The new monasticism, part 2

This CT article mentions rightly that it is hard on a community to have people come and go too quickly. “Inner-city hopelessness is so deeply rooted that ministry takes years of building one-on-one relationships before it is effective.” says Don Stubbs. The Fourth World Movement tries to maintain some stable team members in each location, and limits direct contact for very new volunteers. In an article in the August 2005 issue of Friends Journal, the memoir of a woman’s work with AFSC among the Cheyenne in 1968, the author also refers to this practice.

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.

“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.”

from London Yearly Meeting, 1959, as quoted in Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire, 2001. [additions mine, 2005]

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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Blogger Gregg Koskela said...

Robin, I was very moved by your brilliant observation that caring for our children, when they're cute and it's easier, is preparation for taking care of parents and spouses as they age, when it isn't so easy. I need that perspective!

9/14/2005 1:00 PM  
Blogger Joe G. said...

Great post, Robin. Having done some caretaking with my elderly parents, particularly with pops, I can assure you that older folks can be cute, too, in their own way. Seriously!

9/15/2005 10:41 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I have zero time to comment, other than to say I really love reading your posts and getting to know you better. Thanks for sharing about your career and where the Spirit finds you today. Helps me think about where I could/should go. - Rob

9/15/2005 1:53 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

thanks guys!

Part of what brought me to that insight was watching my 64 year old mother care for my 95 year old grandmother and realizing that my turn is coming. The example set by my mother and other women in her generation of my family will be hard to live up to.

Also, I don't mean to play down the joys of marriage. I chose really well twelve years ago this month. I try to keep in mind how blessed I am.

9/15/2005 3:51 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

As a non-parent, I too have thought about the lessons I have missed and the repercussions that may have as my parents age, diaper changing and extraordinary patience being among the skills I'll no doubt need to develop...

Liz, The Good Raised Up

9/16/2005 1:56 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hey Liz, I bet there are some opportunities to practice diaper changing right in your worship group...

Extraordinary patience is harder to come by, but I think you may already be further along that road than me.

9/16/2005 11:30 PM  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

12 years? Really? Already?
Happy Anniversary month to you and Chris.
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

9/19/2005 2:53 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Actually Rich, twelve years ago this month we agreed to marry each other. We didn't actually get married until the following June.

9/19/2005 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw this quote, and thought of this post.
"Over the years I have learned that motherhood is much like an austere religious order, the joining of which obligates one to relinquish all claims to persnoal possessions."--Nancy Stahl

10/27/2005 1:49 PM  

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