Monastic Vision for the 21st Century

Patrick Hart, ocso [eds] “A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century. Where Do We Go from Here?”, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, 2006, offers a collection of essays providing challenging and informed insights into – as the title says – monasticism in the 21st century.

“Where does monasticism go from here? What is the monastic vision for the 21st century? For me the “way forward” is in the hermitage. For monasticism generally, I suspect the way forward is back to the roots, but roots freshly envisioned and newly articulated. In our age poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability have the ring of iron on the anvil of life, harsh, and if not harsh, unattainable. So the question becomes “what is the spirituality or life stance or Christian virtue that each of the traditional vows is intended to encourage?”

I realize that I am “preaching to the choir,” but in my own journey it was significant to study monastic rules and to write my own. It kept me grounded in the fact that, even for solitaries, monastic life is communal and that, especially for solitaries, it is crucial to regulate daily activity with regard to prayer, work, and rest. This is the practical value of a rule; it helps keep life properly oriented, ordered, balanced, and simplified. Order, balance, and
simplicity hardly characterize life “in the world” today. (The essence of the rule I devised appears in an appendix to this essay.)

The following is the essential page of the rule of life I devised. These are not “vows” in the traditional sense, but more practical “life plans.”

The Rule of Life for The Anchorage

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him”(Ps 62:5).
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10).

Pro Christi, Pro Amore

I respond in love and joy to a long-standing call on my life which I take as a gracious invitation of God to a life of greater solitude and thus greater availability to Him.
Hermitage is dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt. She found joy in the wilderness of repentance.
My act of repentance and renunciation is not only for my own sin, but for the evils of the world, our inhumanity and wickedness to each other.

“Soli Deo Placere Desiderans”

I undertake the way of life:

To be still and know
To hear God more clearly with the ear of my heart
To give God delight
To give my life for spiritual balance in the universe as a place/ person of peace, calm, and clarity

The Ordering of the Life

Daily

Morning, noon, night prayer & a period of meditation
Study, manual labor/work, rest/recreation

Weekly

“Sunday is a day of contemplation sacred to the mystery of the resurrection.”
Thomas Merton

Eucharist (twice weekly, more frequently when available)

Service to others at least ½ day a week (work at food pantry, give spiritual direction)

Two days in silence and isolation (except where the demands of charity intervene)

Periodically

Spiritual direction and accountability

Days away from The Anchorage for prayer

One week retreat annually

One or two months a year in relative isolation (no outside work, teaching, travel, etc.)”

“Solideo Placerte Desiderans” by Bonnie Thurston in Patrick Hart, ocso [eds] “A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century. Where Do We Go from Here?”, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, 2006, published on-line at http://www.littlerockscripture.org/excerpts/0879070579.pdf
Bonnie Thurston
Bonnie Thurston, a native of West Virginia, currently lives near Wheeling, West Virginia, having resigned the William F. Orr Professorship in New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2002. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Bethany College (Valedictorian, Class of 1974), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. Bonnie has written ten theological books and over 100 articles and taught at the university level for 28 years. Her scholarly research interests in the New Testament include the gospels of Mark and John and the Deutero-Pauline canon and, more generally, the history of Christian spirituality and prayer. She was ordained in 1984 and has served as co-pastor, pastor, or interim of five churches and twice in overseas ministries. She is a spiritual director and retreat speaker. Her poetry frequently appears in religious periodicals, and she has authored one volume of verse; a second is at the press. Bonnie is a widow, an avid reader, gardener, and cook, enjoys classical music (especially the opera and liturgical music), and loves the West Virginia hills. Bonnie Thurston is a founding member and past president of the International Thomas Merton Society and has written extensively on Merton’s thought.

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