Monday, October 19, 2015

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Over the weekend, we (in formation) traveled to Bristow, VA for an east coast Benedictine formation conference. The title of the presentation was "The Benedictine Way: A Journey To Wisdom." Our presenter, a Benedictine sister from the Pittsburgh community, provided wonderful reflections on the word "wisdom," which allowed us to make connections to our growing understanding of monasticism.

But, more than that, the weekend provided me with an opportunity to experience another Benedictine monastery. I made a remark to one of my sisters that you can feel the difference when you are in a Benedictine home compared to the homes of other orders; there is a sense of hospitality that I have yet to experience anywhere else. From the welcoming at the door, to the open recliner to watch Notre Dame beat USC (Go Irish!), and even a Mucinex for my congestion, I felt the Benedictine heart of hospitality in each experience throughout the weekend.

So, on the way home, when we reflected on what we noticed about their monastery compared to our own, I needed some time to think. Yes, there were differences in the physical environment, the prayer, the size of the community, and some other things, but I found the overall spirit to be one and the same - joyful, generous, and gracious.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the Christian life as one of non-judgment. It is so easy to compare and contrast; I must admit: a Venn diagram is one of my favorite teaching tools. That's okay, but often times as soon as I start noticing similarities and differences, I find myself entering into judgment - which way is right, which way is wrong - which way is better, which way is worse, and so on. But, the thing is, the one true similarity of all life is that God is pouring through it. That alone makes it good. That mark trumps any differences, and actually, makes diversity beautiful. We often hear about avoiding "either/or" thinking in favor of "both/and" thinking. To do that we need to put on the mind of Christ and get rid of the Venn diagram in our minds.

I just finished reading a book about lectio by Christine Valters Painter (which I highly recommend), and I found some words that spoke to this idea for me, referring to the prayer style of lectio:

This...means entering the profound mystery of God and allowing ourselves to move beyond...dualities. [...] We no longer have to reconcile opposites. We recognize how little we know of God, so we can't say God is this way or that way; God is both and neither. This path requires a radical sense of humility and embrace of our limited vision. God is beyond our ability to understand or grasp.

If we are willing to open ourselves up to the limited nature of our humanity and embrace the unknowing, we become free to move away from judgment. And, I don't really have to worry about it anyway - God already saw it all and said it is very good. Who am I to judge?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

The still-blooming dahlias in the teaching garden at the monastery

 The very-cool stained-glass silos at the prayer labyrinth

The view from inside looking up