I’ve long said that if I had been born a boy, I would have become a monk.
This past weekend, I was at last able to take a peek into monastic life. A retreat from my world into another. I can’t say whether or not I actually would have become a monk (especially since the female equivalent has never called to me), but I can indeed say that I believe their rhythm of work and prayer ought to be lived beyond the monastery.
When one lives to that rhythm, a stillness encapsulates all that one does. I experienced that stillness before, when I visited Madonna House in Ontario. Simplicity births stillness. Life is simplified not so much by a steady schedule or less duties (because even monks are busy), but by seeking God in everything. Such is the monk’s way. God is the one ingredient to coalesce many duties, flowing one into the next, be it running the dairy or singing in the chapel. Stillness ensues, because one’s focus is not splintered, even if one’s time is.
And something happens in the stillness: kenosis. That is, the self is emptied to be filled with God. Life is no longer about you, but about Him—what He wants from and for you. You see yourself as you are: a soul created to love and be loved. This can be painful if you have failed to love or to allow yourself to be loved. But God desires this emptying only that He may fill you; He wounds only that He may heal. With every beat of the rhythm, His mercy is pumped into you.
Living in the world, it is very easy to be filled by things other than God. Yes, the monk struggles with this too, but in the monastery, silence and solitude close the door to many distractions. What is the layman, then, to do? Consider a child that desires a treat: nothing can sway his mind from the treat—not that he must first eat his supper, clear the table, and sweep the floor—because he knows that the treat is good. Despite being “busy” and bombarded by “distractions” (as the child would see his chores), the treat is still present and waiting for him.
God is good—He is the Greatest Good—but if you do not know this, seek Him to know Him. For the more you know Him, the more you will desire Him. Little by little, your mind will not be swayed from having Him. He will still be present (omnipresent) in the busyness, and the distractions will not deter you.
Whether monk or otherwise, we are all called to seek God in everything. No matter how many “chores” we have, He will always be waiting for us.