At fixed times all the abbots/abbesses come together. They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. (C.77)

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Persevere With Joy

How can we succeed in forming candidates that persevere with joy in the monastic life?
Dom Bernardo of Novo Mundo tried this morning to give a synthesis of the thoughts presented in the conferences given on the theme of formation at this General Chapter:
  • The necessary foundation for the transmission of monastic life in formation is that of truth. This manifests itself in the evaluation of candidates and their capacity to fully live our life. Lasting harm is done to the community by admitting candidates who have no vocation to our way of life, and it may be harmful to persons if they are admitted without the requisite qualities.

This same honesty should mark how we present ourselves to the young, so they will clearly understand that we are not a university, not a media center with unlimited access to internet and telephones, and we are not the guarantee of a comfortable lifestyle or the fulfillment of the desire for power:
  • We are a school of the Lord’s service and the Lord’s praise, a school of self-transcendence in which we aim to attain a common will – common among ourselves and common with Christ. Far from shocking the young, this honesty will attract them. They have not come to the monastery for the easy satisfaction of their desire, but to recuperate their identity as sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ. This Jesus and the whole scope of his power and love, is often unknown to them at the time of their entrance. We must participate in the transmission to them of the “truth that is in Jesus”, not so much by catechesis (information about the faith) as by evangelization. 
Dom Bernardo referred to self knowledge as an indispensable foundation in formation to monastic life. To come to this self knowledge and a gift of self, a relationship of mutual trust must slowly and patiently be constructed:
  • We must not be afraid of asking from those in formation everything that the Lord is asking of them. This will be ultimately experienced by them not as a crushing weight but as an honor and a call to correspond to the fullness of their spiritual identity. We must not impose a sacrifice, but see the particular greatness in what the Lord is asking of each person and call him to that greatness.

The community’s commitment to truth is expressed in its efforts towards ever greater unity:
  • Only the unified community is formative. A united vision is built and maintained by the teaching of the superior, ongoing community dialogue and coherent behavior on the part of all the brothers or sisters. Failure is inevitable, but these can be productive as they stimulate us to gestures of pardon, to recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation and a renewed experience of ourselves as saved by God’s mercy. The young will then experience the monastery as “the house of peace, dialogue and mutual assistance” that they have a right to expect.
The abbot’s or abbess’ own contribution is the faithfulness they show in a truthful living of the deep reverence for God, honoring their fellow human beings and delighting in God’s creation:
  • The ever deeper “fear of the Lord” based on the truth of who God is and who the abbot is, will get him beyond favoritism and pride, discouragement and self pity, and will enable him to take difficult but necessary decisions with compassion and objectivity. His own spiritual adviser can help him increasingly to discover and accept the truth of his own self.
All this, Dom Bernardo said, should lead us to liturgical living, to the constant praise of God who made us and daily remakes us more and more in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Sr. Hanne-Maria of Tautra