Saturday, November 07, 2009

My monastic fantasy



Ever since I read The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris,  I've been fascinated by the monasticism.  The Benedictine lifestyle of communal living and the lectio divina, the balanced life of prayer and work sounds so peaceful.  Praying the Liturgy of the Hours every day seems so relaxing - I can picture myself in a stone chapel reciting the vespers by candlelight.   The hills are alive with the sound of music, and I could be out there....

Time to make it real - a great deal of monastic life is silence.  Me and silence??? I am a big talker...I am always on the phone, or talking on line or talking to my husband (who probably isn't listening) and talking to my kids (definitely not listening).  And the cloistered life means living with a bunch of other people, some of which are certainly going to be a pain in the ass.  Sounds a lot like living in a college dorm without the partying, or being at work 24/7.   Plus, silent praying is really, really hard for me.   I once heard a comedian say "My mind is a scary place - I try never to go in there alone" and that resonates with me.  Each year at Advent and Lent, I cantor a candelight Taize prayer service at my church which is very meditative.   I dread the part of the service that is actually 10 minutes of silence. I usually spend that time trying not to freak out about the next chant I am going to have to sing.  The Taize music is always really hard, but repetitive, so if you sing it wrong once, it sticks out like a sore thumb.  I suppose there is some kind of "Zen" I am gaining spiritually from this, but I haven't figured it out just yet.  So I know that I am a long way from abbey life, despite my love of the the Sound of Music.   After all, even Maria had to ditch the abbey by marrying the the wussy looking control freak Captain Baron von Trapp.    I don't care how well he could dance the landler....she still traded in one life of rules for another.  How do you solve a problem like Maria?  Evidently it's by telling her what to do. 

I think what I really like about the whole monastic lifestyle is the food and drink.   Where would the happy hour be without Benedictine and Chartreuse, Abbey Ales?   How about those Trappist fruitcakes? Let's not forget the Tassajara Bread Book....Also, I love visiting The Society of St. John in Michigan's Keweenaw for some of the most fanstastic baked goods and jams and jellies I've ever tasted.  The idea of living on Lake Superior and baking and canning all day sounds great, but I know that the reality of it all would likely be different.   After all, I am still trying to get through Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain...

3 comments:

tech.samaritan said...

You know, there is a Romanian Eastern Orthodox monastery (Dormition) out our way in Rives Junction. I believe they welcome pilgrims, and sing the hours. We were there for the Dormition Feast this year, and it is beautiful.

Kate said...

Oooh! Thank you for the tip on the Jampot! We're headed back up to Isle Royale next summer and will try to time our driving so we can stop by on the way there (and back!)

John said...

You actually have identified another Benedictine balance. Silence and food are not in conflict — I’m sure “don’t talk with your mouth full” came from a tranquil Benedictine.