By Novice Jackie Walsh
There’s very little stability in the world today. The economy, natural disasters and relations in war-torn countries around the world are examples of instability. So is the fact that people change jobs, cities, houses, cars and even spouses more than ever before. Yet, even though we may be considered countercultural by many in our fast-paced, throw-away society, women like me are still being called to religious life and one of the promises we make at the time of our profession is stability.
Monastic stability is our unconditional acceptance of God’s plan for us. We surrender our lives and totally give ourselves to God for whatever tasks God has in mind.
As Benedictines, we reside in a monastery with other women who share the same goals and values. We live by The Rule of St. Benedict and under the authority of a prioress. Stability of place is freely choosing to permanently stay with the same community until death.
Christ was determined to carry out his Father’s will…ultimately death on the cross. The majority of us do not have to worry about dying on a cross, but we have to be equally faithful in our commitment to stability. This commitment is more than just living in the same place. We have to be rooted in our community, immersed in its daily life.
The Family that Prays Together Stays Together!
An integral part of our daily life and a necessity for the successful living of our stability is our communal prayer life where we join our voices in praise and thanks to God. The family that prays together stays together! It’s an adage many of us have heard since our youth, but in monastic living, it’s a reality.
Private prayer and Lectio Divina are also critical for us as we strive to delve deeper and deeper into the Scriptures to learn what God’s messages are for us. We are additionally blessed because our souls are nourished with the bread of life and the cup of salvation six days each week. The gift of sharing the table of the Lord further unites us as a community and is central to our stability.
Using The Rule of Benedict and Gospels as our guides and adding a dedicated communal and private prayer life, an almost daily sharing of the Lord’s Table and the history, traditions, observances, goals and mission of our Benedictine community, we build a strong foundation for a lifetime commitment to stability.
Relationships in our community are vitally important to our stability. It requires a great deal of faith and humility to live in community where all are human and imperfect. Living with and serving each other helps us be more compassionate and tolerant. We’re in this together and need to help each other be the best we can be. Our shared goal and faith in each other helps us face challenges.
As we live and work together – sharing the ups and downs of life – we form strong bonds and caring relationships, all the time becoming more comfortable and secure in our surroundings. There’s a sense of freedom, peace and belonging that permeates our being because we’ve found our place within the community. We’re accepted for who and what we are. We are loved unconditionally.
Stability of Heart
Love is essential to Christ’s way of life and central to our stability. Stability of heart must be intertwined with stability of place.
To maintain stability of heart, we must be vigilant with our attitudes, thoughts and actions. When we recognize people, places, situations or habits that lead us away from the path that will fulfill our goal, we need a plan in place to redirect ourselves at the first sign of weakness. It may be seeking the guidance of a spiritual mentor, journaling, praying, or walking away from the place or person causing the temptation.
Monastic, Benedictine living has been tried and true for centuries. A simple lifestyle – free of the excesses and distractions that detour us from the road to eternal life – isn’t easy, but neither is it impossible, even in today’s instantly gratifying, self-serving world.
Jesus willingly carried his cross and we must do the same. We must daily renew our commitment to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, to love and see Christ in each other and the world as we seek God together as a community and help the Church flourish. Stability is necessary if we are to move in the right direction on the path toward the light of eternal life.