love of the community and the brethren of these brethren. Stability depends on this love. Without this living bond of love, stronger than any other stability, stronger than any other, stability of spirit is impossible, and corporeal stability is made very doubtful and devoid of value. It's very important, it's an essential point, and we'll get back to that when we finish this. That unless stability... If stability is only kind of a promise you've made, it's an agreement, a covenant, and therefore an obligation that you have to stay put, if it's not really reflected in a sense of communion,


a sense of relationship of love with your brothers, there's not much to it. There's not much to it in the sense that it's not fructifying, it's not bearing fruit, and in some way it's sterile, and there's going to be questions sooner or later whether you should really be there if it's that way, whether a person wouldn't be better off somewhere else. If the tree is not growing, well, maybe it should be transplanted, at least temporarily. But the other thing is, if that communion is not there, then the stability itself is very fragile. It's very fragile because as soon as a greater promise of life comes along, the person's going to be inclined to jump the fence. If that communion is not there, then the promise of communion is going to be sufficient to make him leave, or at least to put him in crisis. And perhaps rightly so, because what's it saying? It's saying that this is what you should be finding where you are, but you haven't found it, and now that's why you're fascinated by the invitation to find it somewhere else, in marriage or anywhere else. So you see how important the community is, and this inner experience of the community,


that people simply are going to remain with it, that the community itself is to persevere, is to remain. Something that's been a difficult thing for us in this community, we don't need to keep that a secret, to arrive at that spirit of communion, of experienced communion among the brothers that makes them want to live with one another more than anything else in the world. It's a combination of those two dimensions. The idea of feeling, well, God has called me to this place, he's put me here, he's planted me, he's watered me, I've begun to grow, I've somehow felt the rightness of this life in my bones, in my own heart, in my experience. The fact that he is, in some hidden way perhaps, without a great flourishing of dramatic mystical experience, but in some hidden way, he's making me grow here. I am proceeding, I'm on the journey, I'm doing the work.


I call it the vertical dimension. And the other dimension is that in this context, I really feel life flowing between my brothers and me. I really feel that we're growing together, that somehow our interaction is both genuinely what it's supposed to be according to the Gospel, even though it can be very imperfectly as yet, and also that in some way we grow by relating to one another, that we're a challenge to one another, and yet we're a support to one another, that we exchange both truth and love, both truth and affirmation. Which is to say, two kinds of truth, the truth of what you ought to be, your true self, as I see it, and reflect that back to you, but also the truth of your shortcomings, the truth of how you're not there yet, and therefore that stimulus to keep growing. And then he talks about the importance of faith for this, and it's really true, because there's times when the mountains fall into the sea,


and you go into a tunnel, you know. And we have to believe in the reality of this tunnel experience, and that sooner or later in our monastic lives, all of our bearings are going to disappear, and the sunlight's going to disappear, and like Jonah, we go down in the belly of the whale. And that may be for quite a while. And at that point, there aren't going to be any signposts saying, this is it, you're here, this is the right life, this is your vocation. Cheer up, honor it. There won't be anything, just darkness. Everything will seem wrong for a while. And then all you have to go on is faith. Hopefully there will be some kind of support from your brothers. But you may not even be able to receive that, or understand that, or feel that at that time. It may be all darkness. Now this is part of the spiritual process. You've got to go through that. This is the dying process. Merton was talking about it in his course a couple of weeks ago. And at that point, it's only raw faith that takes you through this, and even God. Also, in this whole matter of finding communion,


and love of brothers and so on, it's not something we feel all the time, but we believe in it. And believing in it, you move towards it. It's like a norm that's somehow there in front of you. And since you see it with faith, you can move towards it. If you didn't see it, if you didn't have it from the Gospel, from the rule, maybe you wouldn't know what to do. Maybe you'd go in one direction or another, you'd wobble. But you see it, and so you know with certainty the direction in which you have to move towards that kind of communion. And therefore you can guide your life by how it moves towards that norm of communion, of fraternal affection, of simply positivity towards one another, the affirmation of one another, and simply liking to be with one another, and wishing one another well. All these very simple things which we knew in a sense since we were babies, but in a way they're the most important thing in the Master's life. And if they're not there, then it's a disaster. What's this?


Okay, he's got to be who he really is, but there's a twist on that nowadays. You can be who you really are in a very disagreeable way. Did you ever find these people who say, I don't put on any air, I am who I am, that's all. And then they let you have it. I don't pull my punches, people have to take me the way I am. Which is to say, I'm going to stay the way I am and to heck with you if you want me to change. But that's not it, all right? You've got to be genuine, sincere, in the sense of not pretending to be something you're not, and yet not entirely content with the way that you are. So that if we speak with a certain kind of frankness to our brothers, we can be devastating to our brothers, right? Because our heart is not pure, what's coming out is not charity. So to speak with charity and to filter, for example, what I say, the responses that I give to my brothers,


and to make a deliberate effort to be affirmative is not being phony, okay? Because there's so much garbage that comes out of our hearts, and we really can't throw it out to our brothers.