“Benedictine stability is a promise to meet life head-on. Monastic stability deals directly with three things: centeredness, commitment, and relationships.” Joan Chittister
It has been a horrible week for the News. Nearly every day we awake to some act of terrorism in the world, where innocent people are killed in cold blood by an extremist or extremist group (4 of such events in Germany alone in one week). Yesterday we awoke to the murder of a simple country priest in France, Père Jaques Hamel, who’s throat was slit open by an extremist attacker in the middle of celebrating the Eucharist at Mass with his congregation. It seems, no one is safe anywhere, in the movie theatre, at the shopping mall, in a concert, at a bus stop, not even a church or place of worship.
When one is to be received, they come before the whole community in the oratory and promise stability, fidelity to monastic-life, and obedience. RB 58:17
Stability, is what we all long for in a world that is way too unstable, moving on fast-foreward, and ever more uncertain road to who knows where? When a Monastic joins a community, he or she makes a vow of. Stability, apart from Conversion of life as a Monastic and the vow of Obedience. This vow of Stability is to “stick it out” in the context of the community that one has elected as their Religious Community, an extension of themselves. All of us have or should have those points or anchors of stability. It may be our faith in God, it may be a family member, it may be a faithful pet, or friend, it may be my home and surroundings, it may be my church, or synagogue or mosque. What is it that grounds us in the midst of so much change?
“Stability says that where I am is where God is for me. More than that, stability teaches that whatever the depth of the dullness or the difficulties around me, I can, if I will simply stay still enough of heart, find God there in the midst of them. When the monastic makes a vow of stability it is a vow designed to still the wandering heart.” JC
We all have wandering hearts. We want a better job, we think there is a better or future love interest in store for is, we want to climb the social ladder, we think that there must be another church out there where they preach better, or sing better, or don’t ask for money all the time. We are sadly, this day and age ‘consumers’. But consumerism says that all things are attainable with money, influence, or coercion. Consumerism says, that all things are dispensable and easily replaced with little or no effort. These concepts or ideas fly in the face of Stability.
“Stability enables me to outlast the dark, cold places of life until the thaw comes and I can see new life in this uninhabitable place again. But for that to happen I must learn to wait through the winters of my life.” JC
Many of you know that I have been struggling at least a year with my own vocational crisis. I have been working five years in a parish that has struggled constantly to be self sufficient economically and that has lost nearly 30 percent of its population or membership in the last five years due to aging, illness, death, and the instability of those whose lives are so mobil that they are constantly on the move. This has been vocationally one of the great ‘winters’ of my 25 years as a priest in the church. Fortunately my own vow of Stability to the Monastic life, has helped me weather some of the cold and sleet. Daily I have a routine of prayer and reflection. I walk at least an hour a day, and ride my bike to church and surrounding areas. I try to stay focused on the present, not on the past, not on the future.
“Stability, however, says that we have an obligation to see things through until we have done for them what can be done and, no less important, until they have done for us what can be done as well.” JC
I have no idea how many years I have left to serve this community. I do know that the option of retirement is just a few years away and my dream of creating an ecumenical Monastic Community in Mexico City is perhaps then just around the bend…I found out how important stability was to my life when I left my home of 15 years in Mexico City to come to Los Angeles after my marriage to JJ. Those 15 years gave me a deep sense of connectedness to both people and place that will never be repeated until I return one day to that sacred and most beloved corner of my world. Until then, I continue to wander both spiritually and emotionally.
“Stability requires us to be constant of heart and unremitting in our spiritual efforts.” JC
It has been a huge spiritual struggle to find Stability in the midst of so much change in this ‘late mid-life’ season I find myself in. My family, my monastic community, my church, have all helped me to have a sense that not all is lost. Even so, with the world in such turmoil and chaos, it is harder and harder to stay fixed to the Anchor of Stability.
“Stability, in other words, is an outward demonstration of what we say is our inward disposition: the love of God in all things but especially in the humdrum and mundane, in the here and now and the them and those.”
Again, we return always to the Source of our Stability, and Resilience which is God. For those of us who embrace a religious existence and accept our call and vocation of our Baptismal Promises, we have no other choice, it is our Only Choice. Our Baptismal Covenant is part of that Stability to ideas, principles and a Way of Living.
“Stability, the willingness to continue to grow where I am, ironically, is the ground of conversion, the willingness to be changed. With these people, in this place, at this time I dedicate myself to rebirth and growth and maturity, both spiritual and psychological. With the help of these others, I can commit myself to the faithfulness of a God who is also unpredictable.” JC
PIC: This cross is from a collection of religious art in Melk Benedictine Abbey in Wachau Austria which I visited a week ago. It date’s back to the 12 century. The cross for me is the one of the strongest symbols of Stability. The axis of vertical and horizontal represent our own connection to God (vertical) and to each other as human beings (horizontal). That which is constant and never changes. It is also the door or portal, by which suffering and struggle lead eventually to new life and resurrection. I am reminded of a hymn that captures this sense of Stability…….”In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.”