Afternoon recreation often finds nuns or monks strolling in their cloister gardens, soaking in the fresh air and sunshine. They generally engage in conversation as well.
In his book The Holy Rule, Dom Hubert Van Zeller speaks of the importance of community recreation. "The dispensation from the normal state of silence was originally granted to monks not because silence was found to be a bore but because recreation was found to be a good. By mixing with one another and enjoying one another's conversation, monks came to have a better understanding of the family life, of the mystical body, of humanity supernaturalized...... The monk who absents himself from occasions of association with his brethren is withdrawing from a primary monastic influence; he is withdrawing from a unity, from the whole. Given that he is present, moreover, the monk must make it his business to contribute to the purpose of this common recreation. He is not a passenger, he is not there to be entertained merely. He must serve - and serve in charity." (Van Zeller, The Holy Rule, Sheed and Ward, NY, 1958, pp. 239-240)
Thinking of this tonight, I was struck by one significant difference between conversation in the monastery and conversation in the "world." That is: people living in a monastery are pursuing the common goal of living totally for God. They speak with one another with a goal of "serving in charity." Their talk does not drift toward idle, immoral topics because their minds are not centered on such things. Their minds are on God. Their actions are for God. Every facet of the monastic jewel is cut to reflect the glory of God.
It is different, isn't it, out here in "the world?" Conversations we encounter might easily drift toward less than Godly territory. In can be tough not to find ourselves swept along, like a piece of driftwood bobbing in a muddy river. In our pursuit of life lived for God, we can feel a bit, well.... lonely at times.
It occurred to me (thinking of this) that we are blessed to know, as we check in here, that others are "here" with us. Like nuns or monks praying and working and studying alongside one another in a monastery, we know we're not walking this path alone. We are in various states and countries and continents, and the circumstances of our lives may differ widely... yet we have all chosen the same path. We want to live for God.
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