The Benedictine Way – 2


The Benedictine monk vows stability, and this means he will stay in one place. He’s not on the move like a friar or a missionary. He can’t be whisked here and there like a diocesan priest. He stays put. That’s why a Benedictine, when asked will not just say, “I’m a Benedictine monk.” but “I’m a monk of Douai” or Downside or St Vincent’s or Solesmes or Quarr or whatever his monastic house happens to be. That’s where he has vowed stability. That’s where God has planted him. That’s where he will either bloom or wither and die.

We lay people don’t take vows of stability as such, but we take other vows that have the demand for stability written into them, and the monk’s vow of stability reminds us that stability is required in our lives too if we are to make any kind of spiritual progress. If we’re married we’ve got a vow of stability. We don’t have to stay in the same three bedroomed rancher in the suburbs for life, but we do have to remain committed to that same wife or husband, those in laws, the same gang of children, nieces and nephews and parents. Families demand stability. Stability is written into our baptism too. As Catholic Christians we’re committed to the Church built on the Rock. We’re not allowed to go scooting around church shopping. We should be committed to our parish too, for better or for worse.

Benedict writes about a certain sort of monk called a ‘gyrovague’. The words sounds like a cross between a gyroscope and a vagrant, and that about sums it up. A ‘gyrovague’ is a restless monk who goes from one monastery to another always looking for what pleases him. Benedict says the gyrovague’s god is his stomach. He’s an immature, restless pleasure seeking sort of person. Benedict condemns him. How often are we just the same church-wise? We run to this parish because the preacher is better or they have a better youth minister or we like the music better or they do the liturgy the way we like it. Church shoppers are like channel hoppers: never satisfied and always bored and always complaining.

Abba Stabilitas says, “Stay put. Don’t be running all over the place looking for happiness. You’re looking for the wrong thing anyway. Look for God. Look for him just where you are at this time, in this place, with these people, and with yourself. If you can’t find him here, you won’t find him anywhere, and if you think you have found him elsewhere, you haven’t. It’s an illusion. It’s a god of your own making, and do you know what a god of your own making is? An idol.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15692229876291491107 Mark

    I can see times in my youth when I was something of a gyrovague as regards faith and religion; thankfully I’m getting less impulsive! ;-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09244022673432482636 Matt

    I have to respectfully disagree with one of your points, Father.We should be committed to our parish too, for better or for worse.So faithful Catholics should stay at a parish where the liturgical abuse is so bad, and the pastor’s theology so skewed, that you can’t even be sure the consecration is valid? Not all the laity are saints able to accept such suffering. Surely, there must be reasonable bounds on “for worse” during an age of dogmatic confusion such as this one. I am glad that you have found your home in the Church of Christ, but I think sometimes you underappreciate the problems some sectors of the Church have. You may not have witnessed illict and disgraceful actions at Mass, but there are plently of us who have. You should respect that some people are forced to act out of conscience, or for the sake of their kids, to seek another parish.I think St. Benedict would agree that if your abbot became a raging Arian or Cathar, you should leave the monastery for an orthodox one.We serve the Church, and we are bound in conscience to follow Rome, before the local pastor. Christ said Hell would not prevail against the Church; He didn’t say anything about Fr. Happy-Clappy down the road.Otherwise, I thought this was a great post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Yes Matt, the reality is that some marriages split up. Some monks have to leave their monasteries, some parishioners have to walk out and go to a new parish.I’m stating an ideal, while realizing that the reality is more difficult. I’m trying to question the automatic parish hopping that we do nowadays.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09244022673432482636 Matt

    Oh, okay. All the parish hopping I know of has always been over substantial issues, and not just done idly. My mistake.I didn’t realize that there are people who just skip around because they get bored easily…


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