Saturday, March 28, 2009

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I’ve been fretting a little about only getting out to Garden of the Gods to get some pictures. Then I read this in the latest issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.

“The diligent photographer should always have the best photos of any nearby area, simply because he or she can scout the area in depth, and time the snowstorms, flowers, fall colors perfectly. It may seem like fun to go to a new area on every trip, but the pros know that it’s often repeat visits to an area that produce the best images.”

This was written by Glenn Randall who photographs exclusively in Colorado and Utah. He says in the article that he goes to the same places again and again and may spend several days backpacking in to a location only to get one shot that he considers “truly compelling.”

Reading this made me feel better about spending so much time shooting local pictures, but it brought to mind another thought. It made me think of the Benedictine characteristic of stability.

We might think of the Benedictine idea of stability as commitment; it includes the idea of remaining committed to a particular community or course of action once the commitment is made. It means not giving up when things turn difficult or boring. It means seeing a job, or a vow, through to the end and trying to fulfill the daily responsibilities that come with it to the best of our ability. As Glenn Randall says, “it may seem like fun to go to a new area on every trip . . .” but the best results often come with dedication and hard work in the place where we find ourselves. I’ve learned, with hard experience, that running away to find something new and interesting and avoiding the challenge at hand, it seldom the best way to go. Even if it seemed the easiest way out at the time.

It may seem like I’m seeing Benedictine ideals in places where they don’t exist, this analogy may seem like a stretch. I prefer to think of it as seeing the truth of something understood and taught 15 centuries ago as apt today as it was then. And, it gives me a good reason to take another trip to the Garden.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just What Is an Oblate?

I wrote in my introductory post that one thing I will probably focus on is monastic spirituality. I really mean by that, this is likely to be an oblate blog. One reason that I qualified my statement in my first post is that, when I think about it, it seems impossible to write anything new on the topic. There has already been a huge amount written, and there are several fine blogs devoted to the subject, Ivar’s Voice, Oblate Spring and Oblate Offerings, just to mention three. Yet, if you visit those sites, you’ll notice that while both seem to be on the same subject, they are quite different from each other. Perhaps, if I simply try to capture my own take on the oblate life, I won’t have to worry about the originality problem.

You might be wondering just what an “oblate” is. Simply put, it is someone who is not a “religious” who has chosen to pattern his or her life after the Rule of St. Benedict. It is someone who is trying to be a monastic in the secular world. These people, and there are tens of thousands of them, come from most Christian denominations, they are not just Catholics, they try to follow a monastic routine in their daily lives. They try to pray the “hours’, particularly Lauds, or morning prayer, vespers, or evening prayer, and they try to spend regular time in the practice of prayerful reading, or lectio, among other things.

You might be thinking to yourself, “well anyone could do these things”, and that’s true, but the additional thing that oblates do is associate themselves with a particular monastic community. They have taken a somewhat formal step of promising stability, a key element of Benedictine spirituality, to one community, in order to immerse themselves more deeply in the monastic lifestyle. This means that their community becomes their spiritual home. They attend retreats there as often as possible and do what they can to help support the community. I expect to write a lot about this in the future since it is one of the things I find most attractive about the monastic life.

I might add that most Benedictine abbeys have an oblate “program”, as do Cistercian and Trappist monasteries, although they call them “associates”. There is a list of abbeys that have programs listed on the Benedictine website: I might also add that it is not necessary to live in the same town as the monastery in order to be part of their oblate life. Ivar of Ivar’s Voice lives probably two hundred miles or more from Blue Cloud Abbey, where he is an oblate. On the other hand, John Cassian lives within 45 minutes of St. Leo’s Abbey. I am currently beginning a program at Prince of Peace Abbey in San Diego, a two day drive but only a 3 hour flight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the Beginning

I don’t have any great aims or ambitions for this blog. I’m not sure I have much of any purpose. I envision it primarily as an Oblate blog, I’m hoping to become a Benedictine Oblate at Prince of Peace Abbey in San Diego later this year, but it might just become the journal of an older guy trying to get on in the world and prepare for the next. In other words, it’s likely to be just a record of my ordinary experience living in Colorado. It may also serve as a copy book for interesting items I read in books, magazines, or on the web. I don’t consider any topic off limits.

So, without further ado or fanfare, let’s get started.