Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life Goes On - and forward

We had two joyous events this week, one very public and celebratory and one private and more understated.

The public event was the First Profession of our novices Randy and Joseph. As generations of Benedictine monks have done for more than 1500 years, they stood before the altar and read their Instrument of Profession, which they had written out with their own hands, committing themselves to our life of Obedience, Stability and "The Conversion of My Life to the Monastic Way of Life", in this case for one year.

Randy's Monastic Vow in his own hand
If they decide to persevere in this life they will make this promise again in another year, and perhaps more than that, but the renewals of the vow are not public happenings: they are private community affairs. Then finally, if they feel completely called here, they will have a big celebration when they make their vows for life.

It was a wonderful time: not raucous, but very joyful. There was a nice crowd of their friends and friends of the monastery, including companions in our life from several different religious orders. These events are always as much about the past as they are about the present, as those of us in vows are always transported back to the day when we made the same commitment, and are inevitably rolled through the years that have gone by since then. There was good music, including a wonderful display of the capacities of our new organ, and then there was a meal, which Joseph and Randy had chosen, of fried chicken, biscuits, collards and banana pudding with "'Nilla Wafers". There was also a quite splendid sermon by Br Scott, which you can read on our OHC Lectionary Blog, if you would like.

We haven't had a double profession in many years, and when you add this together with the approaching profession of Br. Daniel in South Africa and the clothing of Br. Josias, also in Grahamstown, we have a lot to celebrate. Daniel has lived here in this monastery for much of the past year, so we will be sharing the joy of this event in a close way. All of this is a particularly rich promise of new life for our community, and it brings with it all of the happiness and also the "stretching" that new life, new expectations, and new ways always brings. We have a lot to celebrate and a lot to grow into.

And that growth was evidenced in the second joyful event to which I referred - which was a perfectly ordinary House Meeting that took place the day after the profession. The agenda had a number of items on it concerning the living of our daily life - how things get scheduled, how we can handle a growing guest ministry that sometimes threatens to overwhelm everything else in our lives, and some proposals for changing long-established customs, like the ringing of the tower bell. These are things of varying degrees of importance for us, and you may not be surprised to know that it is the smallest ones that sometimes produce the most tensions, and I have seen some wondrous conflicts over very small agendas in my years in the Order.

The thing that I celebrate (and not only I) is that we negotiated all of this with quite natural ease, with good humor and with creativity. We ended up making some decisions that were more imaginative and more helpful than any of us would have thought of by himself. We can now see our way to a significant expansion of week-day programs in the Guesthouse, knowing that we have drawn some good boundaries which will insure that the community gets the rest, and the sabbath, that it needs. Tensions that came up were honestly and quickly dealt with. Differing views were respectfully received and held while we search for solutions. We took time and care with each other and reached some really good resolutions. And this, no less than the professions the day before, gives wonderful hope for our future. If we can continue to grow in this way of discernment when issues come before us, we will forge a future that will be full of hope.

So, many Alleluias are due this Eastertide, for now and for the coming days and years.

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Just so regular readers of this column will know - I leave on Wednesday for some time away. I'll be in Kansas City, where I lived and worked for several wonderful productive years, and where I have a lot of connections. I'm looking forward to the time with much anticipation. I'll be away from this blog for the next two weeks, and look forward to being back with you after that.

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