There was a time in my life, perhaps it is with me still now, when I just wanted to run away and join a monastic community. I don’t really know if this is because I want to run away from the difficulties of life or because I really like monasticism. I wonder if other people have this experience as well, when they just wish they did something else, lived somewhere else, were someone else. My guess is that we all have these experiences from time to time. I’ve been reading about monastic spirituality recently, and I discovered that one who becomes a monk does so not to escape the world but to engage the world more intimately. This is very important, because it helps us to know that whatever we do and however we are called to live we must do so not as an escape but as a new way of encountering. I find that even though I am not a monk, and probably never will be, I can still learn and implement the spirit of monasticism into my life as a secular priest. Let’s look at the monastic practice of silence for example. Whenever monastics speak of silence they normally point to the heart. Silence starts with the heart that is at peace and properly recollected. It is a heart that finds God in every activity, and does not allow the mind to wander between too many activities. One thing at a time, and each thing for God: this is an expression of a recollected heart, and this recollected heart leads to the spirit of silence: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps46:10). Another aspect of monasticism that I find very attractive is the rhythm of their day, which moves constantly between two activities: prayer and work (ora et labora). Whenever I visited Trappist Monks I would join them for their common prayer in the chapel 7 times a day, starting at 2:30am and ending at 8pm. Every 3 hours or so they would stop their work and pray. By doing this they were never far from God, as their prayer even spilled over to their daily work. By implementing some form of a constant rhythm of prayer and work I can live the spirituality of monasticism in my everyday life. I suppose that what I’m trying to say is this: “It is not helpful to live our life wishing for a different life. Instead, we must constantly invite the gift of God’s spirit to sanctify and improve the life we have”. I hope that whatever your dream life is it will not rob you of the only one you have. Treat it well, for it is the only life that is real for you.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma