Benedictines make three vows for the service of the Lord Jesus: Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life. I’m taking a three-part journey into what this means for me as a third-order Benedictine postulant.
Carey Family History 101 #1: It’s Memorial Day weekend. If your family is like mine (small) and lives in a place like I do (rural), odds are, Memorial Day weekend is a ceremonious event. For years, my parents have taken flowers and put them on the graves of loved ones. It’s what we’ve done for years and for many years to come, it will probably still happen.
#2: My parents have lived in the same house for almost 30 years, the same house I lived in until age 18.
So, what does this have to do with the Benedictine vow of stability? I’ll explain.
Over the weekend, and especially at the cemeteries, I’ve heard stories of my family living within seconds of each other. In a town of 202 people (a little more lived in my hometown in the early to mid 1900s), that’s not difficult. For example, one part of a family might live in one house, while the two sets of grandparents might live in the next two houses literally seconds away. On the other side of the main house, other family members such as aunts and uncles might live there. That was the way life was for years in the past and families centered around one location for generations. Today, my hometown isn’t really like that anymore. Sure, I live within a two-mile radius of various grandparents and cousins, but people move and have the ability to do so now in more efficient ways. We, as a world, don’t know our neighbors anymore. Sometimes on Memorial Day, the graves of our neighbors are forgotten. We’re not a stable society, even in the innocent rural pockets of Kentucky. There isn’t a place that hasn’t been touched by estrangement.
St. Benedict in his Rule. Discussed three types of monks, one being the type which always traveled from place to place, but never quite settled down in a monastery. Our world is a lot like these monks that go from place to place, but never stopping in order to take root. If a church doesn’t suit us to a tee, we leave it. If we don’t want to chat on Facebook while we delve into everybody’s personal lives, we can simply go offline. If we don’t like a job, especially a minimum wage one, we can leave it without any notice. If something just doesn’t feel right, we can leave it alone and pursue something else. Stability is not common and leaving is easy.
Thankfully, I’ve lived a stable life. My family has a home, various traditions where the dead are honored (such as Memorial Day), and I know I’ll always have roots here in Central Kentucky. As my dad says, “You either run from your roots or you choose to embrace them.” I’ve chosen to embrace where I’m from, even though I’ll probably never live in my little hamlet again after my Fulbright year. Regardless of where one lives, stability offers a place for peace and ministry to grow. Though I’ll be uprooting for a year to live in South Korea, stability still applies to my life as a postulant in formation. I can pray for my host family, show obedience to their house rules, and learn to adapt to their way of living. Perhaps stability, even in a form of motion, means living a life of prayer and obedience to those around myself and to the rest of the Church.
In conclusion, we live in an estranged world. We live in a world that so connected, yet so lonely. Even as a Christian, with my combined 500 Facebook and Twitter followers, I sometimes wonder if anybody truly knows who I am or even wants to know in the first place. If even Christians experience loneliness, we must understand that we live in an even lonelier world that needs Jesus. All Christians, regardless if you’re a monastic, a clergy member, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, are called to stability in Christ. We are called to love those around us and to form connections that may not always bring comfort. (Even an oft cranky introvert like myself whose nerves are easily worn thin by others, is called to stability and love!). We are called to remember the strangers and the walking dead that surrounds us.
We are simply called to stability.