Monday, May 18, 2009

Stability


Sit in your cell as in paradise;
put the whole world behind you and forget it;
like a skilled angler on the lookout for a catch
keep a careful eye on your thoughts. From St. Romuald’s Rule

I just returned from a business trip to Orlando (yes, it really was a business trip). It was the first time I have been out of town for perhaps 3 years and I learned a lesson in stability.

A little background. For a Benedictine monk, stability means more than simply living out one’s life in the monastery of which he is a member. It means a kind of perseverance, an inner commitment to live the life of a monk no matter the circumstances. It means, once committed to a task, that you see the task through to completion. It means not giving up on a particular circumstance just because it is unpleasant or difficult, not running away. In short, it means “sticking with it”, not with grim determination, but with joy.

With this in mind, I have to say that my recent trip was a total, absolute, unadulterated failure. Due to the disruption in routine, prayer was impossible, spiritual reading, not to mention lectio non-existent. I found myself experiencing little outbursts of impatience and temper due to the miserable treatment one receives from the airlines today as a matter of routine. I simply fell to pieces.

One bright spot, albeit too brief, was a side trip to St. Leo’s Abbey which is just northeast of Tampa. From reading John Cassian’s Oblate Blog, and a brief discussion with a lady at the Abbey that I believe to be an Oblate there, I learned they are in the process of redecorating the Church. They have done a very nice job – it looks great. The pictures, below, don’t really do it justice. But, the remarkable thing, something immediately noticeable at any Abbey, was the silence. It was the deep silence that can only come from a placed steeped in prayer. This was true even though the monastery sits not far off a well-travelled highway and next door to a university, St. Leo’s. It was a real relief to be able to spend just a few minutes in that place, after the noise and bustle of a hectic business conference and just being around Orlando. It gave me a slight recharge of the batteries; just enough to get me home with some small semblance of sanity left.








On the trip home, I had time to set and reflect on the experience and I immediately thought of Romuald’s Little Rule. I had new insight into the value of “sitting in your cell.” There is, indeed, a real wisdom in what he is saying, because it’s almost impossible to go out into the world and find anything but disruption if you are trying to live by St. Benedict’s Rule. There is a real reason why Benedict prized stability so highly. If you don’t believe me, just jump on a plane and head for Orlando.

2 comments:

Deanne, Obl. S.B. said...

Thank you John. I have had similar experiences.
I do have a friend who has developed the ability to pray the hours even when attending large conventions. But I do not know how it is done.
I join you in saluting stability.

Ron said...

Deanne

Thank you for your comment. It helps to know others share the same problems; I don't feel so hopeless.