“Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing” – Daniel Berrigan
Monks and indeed all of the contemplatives amongst us, do have ‘secrets’ worth knowing. Indeed, we’re very privileged to have special people of great ‘soul’ – present in our church today.
They are a constant reminder to us of the importance of the ‘health’ of our souls.
As people of constant prayer, contemplatives are a living sign of how much our God loves us and wants our love in return – especially in our faithful prayer.
Prayer, however for all people of ‘soul’, is not some magical or dutiful routine we ‘endure’.
Rather as Kathleen Norris wrote: “Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.”
A Melbourne Jesuit, the late Herbie Wilkins, said something similar when he once noted wryly to me many years ago: that “Prayer is not an easy way of getting what you want; but a difficult way of becoming who you should be!”
Recently Christine Valters Paintner (a Benedictine oblate) published the Monk Manifesto. This is a public expression of a commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life. I recommend it for your reflection. It shows us how we all, in one sense, can be ‘monks’.
These principles emerged out of her own inner journey of living the Benedictine way and her journey of teaching about various strands of Christian monasticism (including Benedictine, Celtic, and desert traditions). Her articulation of how to lead a contemplative way of life is beautifully captured in the video.
These days we are living through a ‘winter’ season of the Catholic Church in Australia. Darkness and grief have been especially close to some of us.
As we enter, hopefully, into a new season of Springtime for our church, perhaps this is a good time for listening again to our souls. The Monk Manifesto is one little tool which may help.
Monks teach us that a healthy soul is centred outside itself; it looks at itself and sees God. The soul is thankful to God for who it is; it seeks God’s forgiveness for who it hasn’t yet become; and it knows that its mission, its meaning in life, comes from God.
Yes, monks do have ‘secrets’ worth knowing.
Monk Manifesto Meditation (8 Principles for being a ‘Monk’ in the World)
Visit AbbeyoftheArts.com for more information on becoming a ‘monk’ in the world.
Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.