October 24th, 1995, Serial No. 00132

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Rule of Benedict Novice Class # 1 - 1990s

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Which is very good in terms of contemporary experience. And it would be very handy if you had a Xerox of it. If anybody wants to volunteer to do some copying, I would ask them to make five of those for us. Otherwise, I'll do them sometime during the week, get them to you. Because we have so little time, but it's best if you read it before our next session, which will be Friday. No, next session is Friday of this week, because we're squeezed together. So, that's part of Chapter 9. See, all of the vows and profession itself are in one chapter in this Consider Your Call book, Chapter 9. So, celibacy goes from 154 to 188, a long section. Today, I'd like to do two things. One, to look at that introduction to Chapter 9 of Consider Your Call, of which I believe I gave you a copy last time, didn't I? This is two. So, if you don't have it with you, it will be a little bit inconvenient.


The second thing is to talk about conversatio morum, which I don't want to spend a lot of time on, because I don't think you really can, in a sense, without talking about the whole of monastic life. We'll see. So, let's take a look at this. I'll read some of it out loud or refer to it. If anybody wants... If you don't have one, I can give you the book right now. It starts on page 128. This is a good, what do you call it, a good tossing around of the contemporary problems about monastic commitment, and gives you a little bit of depth, in a sense, of thinking about these things. First of all, there's a very brief historical... This is the introduction to this whole chapter on the vows, that long chapter. There's a very brief part, little paragraph just about, on historical patterns of vowing, and we've seen most of that already, as we were looking at that history from the RV


1980 last time. Roberts, in his book centered on Christ, the Cistercian perspective on all of this, talks about three phases before that, with a nice clarity. I'm not sure that it's quite as clear-cut as he presents it, but the earliest phase when he just had a change of clothing, which reflects baptism. In other words, that's the way the taking up of the monastic commitment was signified. Then there was an oral promise, and then he says, finally, there was a written document in the 6th century, which we find in St. Benedict's Rule. And then, that's where this part in Consider Your Call picks up, which I may refer to as Rhys after this, just for sure he's the chief editor. Within the Christian tradition, religious vows have found various expressions. He's talking about religious vows, not just monastic vows. The monastic practice of making vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience existed for several centuries before.


Okay, he's talking about the Benedictine practice, okay? Because I don't think you had those three commitments specifically before St. Benedict. So that's 6th century. That's where Robert's account leaves off, the brief one I just read to you. Before the church's theologians, well, that means, that's the 13th century, that's the scholastics, Thomas Aquinas and so on. And a little before that, maybe. That is, I don't know if, what's his name, Peter Lombard had already treated it there. With scholastic theology, the constitutive elements of a vowed Christian life can be designated poverty, chastity and obedience. We saw that. That's an analytical approach, which is quite beautiful and quite useful. But what it does is to cover up and forget the unity of the profession, the unity of the commitment, and the unity of the whole thing, the unitive aspect of it, if we can call that an aspect, the nature of it, which already is somewhat obscured in the three vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience.


When we look at them from a contemporary point of view, which is an analytical point of view, we tend to look at something like a machine to see how it works. So we look for the parts, and then we look to see what moves, and what's bolted to what. But that doesn't work so well with these things, because they're likely to be three synonyms for the same thing. They're not quite, but they're moving around the same single thing. Then the scholastic theological tradition from the 13th century brought about the expression in canon law, because you'll find in canon law the vows are expressed as evangelical counsels, or vows are expressed as poverty, chastity, obedience. Maybe the present canon law starts with chastity, I don't know. So it is. So we have two traditions which flow together into simple vows, in which you have five vows. That's the reason why you have five vows when you make your simple profession. And you only have three when you do your solemn profession, which is according to the tradition, the Benedictine tradition itself, prior to canon law, and prior to the 13th century scholastic


analysis into poverty, chastity, and obedience. The putting of poverty first, by the way, goes along with the scholastic approach, which is largely influenced by the mendicants. That is, Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican. That's the time when you had the Franciscans, the Dominicans, a resurgence of religious life in a broader sense than the monastic life itself. They did away with many of the monastic things. And they were mendicants, which means that they begged for their living, that they were preachers and that they lived from the return from the gospel, which St. Paul says the preachers should do. So, friars, mendicants, so poverty comes first. So that's a different vision of monastic, of religious life. Different in that way among a number of other ways. Okay. And those two traditions, side by side, without explanation, survive right down to now. Now, he starts to talk about the problems involved in a vow, a religious vow today.


And he gives you a canonical definition of a vow. A deliberate and free promise made to God concerning some good which is possible and better than its opposite. So you can't take a vow of the least perfect, a vow of comfort, for instance. That definition, every word has been tested and tried and argued over. Now, notice it's a promise made to God. A vow is a promise made to God. A promise may be to somebody else, or it may be to God, or it could even be to yourself. Then the two problems. First of all, can you really make a vow? Can you make a permanent vow in the light of the way life is? And secondly, do you make vows to God or to the human community? Well, the second question has already been answered by the definition, hasn't it, really? But the question has arisen again today. So he starts out by giving you the wind that's blowing against permanent commitment, which is what he calls the contemporary sense of impermanence.


A lot of people would say that any enduring marital or religious is humanly impossible and therefore incomprehensible. An understanding of the nature of man and the whole worldview or history, he says. And really, humanly, I think a permanent commitment is impossible. That is, by merely human resources. And that's true of marriage as well as of monastic life or religious life. That if only human beings were involved, I don't think it would be possible. But because something else is involved, because another dimension, another depth, another strength is involved, which is the strength of God and the fidelity of God, therefore it is possible. And that's why marriage is a sacrament, to take it from one angle. And if monastic life or religious life is not a sacrament, it's a quasi-sacrament. It rests in the same way upon the fidelity of God. Okay, this notion of humanity as being dynamic, you know, for a long time our conceptions


of humanity and the world and of the Church were basically static and eternal, enduring things. And certainly, until the Lord comes again, everything was thought pretty much to remain the same. It was very much like what the ideas seem to get from Matthew's Gospel. And now we have a sense of evolution, we have a sense of human progress, we have a sense of a kind of transformation of the world, and we also have a sense of the human being as somebody who is continually moving, who is continually growing and changing and continually unfolding his potential. And therefore he's not just what he was at an earlier point. It becomes a real problem also when you see, for instance, people who are married very young, you know, and then twenty or thirty years later they don't seem to know their partner. They seem to be two different people who don't have anything to do with one another, something like that. And you wonder, can a person really, at a very early point, make a commitment that binds


them from life, when they're not even going to be the same person later on? I'm exaggerating deliberately, but it sure is a problem, you see, with the divorce rate. Man is one who is always undergoing creation, so that's stating the point strongly. And then his response to that is through a kind of conception of the human being as being defined by relation to God. That's on page 130 and the following. What makes man truly human is the call to share in the divine. Man and God are related in an, sexist language, can't help it, related in an inevitable dialogue. The radically divine act is to come and to call forth. The radically human act is to reach out and to respond. So if you commit yourself to the search for God, then, because you're in a dynamic relationship with God, then God can found your commitment, just as God bases, gives energy to, God creates


your search. And since God is in your search, and therefore, since God is strong and faithful, then God can support that. A man is summoned to hear God's word spoken throughout his whole life, and so it makes sense to a man of religious faith to bind himself for a lifetime to attentive listening in response to God's revealing presence. It is this understanding of man which underlies the assumption that man can see God best by a permanent commitment. I don't think the argument quite entirely clinches, and I don't think any argument can entirely clinch, because this is a matter of faith and it is a mystery. And it is something which is only answered from within the heart of the individual person. That is the conviction that is given to you interiorly, which is like the conviction of a person who is going to get married, and who is able to make a vow of fidelity, because they sense somehow, maybe obscurely, in the depth of their love, that this is for keeps,


that this is something permanent, this is something that transcends a human change. So that's a matter of something that is a switch that is thrown, a door that is opened, a word that is spoken deeply within the human person, the individual human person. So it's very hard to solve it with arguments from outside. All you can do is, what would you say, strengthen the likelihood, or show the possibility of something like that, in the perspective of a certain way of looking at the human being, a certain way of looking at God. In the old days there wasn't any problem. I mean, we thought of God as faithful and thought of these things as necessarily being permanent. But change was, in a way, unthinkable. A change which would invalidate the basic commitment was unthinkable. But that's not so any longer, because the dynamic perspective has really prevailed very largely. And, in a way, rightly so, because for a long time we've needed that emergence of a dynamic way of looking at things. And I think probably that the monk needs it as much as anybody else, or maybe more, the


dynamic perspective. So we have to be able to justify and validate the monastic commitment, making a permanent commitment to God of your life, from this dynamic point of view. It's not a question which is answered, it's a question which we have to answer. You can do that at various degrees of abstraction. For instance, if you think of that call of God as being so dynamic that it necessarily transcends any other commitment, and then think of the monastic commitment as a commitment basically to openness, to freedom, to the availability to God, which that implies, because God is superior too, and more monastic than any structure, and more dynamic than any structure. Therefore, to be free from this pure energy of God, to be free from the Holy Spirit, would be the foundation of the monastic commitment. And I think that's true. That's easy enough to comprehend in the light of a sannyasi institution. If you're going to be a sannyasi, or you're going to be something like that, it's harder


to put it together, to weld the argument together, when you're talking about a certain institution, a more particular institution. But that's what the monastic institution should do, is to give you, to protect the kind of freedom with which you can respond to that dynamic call. The Kamaldolese thing has a particular opening towards that, because it has the solitary vocation. See, because it has that door in the side of the institution, of the communal, the collective institution, the cenobitical institution, which is solitude. And solitude is the symbol and embodiment for that kind of freedom. That's what it's meant to be. But if you have that symbol and embodiment, that openness, that space for solitude, for that freedom, then conceivably you can also have it in other ways, can't you? And that's the meaning, I think, of that movement towards the mission, remember? The Evangelium Paganorum in St. Romuald, the early Kamaldolese. See, there was a spiritual freedom there that could respond to the most extreme calls.


In fact, it had, in some way, to respond to the most extreme calls. Those were the ones that would appeal to it. Those were the ones that belonged to it. And so the call to martyrdom would be that kind of call. And it doesn't sound anything like solitude, but it's got the same absoluteness about it. So, somehow, the dynamism itself should be the thing, I think, which makes the monastic life make sense. But that demands, I think, your idea of the commitment to the monastic life has, in some way, to transcend a particular institution. And then, for each person, it's going to express itself in a different way. And also, at different times in our life, it expresses itself differently. So there is a transition, for instance, from community to solitude. There may also be a transition from solitude to community, or in still other ways. Which is a challenge for the community, a challenge for the institution, as well as for the individual, to be open to that kind of thing. But remember that monasticism starts in the desert, it starts in the wilderness.


That is, it starts in a vast open space, where there's nothing there but you and God. And God's call may be of any kind. Anyway, I don't want to sound too unconfined about that. Okay, then, a long section on vowing to God, and getting more into this issue of the particular. The problem is, he says, the crooks and the scandal is the assertion that such a commitment, which he's sort of made probable, can be intelligibly and justifiably take the particular form of binding oneself for life to continuing the listening and the response within a definite context, such as marriage to a particular person, or the framework of monastic vows. It wouldn't be too hard to bind yourself to the Gospel for life, if it were just that. In other words, if you made a vow of listening to the Gospel and following the Gospel for the rest of your life, I think that would not have this drag about it. For some people it would, because they'd say, well, why, Jesus is too particular, you know.


I want to be really free, and I want to be free also of that. But for a Christian who's got that commitment built into them, who's got somehow that Christ core inside their person, that's not a problem. It's a problem of equating the Gospel, then, with this particular community, this particular structure, let us say, and these particular responsibilities. Or with this particular person in marriage, which is equally or more limiting. But somehow, human life is that way. Jesus, in some way, when he incarnated himself, remember Philippians 2? He emptied himself. Well, to empty himself is also to confine himself, isn't it? To be born of these particular parents, to live in this little town, and even to experience that terrific narrowing of his life at the end, and his passion, and trial and death. All the time, letting himself be confined by these external things in a narrower and narrower way until he dies on the cross. So that scandal of particularity is already in, it's built into Christianity,


it's built into the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus was a Jew, these myths of Jesus being in Tibet and so on, you know, when he was 13 years old, he was in the Himalayas, in Rishikesh, in an ashram. Those are attempts to overcome that embarrassing particularity of Jesus in being in what seems a narrow culture, and enclosed even within a narrow and very dualistic mentality, you know. But that's the fact of it. And that holds for our life as well. We too are confined within a particular... We can pretend not to be, but... And then he talks about this business of fidelity to a word undergirding everything in society, which is true. There tends to be a forgetfulness of this nowadays. We live in a time of transition, and you get the idea after a while that anything is up for grabs. If there's a word-perfect 6.1, there's going to be a world 6.1 too.


It's going to be a whole new ballgame next year. If there's a Windows 95, that means there could be a World and a Humanity 96. It's going to be a whole new software. And so all the old commitments and everything will just be invalidated. You have to pay for the update. A time of transition when, I don't know, at times everything seems to be up for grabs. This is probably not true where you're sitting, that is, during the Navishad. But you can catch that wind, at least you can smell its fragrance at other times, I'm sure. So, I leave this mostly to you. I just want to follow the general lines of his argument. Now, he answers his question about to whom do you make the vows. Religious or monastic vows, of course. He promises me to the living God who has been the first to promise and who has shown himself faithful.


They're accepted by the church in his name, the Psalm 132. The person who vows is not alone, nor does he rely on his own fidelity. He stakes his life on the faithfulness of God. His vocation is God's gift and therefore the vows are more truly understood as the acceptance of a gift than as the undertaking of obligations. More truly understood as the acceptance of a gift than as the undertaking of obligations. And the acceptance of a gift, as if you were accepting a bride, requires a commitment to particularity, doesn't it? You put certain limitations on your life. You're accepting this one person. God has made this one person radiant for you and to promise, seemingly, the fulfillment of your life. It's the same thing with the gift of religious vocation, monastic vocation, that binds you to the fidelity of that person, but it also binds you to a whole framework in some way. Pretty soon you're going to have to embark on a commitment to a kind of, what we say, a structure of particularity around yourself. If you have children, so much the more, you'll be tied into that.


And then this issue of whether God can later withdraw his gift. And he gets, on 132 on the top of the next page, he gets into this question of the possibility of somebody being called out as they were called in. The root of meaning in monastic vows is the making over of the human person to God in love. Normally this is looked at in the community profession, but there may be exceptions. A special call from God or a special need may involve separation from the community, or even from monastic life without breaking the engagement to God. So the engagement to God is irreversible. The engagement to the particularities, to the particular community and so on, a particular way of life even, is contingent but very strong. It has the benefit of the doubt. When those vows are made, it has the benefit of the doubt. And the contrary has to prove itself very strong. It has to have very good arguments to be able to justify itself as an exception. Profession remains, therefore, a real risk of faith.


But then human life deals with, human life feeds on risks in some way. You can read the scripture, the Old Testament already, and see that from Abraham down to Jesus himself and the apostles. The other side of it is that there's an ironic other side to this risk of monastic profession. And that is the protective environment in which one is installed by monastic profession. Because we don't go out into the desert. We don't have scorpions under our bed. And we don't have to eat wild honey, or whatever, the way John the Baptist did. Or to eat locusts. You don't have to eat locusts. We could have three meals a day. So with this risk, there's a danger of our romanticizing and dramatizing this thing. Because there's an enormous protection. And we have to fight, in a sense, the security of that protective envelope which is around us.


We have to be careful not to be swallowed by the Great Mother again. Not to be swallowed by Mother Monastery or Mother Church, so that our initiative and the spark of the charism is dampened or put out. Otherwise the thing just becomes a kind of romantic fiction, romantic dream, the whole monastic exploit. And then he talks further about this issue of the particular and the institution. And the mystery of incarnational faith. Monastic vows are a lifetime commitment to a search for God, not in the abstract, but in the midst of human history and the concrete realities of life. Therefore, we have to create a structure for our life just as we would no matter what we did. It's only that we make a stronger commitment to the structure of monastic life than you usually would. And the structure itself may be monumentally strong and tough and even rigid and closed.


Now, he gets to this issue of idolatry and alienation. The fact that the thing can wake you up or it can put you to sleep. It can bring you to life or it can deaden you. It can be the context in which you really engage in the struggle with God or the context in which you go back to sleep. But more securely, because a lot of your worries are taken away from you. This is on Tapa 134. In maintaining those institutions, the word institution already has that sort of terrible ring about it, which originally supported consciousness of God, the Christian often loses contact with the primordial experience of persons, things, and events in which God's presence was first and is still to be known. So, this is the importance of this book, this kind of treatment, is that it brings up these very real issues which a lot of the books will just skip over because they seem to be outside of the... because they really haven't confronted them. They haven't gone through the second layer.


So this is a book which is dealing with the second layer as well as the first one. In that it's comparable to Martin's Contemplation in a World of Action. Martin's first layer book is Seven Story Mountain, where Gethsemane is the center of the world and where the monastic life is the absolute peak, and there's no doubt about that. He's in the honeymoon phase. His second layer book is Contemplation in a World of Action. It's not the only one, but that's where he looks critically at monasticism and sorting things out after a long experience of the shadow of the monastic life. So that's what they're doing here. Often the very sacred symbols which ought to reveal God obscure his presence. Now, I realize that this is not, what we would call it, is not exactly the menu for the novitiate. You're not probably likely to be confronting these things now. In fact, they may even offend your feelings. They may seem somehow unworthy of the quality of grace which you feel.


And yet they have to be confronted sooner or later, because they'll come up, they'll rear their heads, and they're very true. So they may not be what you're experiencing now. But when you get to that layer, you'll want to look back at them and see what other people have thought about them. And of course we have a whole history of this in the sense that what was the Protestant Reformation? I mean, what was the motivation? What was the zeal behind that destruction of monasteries and so on? So a lot of these same feelings may be not expressed quite so precisely and in such a nuanced way. But these issues are going to come up, and so you need to know where to find some help on them. The maintenance of these forms may be a vehicle for the awareness of God, or it may serve as a tranquilizer or an insulation against the risk of faith. And then he talks about two terms, the ancient term idolatry and the contemporary term alienation. Alienation from authentic existence, and he relates the two.


Idolatry was absolutizing something else, so you really took it for God and gave to that what was owed to God. Now this can also be a structure, it can be a way of life, it can be an experience, it can also be a person, or a self-image or something like that. And we're always dealing with partial idolatries, I think. You can say that addiction is a form of idolatry, and that addiction extends itself to many things. Religious man today frequently asserts that the very preservation of certain institutions can have the effect of alienating him from his search for God's presence. And here we have to remember, once again, that monasticism begins with going out into the wilderness. And the monastic renewals, like that of Saint Romuald in the 10th and 11th century, is a going back into the wilderness, into the wilderness of solitude, basically, in order to get away from the decadence, the alienation, the idolatry of a monasticism,


which itself had gotten away from its charism. When monasticism gets too fat and prosperous, and begins consorting with the upper crust, the barons and the abbots are riding around on their horses, their white horses, then it's time for another exodus into the wilderness, and somebody will do it. Just as Paul Giustiniani did it around the 16th century, remember, same time as the Reformation, when the commandos thing was too fat for him. So it happens all the time. It happens at least in fortunate ages that there's another John the Baptist who starts it rolling again, and goes out to find its true root once again. So I'm talking about maybe an external corruption and decadence on the part of monasticism. There's also just the internal going to sleep, which can happen without all that corruption. Perfectly good institutions can get in the way, and people faithfully following them.


But somehow the institution, the structure, the rule can be taken for God, can be absolutized. I remember believing that if you followed everything that you were told, that you would be transformed. That if you did what you were told, if you gave yourself with your whole heart, your whole will, all the good will that you had, and you had a lot of it at that time, and all the energy of your youth, to the institution, that you would be transformed and realized as the ancient saints were. But I don't think that's true. I don't think it's true. I agree. I love the same thing. Because you get a lot of people who have been doing that for 40 years and they haven't gotten very far. And after a while there's a certain sagging in their faces too, because they're living a life of resignation or something like that, and somehow the ship has never come in. So it takes more than that. It takes that searching in your own heart and in your own mind, and that dealing with your own desires somehow, so that your desire in your life remains alive, so that your heart remains alive.


That's why I like Martin so much, because he did that. He may have had the same romantic dream when he was young, but he didn't give up, and he went through the second layer. And he didn't live long enough to walk into paradise and tell us about it. He didn't go to sleep. Then he talks about the pull towards institutionalism, which generates alienation. We're alienation. I didn't understand it for a long time, and I understand it now. Alienation is like doing something, and after a while you discover you're not there at all. That you're only doing it on the outside, and your heart and your real, deep consciousness have gone out to lunch. Maybe they've been out for a long time, maybe they're on a sabbatical. You don't know where you are, you don't know who you are anymore. You're just doing this thing. The factory routine is typical of that. The secular institutional thing on the outside, you sit in front of a computer while making a little cubicle, and jockeying numbers around on a screen. And after a while, where did you go? Who are you? Where are you?


There's nobody at home. You can live a whole life, you know, that has nothing to do with who you are. Martin's a master on that, with his gift of sarcasm. The underlying error is the failure to recognize the relative character of everything that structures man's search for God. The stable commitment to vowed life being made to God transcends the commitment to a particular set of institutional arrangements. See, all of this comes with Vatican II. You find very little of this critical thinking about monasticism. There may have been a lot of feeling inside, a lot of suppressed resentment and so on, but people didn't talk this way much before Vatican II. So this is enormously important, this movement into the second layer, to be able to say these things, bring them out of the open and go through them and rediscover the true core of monasticism, of monastic life. To be able to say this, and to be able to sort of hold the whole institutional issue in your hands and look at all sides of it, weigh it, and then wedge yourself to it, talking about the beginning of the monastic life.


The vow of stability, then, is the ultimate paradox for the contemporary man or woman who understands the problems of idolatry, religious alienation, and institutionalism, tying yourself to one particular institutional framework. And he just keeps going back and back and back to that thing that God is beyond us all, and that the particular community is relativized, the particular rule is relativized. It's not God, and yet you've got to have one in some way, and in some way God validates your commitment to it, just as God validates the call and the commitment to marriage, to union with another person. So the two questions that turn out to be two prongs of the one reality, the question, do you promise to God? And I think he answered one of those questions right in the beginning, but he kept holding it up like a dummy for the rest of the chapter in order to be able to make a nice closure at the end,


and meet the other question. Do you make your promise to the community or to God, and can you really make a permanent promise? So the two questions respond to one another and find the same answer, that it's God that you make the promise to, and that's God's reality, God's promise, God's grace, God's grace which sustains the promise and the vow, and makes it possible, makes it a possible thing. And then the little conclusion there goes a little further on this. Any questions about that before we move on to conversation tomorrow? Yes. I wouldn't...


Yeah, in a certain way. Okay, the liturgy can become an idolatry too. Now that's a very tender point, a very tender nerve, because the liturgy is a very sacred thing, okay? But the liturgy, especially if performed in certain ways, with a lot of, maybe a lot of solemnity, or the way they do it in certain churches now with all kinds of artificial helps, you know, with projected videos and with dancers and instrumental music, you know, all of this, all these things going on, that can get in the way, actually, of the simple meeting with God and with one another, which should occur in the Eucharist, okay? I'd rather take a more marginal example. For instance, the... Well, take the solemn vestures, for instance, with which Mass was celebrated in the old days, the pontifical Mass and so on, which at one point seemed a really splendid mediation of God


and a really splendid kind of... almost realization of God's kingdom on earth, you know. And nowadays it tends to have the opposite effect, and people realize that that somehow is... That's keeping people from God in some way. God's not in all that stuff. God's not in those buskins, in all those brocades and things and all that incense. People somehow are feasting on that, and they're really not in touch with God when they're feasting on it. Or if you have very ornate music, for instance, in the liturgy, at a certain moment it awakens you. It makes you feel just about a divine presence. But then you get into the music, and you start listening to it after a while, instead of attending to the divine presence, okay? That's another example. For instance, Mozart Masses are probably maybe too beautiful, you know, to allow you really to simply be absorbed in the Mass, to simply enter into it on a deeper level. But those are examples that you can give and take.


There may be a slight excess, fine, but the general effect is positive. But sometimes the blocking can become almost... For instance, in Latin America, sometimes a particular view of the Church really gets in the way of God. The Church viewed the power of the Church, okay, and the imposing dignity of the Church, the vestures of the bishop and so on, okay, can fortify the regimes which close out the justice of God, okay? Because that's right arm-in-arm with like a dictatorial regime, or a military regime, or an oligarchy, which is exploiting the people and murdering the indigenous peoples and so on, okay? So the episcopal dignity and all those vestures and things, just go along with it, they're just part of it. And the Church seems arm-in-arm with that thing and it's shutting out God. It's shutting out God, not directly so much in the level of worship and reverence,


but on this other level, you see. By making God's Church look like another structure of power, okay, by making God's kingdom look like an earthly kingdom, and that earthly kingdom is a dictatorial, oppressive kingdom, an exploitative regime, okay? So what's it doing? It's saying that power is God. So that really shuts out God in a serious way. But there are a lot of other examples which are... The Pharisees and the scribes did that in Jesus' time. Yeah, the law took the place of God. See, the law took the place of God, exactly. That's a very good example. If you do these prescriptions, okay, that's all you need to do and forget about it, because then you're one with God, but you're not one with God necessarily. You've just about begun. But from that, they put you in a place where maybe you can relate to God. But they don't do it for you, because that's an interior and a more complete thing. So that's what Jesus does when he comes along. He pushes those particular structures out of the way and says,


Look, this is God. God is inside you and God is in your neighbor. Okay, conversatio morum. Now, my first reference for this is in that RB1980 chapter on profession. And it's from page 459 through 463. And I thought of giving you a Xerox of it, but I thought it might depress you. What that's about, actually, is the scholarly inquiry into what it's about, what the phrase means. I don't know exactly how to think of that, but for hundreds and hundreds of years, people didn't know what the expression meant. And it didn't matter a whole lot. Why didn't it matter a whole lot? Because basically, you're talking about profession as the whole of a self-commitment to God, and the rule explains what you're going to do. You know you're committing yourself to the rule.


So things are spelled out, and this phrase sort of dissolves itself. Conversatio morum dissolves itself into the fullness of that observance that you're committing yourself to. So one phrase doesn't make that much difference if it gets obscured or blotted out or is lost. And also, the interpretation of it as conversion of life isn't too far off what it evidently was supposed to mean in the beginning. Let me first of all... See, the writers who write about this, they either follow the old way and just talk about conversion, or they'll take some arbitrary, write a chapter about it, a more or less arbitrary perspective on the whole monastic life. Because the vow doesn't mean something in particular, it means everything. So how do you write a chapter on everything? Different ones will do it in a different way. Roberts, in that Trappist book, talks about palateia, about what is monastic life. And then the basic observances, for instance, and he separates them into five categories. Withdrawal from society and life of prayer, and austerity of life,


and common life for cenobites, and then work. And then he sort of gives you a whole framework of monastic life, almost like an inventory of monastic life, according to those five departments. But that's one way of looking at it. That's the kind of cataloguing way of saying what this is about. Consider your call, he talks about it in terms of conversion, for biblical conversion. Conversion has a very strong biblical root. Metanoia, and then something else in Hebrew a bit further back, shur, return to God. Now, let me do this little thing in the Army 1980, just to give you the picture of the question itself. The most controverted of the three elements, of the three vows, is the concept of conversatio morum suorum. It's a grammatically difficult phrase, because it overlaps. It says the same thing twice. And he says it probably clearly in St. Benedict's time, but then it was assumed it was not understood.


And the copyists who made the manuscripts of the rule would change it to conversio morum, which makes more sense. Conversion of your ways, conversion of life, makes perfect sense. So not until 1912 was the correct reading restored, conversatio morum. I'm not inside that whole discussion, so I don't know whether that's as absolute as they put it here. But evidently it's been undisputed since then, that the correct reading is not conversio morum, which would be simple, conversion of life, and of your ways of living, but conversatio morum. So then we're stuck with the puzzle. What does it mean? And he goes into three different ways of looking at it. Three schools of thought. Either you say that it's equivalent to conversio, that's the first approach. The second approach is that of latin. And Merton talks about this. Merton's got a fairly long chapter on conversatio morum, by the way,


in The Monastic Journey. You know that book of his? It's got a bunch of chapters about different aspects of monastic life. There's a fairly long chapter in there about it, which you might be interested in reading. It's kind of a tussle. He's wrestling out loud with the question of what it means, especially in terms of Cenobite and Hermon. Remember the solitary thing is very important for him. So what latin says is that each of the three vows and the rule of St. Benedict specifies the life in terms of those four kinds of monks that he talked about, okay, in the beginning. So that the Jairobegs are ruled out by stability, right? In one place, you had a wanderer in one place. The Sarobites are ruled out by obedience, right? Because you don't do what you think is best. You are under the rule of a superior. And so the Hermits, he says, would be ruled out by conversatio morum, which refers to the Cenobitical observance. So Merton tussles and tussles with that.


It doesn't have enough substance. It's probably not true. It's neat, but it doesn't seem to be true. So we get to Fr. Basilius Steidl, who was my monastic professor in Rome and who carried an alarm clock in his pocket. I have always loved him for that. He had a big alarm clock. And he had a clock haven on as a Benedictine. He had a big alarm clock with legs on it and bells on the top. And he would pull it out of his pocket at the beginning of the lecture and put it on. I do not love him only because the lectures ended on time, but because of the marvelous spirit that was in his... carrying that big alarm clock around in his pocket. He had a sense of humor. So it's the philological explanation for once that cuts the knot. He says, this is a genitive of identity, or ep-exegetical genitive,


which I think they use that in biblical exegesis. Common in low Latin. That's what we have here, low Latin. And then the RB. So the two nouns are synonymous. So conversatio and moral means the same thing. That is, the way of life, conversatio, is the same as your morals, you might say. Not so much morals, I think, but as ways of living, just your way. What would be the English translation, then, of conversatio? Conversatio would be way of life, basically. Manner of life. And conversio would be conversion. Yeah, conversio is conversion, right? But, see, we're moving away from conversio. We're saying that the word is really conversatio, not conversio, and that it's not really, not directly equivalent to conversio either. It doesn't have that sense of turning. It has the sense of a way of life. And so conversatio moral is simply doubling and saying it twice. In other words, it's your way of life.


It doesn't say directly changing your way of life, the way it converts you, but it means it, because the monastic life is different from the life you had before. So it really means it, but it's implicit instead of explicit. So this is the English translation for the whole thing that they have here. About his manner of life and moral conduct, you see. Now, those two are just about the same, except moral conduct sounds a little more interior. But I suspect that mores doesn't have quite the same meaning as moral conduct in our language. Or about his manner of life, that is to say his moral conduct. Now, neither one has a specifically monastic meaning in itself, but they refer to the monastic way of life, because that's what you're committing yourself to. Hence, it is a general promise to live the life that the rule and the abbot specify in that particular monastery. Four or five pages. I'm just going to mention the several treatments of this


that I looked at during this last week. One of them is the RV1980, which is merely treating, trying to arrive at the real meaning of it. That's what you call historical critical work, isn't it? That's a historical critical approach. Apply it not to the scripture, but to the rule. And in this case, it's quite important, isn't it? When you've got a phrase like that, you need that kind of, you need that philological work, disagreeable as it may seem. I looked at Roberts. We've got two different editions of his book. And this book centered on Christ, which I guess I didn't mention at first. This is the second edition, which I'll put on the class show. The whole thing is about profession. I did mention it last time. From a traveler's point of view. But it's a solid, serious thing. Sometimes it's quite deep as well. When I had a class before, we used the first edition. And he treats it then in terms of palatia, of a way of life, picking up a way of life, a praxis, the expression from the Desert Fathers. And then those basic monastic observances,


in that you're committing yourself to the whole thing. The Consider Your Call treats it in terms of conversion. In other words, they somewhat fuzzle this issue of what the meaning is by going right back to conversion again, which is surprising in that book, actually. And yet, it is all right in a way. I mean, it belongs. And there is a certain equivalence, but it's not precise. Now, you could say that conversion is the interior component of conversatio, and that conversatio actually refers more to the exterior. It refers to your behavior, your way of life, like palatia does in the Greek. But conversio would be the more interior thing. Conversion of heart would be the core of that. And also expresses the dynamic aspect of it. But it's an unceasing thing. It's not something you value yourself to and then you're locked into it. You forget it and you ride along with it.


It's something that has to be renewed all the time. An interior spirit or drive towards the goal of monastic life. It's really a combination of the two. Yeah, that's right. And neither is enough without the other. It's either one, either one or the other. That's right. See, if it were just this drive, you wouldn't have to make a vow of conversatio somehow. Because notice that a vow is always about something that can be verified. It has to be external, therefore. A vow always has to have an external reference in canon law. Otherwise, there's no way of telling whether you're living according to the vow or not. If it were merely an interior disposition, how can the church legislate for that? How can you make laws about an interior disposition? You may not even know whether you've broken it or not. So it has to have an external aspect. And this vow, the bearing of this vow, from that Latin phrase, is more external. But when we want to get to the interior of it,


then we need to talk about something like conversio. And then, consider your quote goes from conversion then to asceticism. And then asceticism is coming back and becoming nearly equivalent to conversatio, but not quite. Because asceticism is like one sector of the conversatio. Remember how Roberts says the life of prayer is part of it, and community is part of it. Well, that's not all asceticism. Isn't it true, too, that the asceticism can be either exterior or not interior at all? Oh, yeah. You can do all the exterior but not have the interior. That's right. So what he does, actually, is to give you the exterior in terms of asceticism, the interior in terms of conversion, and conversion also giving you the broader, better biblical base for it, New Testament base. And then, finally, Merton's chapter on the monastic journey, which I had read a long time ago and just returned to now, and it's clearer to me now than what he's wrestling with. If he had the RB1980 behind him,


he wouldn't have had to tussle so long with the issues in here. And he really does have the concern about Cenobite and Hermon, and wanting to keep the Benedictine commitment, which he has also, open to the Hermon commitment, which it is in the Will of Saint Benedict. So he has to deal with Latin's thesis that this is to exclude the Hermon vocation. He's got about three successive definitions of what he thinks conversatio morum is about. And he's always eloquent. We might summarize all this by saying that the vow... He calls it conversio morum, you see, so he's still behind the settling of that issue, despite the fact that Butler wrote about it in 1912 and solved all the problems. There's a vow of renunciation and penance, a vow to abandon the world and its ways in order to seek God,


and the solitude that ceases. Obedience, prayer, poverty, and labors of the monastic way. It is the vow to respond totally and integrally to the word of Christ, Come, follow me. And then he goes on. By renouncing all that might impede one. So, I wouldn't recommend this for the clarity of the thing, but it rounds out the issue, especially in terms of the solitary life. But that's unnecessary, really. Once that thesis of latin has been dealt with. Okay, that's all that I have for this morning. Next time I expect we'll be a little more packed if we try to treat a celibacy. So I'd urge you to read that section before. I'll try to get a Xerox to you. Read it beforehand so that we won't have to do too much of that during the hour that we have. That'll be Friday. Thank you.