Dispatch #6 from Sr. Bobbi
Besides tramping through the historical sites and ruins, the 29 Benedictine Sisters participating in the Benedictine Rome Renewal Program are enjoying lively conferences. We began with a conference on Monastic Instincts. Sr. Karen Joseph, OSB, spoke of instincts like listening, humility, helpfulness, holding ones tongue, bearing with, reverence, and consistency.
For my part, though, I believe our rhythm is the most important instinct. I often think our rhythm of stopping for prayer offers the world a model of reverence for life and living. We miss that in the world I think. I get far too busy in my life and need to always breathe for God – that reverence and gratefulness I have for all my life.
I also appreciate developing a place for silence. As an extrovert I have been able to nurture my introvert or contemplative side. Monastic life allows for – and actually demands – an integration of our different personalities. The dominant and shadow sides. We become a more whole person if we are serious monastics. I believe Benedict’s Rule and rhythm of life promotes such integration.
Sr. Kym Harris, OSB, is from Queensland, Australia and is a delightful teacher. She held 2 conferences this week on Pre-Benedictine Monasticism. She was fantastic in her humor, story telling, details etc.
My favorite of her presentations was on Pachomius. Pachomius was pagan when he was abducted by the army and literally dragged away to help fight the Roman wars as they were expanding the empire. Young men like him were captured to fight and treated like slaves with little if any food. At one stop some local people brought food and water for Pachomius and the other men. He learned they were Christians and decided that if he was to live he would worship their God.
In fact he did survive and when he returned home he did get baptized.
Pachomius began a monastic community which had no rules but taught by example. As he did, he thought, so others would do. However the others did not do so! So Pachomius ended that group and began again. This time he wrote clear and practical guidelines on how to live together and how community life was to be organized and structured.
Pachomius ordered the monks’ daily prayer around recitation of Scripture, silence, response, and another reading. Then off to work. During work a ‘dean’ would recite scripture and all would share their thoughts on the passage. This was their communal prayer format and every monk was expected to share. I find this quite amazing. How trusting and personable his community must have been to do this practice when it is likely many were not educated. This was truly a faith community.
I can see how Benedict expanded on these guidelines in his own Rule. I had studied the life of Pachomius as a novice in 1978 but not since then, really, so it was very insightful conference for me. We often pay more attention to Cassian but I like Pachomius! Sr. Kym also covered Basil and Augustine. However I was struck by Pachomius so that is what you get!
Our next conference was on early women of the Church. So you have that to look forward to in my next reflection!