What's that, you ask? Earlier this month I wrote in my church enews that I was heading to a monastery to become a monk.
Let me explain and clarify. For twenty-five years I have spent time at Saint John’s Abbey in
Collegeville, Minnesota. Saint John's is not only a monastic community but a university, school of theology, and prep school, and is also home to Liturgical Press and 2,700 acres of natural terrain.
Saint John’s is a place dear to my heart for several reasons. First, for twenty-five years I have gone there for retreats and portions of both of my sabbaticals. For almost a century, Saint John’s has been at the forefront of liturgical renewal in this country. Second, since Vatican II it has also been a place deeply committed to ecumenism. Finally, Fr. Anthony Ruff, one of the monks at Saint John’s, preached at Holy Trinity as we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Actually, I’m not becoming a monk but a Benedictine oblate. Oblates can be Roman Catholic or other denominations, lay or ordained, and are connected to a specific monastery. They strive to integrate Benedictine values into their daily lives. These days there are more oblates than actual monks or nuns. I have been in the process of becoming an oblate for several years and the rite of oblation will be Saturday, July 20th at Saint John’s.
The Rule of Benedict, written in the 6th century, still holds relevance for people today, and in addition to Roman Catholic monasteries, there are Episcopal and Lutheran Benedictine communities. Here are a few characteristics of Benedictine spirituality:
+ Grounded in listening and discernment
+ Ordered by a rhythm of daily prayer and reflection
+ Rooted in stability and being committed to a specific location
+ Seeks balance between work, prayer, rest, and study
+ Openness to conversion of life and the new path Christ is forever calling us to travel
In our busy and frantic lives more and more people are turning to monastic spirituality. In fact, new monasticism is an ecumenical movement centered in contemplative living, embodied spirituality, and sacred activism. With that definition, maybe all of us have a little “urban monk” in us.
Here are some pictures from the oblation ceremony on July 20, 2019: