The new monasticism, part 2
An important part of the discipline of monasticism (and marriage) that wasn’t discussed in this article is that traditionally it’s not easy to get out of these commitments. The usual implication is that it’s a lifetime commitment. And sometimes (maybe not so much nowadays) it’s that sense of “Well, I promised, so I’m sticking around” that gets us through the dark tunnels of life and out into the brighter light on the other side. I think this is a good thing.
from London Yearly Meeting, 1959, as quoted in Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire, 2001. [additions mine, 2005]
“Since God is the author of love, no couple [or community] can without God make good their promise to love one another for the rest of their lives. … Love must inevitably change and mature, and every relationship has its times of stress as well as its times of renewal. But there are periods in some [all?] married [or monastic] lives when all that can be done is to go on trying to love and to
continue to believe in the elusive and unique quality for which we gave ourselves to our partner [or community] until death should part us. …
What a triumph when old love is transformed into deeper, surer new love which can accept more fully what each has, and the pair [community] find a rebirth together in those things which are eternal and through this a renewal of their everyday living.”
This is important to me because living in any community is hard work. One of my recent insights is that having children prepares us for when our parents and then our partners get old. We practice changing diapers, setting limits, forgiving weaknesses on our babies, who are in fact cute and we know that they can’t help it, so that we know what to do; we’ve developed the spiritual and intestinal fortitude to be able to wipe up someone else’s vomit and change bandages for people who aren’t cute, when it’s harder to remember that they really can’t help it, when we are thrust into roles we never asked for. In religious orders, this work still has to be done for their aged and disabled brothers and sisters.
What will the new monastics do with people when they have given all they can, and need to be taken care of? Will they still be around? It is a blessing to be able to care for these elders, but will the communities still serve the outside or have all their resources absorbed by old members?
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