“Do not depend on the hope of results….” T Merton
In January of 2018 I began, A New journey and a new phase in my life. After nearly 30 years of working and living as a parish priest, I decided to put that all aside and continue my journey full time as a secular monastic. This is a term I coined in relation to religious monastics who live in close proximity to one another in an enclosure. I have been on the monastic path for a good many years now but only now do I have the freedom to dedicate every day of my life to this new adventure.
Our new community here in Mexico City is called “La Comunidad de San Bonifacio”. Named after the famous Bishop-Monk-Missionary to the Germanic Lands who originated in England. His spirit is alive in our new community.
The journey has been slow and deliberate. We celebrate a weekly Liturgy midday at a local midtown Roman Catholic Parish that once housed an ex-pat Community from Hungary. The stained glass windows are all imported from there and the saints are Hungarian. Its a small European style gothic chapel built turn of the century in what was once a burgeoning European and ex-pat neighborhood including many Spanish refugees from the war during the Franco Dictatorship.
It seemed the perfect spot to begin our new Benedictine (ecumenical) Community. We celebrate a liturgy which is based on the midday monastic liturgical celebration of the Jerusalem Community in Europe. This community has nearly a hundred monks and nuns who live separately but pray together daily in the Heart of Cities all over Europe. Their charism is to bring Monastic Life to the Heart of the City where it is most needed.
The move away from parish active life is the adjustment to Benedictine passive life. I maintain the daily schedule of most monastic communities (Vigils, Laudes, Midday, Vespers and Compline). We have our public community liturgy three times a week and gather online for Compline one time a week with people interested in participating in our communal life. One day a week is spent in solitude and prayer at a nearby retreat center run by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary also a very contemporary expression of religious life- they are incognito sisters. They work in the world as professionals but keep their religious identity a secret known by only a few. It is here that I can spend precious time on leisure, and Lectio, which is essential to the Monastic Discipline.
Michael Casey ocso writes in his commentary on Benedictine life that
“Benedicts Monastery is a place of leisure because those who live there are committed to a life of mindfulness. Being attentive requires, first of all that we renounce the desire to control what happens around us, to manipulate reality, to impose our own will on events or on other people.”
This is a daily task! “We must be convinced of the value of holy leisure. Leisure is content-free. Leisure is empty space. Leisure is silence. Leisure means living gently, not driven or obsessed. Leisure is room to breath. Leisure is holy uselessness.”
(Strangers to the CityReflections on beliefs and values of the Rule of St Benedict Michael Casey ocso)
After so many years of being on the clock, learning to live into a life of leisure is far from an easy task. We are taught that our self worth is in our work and in our doing not being. We are also caught up in the complicated net of our own professional identities whatever they are. But when I am no longer practicing full time that identity what am I? Who am I?
(Pic The Church where we reside as seen from the Park dedicated to Giordiano Bruno monk, reformer, friend of Martin Luther, tortured martyr, and sometimes scoundrel)
It is nearly 8 months since this journey began. Still fresh, still plenty of challenges ahead. When Thomas Merton was a monk there were many new Trappists ventures started in the USA as Gethsemane extended beyond its borders into new uncharted monastic territory. One of those monasteries closed down just this year in Utah. Little did they know that their monastic experiment would be short lived even within a life time.
What is in store for the Community of Saint Boniface? It is hard to say. We have started very small. We are trying hard to be faithful to our vocational calling. Fortunately we have the ongoing support of our Mother Community, The New Benedictine Community in the USA and Europe. That dispersed community of Benedict’s Dozen is the ongoing personal support to me as I find it many times isolating and distinct from other models of religious life especially in Mexico. Most religious here are Dominican, Franciscan, Augustinian, and frequently active in schools and education. The Contemplative life is only a slice of their daily bread. We are intentionally a community of prayer and service, trying to live out that benedictine balance of Ora and Labora. Prayer is essential to our daily work as is reflection and contemplation.
Where will this all lead us? Certainly in to new paths and unchartered territories as was the same for Boniface and his small band of Monks. May we follow where we are led, and seek only His guidance.
Eternal God, the refuge and help of all your children,
we praise you for all you have given us,
for all you have done for us,
for all that you are to us.
In our weakness, you are strength,
in our darkness, you are light,
in our sorrow, you are comfort and peace.
We cannot number your blessings,
we cannot declare your love:
For all your blessings we bless you.
May we live as in your presence,
and love the things that you love,
and serve you in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Prayer of St Boniface