Monastic With a Day Job – Introduction
This is the first in a series of conversations around the book How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life (Voices from the Monastery) by Brother Benet Tvedten of Blue Cloud Abbey. My brief reflections are posted here, but the real benefit will be in the conversation among the Oblates in the Comments.
On reading the introduction to Brother Benet’s book, I was struck by the breadth of the topics he chose to include:
- a good dip into the history of Benedictines
- quite a few references to the challenges of modern life
- discussion of particular elements of Benedictine life
- a focus on the universality of the need for these elements across time and location
Two quotations on page xv struck me by their seeming opposition that, on reflection, I saw as a unity. First Brother Benet quotes Dr. Janet Buchanan:
Benedictinism lives in individuals who are Benedictine, and not necessarily in monasteries.
Calls for social cohesion will fall on deaf ears if we see ourselves as a collection of individuals, rather than a society of people with a shared interest in each other’s welfare.
“Which is it,” I wanted to ask Brother Benet, “does living by The Rule as a Benedictine require a community? Or is it something an individual can do?” The answer, of course, is “Both.” For the Oblate, and even for the member of a monastic community today, there are still a lot of questions. Who is the community and how does one relate to it? What does it mean to say that Benedictinism – the whole of it – lives in an individual, and what would that look like? What relationship do we really have with St. Benedict and Alcuin? Are we Benedictines for ourselves or for the world?
The rest of the book will, I am sure, bring us back to questions grounded in reality – but it is good to begin with some big ones.