Abbey of St. Walburga
Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, in a conference to the nuns at St. Walburga’s Abbey, Colorado, gives a very tough message in the gentlest of voices:
What makes things unstable? When things rock they are unstable. When you back and forth constantly you become unstable. When you have to vacillate too much between the world and the Christian life you’re unstable. Where is your allegiance? Where are you truly sealed? Who is the image within you?
I think what has happened in the world is that people have chosen to change so much in order to fit into the world and are vacillating. We’re going much too far and aren’t staying firm in what is given to us.
In the monastery we make a vow of obedience. If we’ve vowed obedience and we’re asked to do something and instead stop and ask ourselves if we want to do what we’re told, we’re vacillating with the world. St. Benedict says in his chapter on obedience that as soon as a monk is asked to do something he is to drop everything immediately and do it. We aren’t supposed decide each time whether or not we’re going to obey. It should be a pattern in our life. It should be something that’s sealed within us, imprinted on us.
If we’re as soft as lead, then the world can constantly make its own imprint right all over Christ’s. Then it’s no longer Christ’s pure image, but one that is marred. When was Christ marred greatly? In His passion, when He was being killed for our sakes. That’s what sin does over and over again. It obliterates the image of Christ.
Who would wear a t-shirt with their own image on it? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to walk around wearing your own image for everybody to see? That’s what sin does. It’s our own will, it’s our image. We’re preserving ourselves. We’re also staring at ourselves. That’s the image that we have within us when we’re soft as lead.
That Mother Michael-Maria, she’s nobody’s pansy.
Christianity is not for wimps. As Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Monastics can’t fake it; the 24/7 attentiveness that the life demands can only be sustained by a muscular sort of faith.
And, because God loves paradoxes, it is their very strength that allows monastics to bend, surrender and cultivate meekness, which in no way resembles soft lead.