Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Some people think that a Trappist Monastery, where I stay each summer, is a place of asceticism and self-denial, with lots of fasting and little sleep. That is all external stuff from before St. Benedict founded the Benedictines, of which the Trappist rule follows. In the early church there were desert monks who generally lived alone and did a lot of bodily self-denial to deal with passions. Benedict shifted this discipline from the body to the will, from externals to the interior. True, we do not eat meat, but we have sufficient food. The emphasis here is more on humility, obedience and learning to accommodate oneself with the community, with all its give and take. One grows holy through learning to live with one another. The emphasis was on balance and moderation. It is a rule, a way of life, for ordinary human beings, like me. I suffer differently here than in a big metropolis. We all have suffering. Here, we hope that it helps to transform us, rather than drive us crazy.