November 1, 2010

Contemplate This: Good Spiritual Habits Are Good for Our Health

Editor's Note: New this month is Contemplate This by Brenda Keller (@BrendaAKeller), a member of our prayer team who also blogs at Peace Love Jesus and Coffee. She will be writing about modern monasticism for Protestants.

The Abbey of Gethsemani is my go-to place. I've only been there physically several times, but I always carry a part of the feeling I have while I'm there close to my heart.

On stressful days I can close my eyes and be sitting in that huge chapel in total silence with God as close as a whisper. It's serenity to me. The lifestyle of the monks who live there pulls at this heart. I'm not called to live permanently in an abbey, but I've felt their monastic life offers so much to mine as a Protestant.

Baptist friends look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I love the Abbey. Generally, I get the response, "You're not Catholic." Well, neither is Dennis Okholm, author of Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants who, about his time at an abbey, wrote, "I felt totally immersed in scripture." And, "My attraction to monastic liturgy did not mean that I was becoming a Catholic. Instead, it threatened to turn me into a better Protestant."

Here's the bottom line: good spiritual habits are good for our health and no religious group masters spiritual habits like monks. We want the quick fix. Monks know there is none. You have to do the work. Benedictine spirituality is not glamorous – it is extraordinarily ordinary. It's a life of habits that, in turn, develop character traits and muscles of the soul. Indeed, it aims at developing a healthy and whole person.

In all the hours I've spent at the Abbey at Gethsemani, I've perhaps only heard the monks say 100 words, 90% of which were scripture. Their lives rotate on an axis of predictability shaped by the Daily Office. They embrace the serious call to be like God and to live for God in word and deed. Their anxiety and stress is absent from the character traits they portray. Their peace is transferable without a single word. They have much to teach us if we would only be still enough to listen.


Anonymous said...

This post truly touches my heart. I began visiting a monastery when I was in college. Simply went there as a place of refuge. Then, life happened. About ten years ago I reconnected and go there about 4-5 times a year. I am blessed to have one of the monks as a dear friend. For me, there is no where else like it. I once told one of the monks who was leading a retreat how special it was there and he said,'there is so much prayer here that even the walls pray'. I agree. They are beautiful places available to everyone. Hospitality is huge with them.

Brenda Finkle said...

Very pleased to this post from Brenda! I love the comments related to "spiritual muscle" and being immersed in scripture. I think we need to "unplug" more often and listen for the Lord's voice in our everyday activities.

Sue said...

Bravo, Brenda for this well written and eloquent post. I share a passion for the richness of Catholic-style liturgy, and the depth of the monastic experience--but have a profoundly Protestant take on things. I believe in experiencing the divine directly and deep prayer practices enable that.