23 March 2009

Your opinion

I have been using this blog to spout my opinion quite one-sidedly. Those who have been reading this page have been quite gracious. This time I would really like the opinion of others. When I speak of my aspiration to be a monk most of my friends are supportive but rather dumb-struck. I therefore cannot bounce ideas off of them.

There are two aspects of monastic life that have a huge variety of expressions: austerity and the cloister. I do not view of the different expressions as necessarily right or wrong, but I would like to see what different people think on this matter. When it comes to austerity there are to almost diametrically opposed views that come to my mind. One view is external austerity does not matter, it is the internal austerity that needs to be cultivated. Another view is that external austerity fosters the internal austerity. When it comes to the cloister, I have seen a quite wide variety of expressions from non-existent to completely enclosed. I do think that the bare minimum for a cloister is as a buffer from the noise of the outside world.

I am attracted to Cistercian life because they do seem to value both austerity and the cloister. Though here too there are different expressions. But here is where I want to hear from you. How important is external austerity? What does the cloister mean as part of a vocation?

I look forward to your feedback. You can either post a comment or email me. My email address is in the left-hand column near the top.

Thanks in advance and God bless you.

1 comment:

  1. From a 60+ with 6 kids (hardly an expert on the cloistered life!):

    Internal austerity requires some kind of external austerity to thrive. I think the degree of external authority depends a great deal on the individual. Some people would find the more severe external austerity of the Cistercians extremely oppressive (and depressing). On the other hand, others would absolutely thrive on it. Ultimately you have to decide where on this scale you lie -- one size most emphatically does not fit all.

    The same holds true for the cloister. My sons attend a high school attached to a Benedictine abbey. The monks there are relatively un-cloistered, but the community is growing. Again others would do much better with a more restrictive cloistered life.

    BTW, I love your name. Declan is my oldest son's middle name, named after a wonderful Franciscan priest whom my wife and I met early in our marriage.

    As for the Cistercian thing, I am absolutely in awe of Cistercian architecture. I think it is one of the glories of human creativity. One of my sons will be attending school in Angers, France next spring, and I plan to meet him after the semester is over and visit a few Cistercian abbeys wiht him.