Stability and Community

One of the confusing and sometimes embarrassing aspects of our Order is our lack of “location”. We have no mother house. As religious we do not reside in this or that place. We are an order in dispersal. We seem to be monastic orphans. Contrary to the expectations of our culture, we have no cloister, cells or the usual trappings of Hollywood movie monks and we do not meet the expectations of those who are familiar with cloistered communities as the image of monastic life.

I confess that there are times when explaining that I am the abbot of the Order of Saint Luke I see people’s visage change to quizzical and I can tell that they are wondering where is your monastic habit and where is the community of which you are abbot. You too may experience such spoken or unspoken questions.

So I appreciate perspectives on monastic life that help me (and all of us) to interpret our self understanding and our ability to articulate to others who and how we exist together in the world. As part of the daily office, Sr. Mary O and I read the daily installment in The Monastic Way, edited by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild.

The entry for January 22 by Timothy Wright, OSB, is particularly helpful:

In many ways, the concept of stability is the root vow for monastic identity. It contains two distinct elements, the first of which is commitment. A monk is not committed to an institution, nor to an ideal, nor to a philosophy or even to the Rule itself. The monk is committed to a community, to a group of people with its own particular past and present and future. Very often, this group of people is tied to a particular place, but it need not be so. Monks have always moved around, and no monastery can ever afford to put its physical location before its community. So what stability does is anchor the monk within a community, for better or for worse. (pp. 12-13)

Wright is writing in the context of traditional Benedictine vows (stability, obedience, and conversion of life) and he gets to the point: our commitment is to a community. That is why during Evening Prayer The Book of Offices and Services invites us to pray “Intercessions for the Order of Saint Luke” (“Evening Prayer” p. 47). That is why we seek to connect with each other in chapters, on the CyberChapter, or in ongoing connections for accountability and fellowship with another member.

“For better or for worse” we are in this community. It reminds me of the wedding vows. Our profession, our commitment to stability, weds us to this community “for better or for worse”, and so, we live the baptismal covenant in this Lukan community simultaneously with living in other communities: family, church, tribes and peoples local and global, in the communion of all things, the cosmos, the community of the holy Three in ongoing communion with the world.

Pax in terra.

Br. Abbot Daniel
1 23 14