By Fr. Bjorn, OES
In my search for a monastic community in which I could be fully honest authentic and still be accepted, I had the blessings of seeing how many different monasteries go about their daily life together. At first it seemed wondrous to me that the larger monasteries seemed to run as smoothly as they did, and I often wondered if they ever struggled with disagreements among the monks.
When I joined a solitary Franciscan friar in his budding community, I found it easy to follow his instruction and I was happy to be active in a variety of time-consuming ministries. When the community began to grow, I experienced my first real trial of conscience, which led to my being transferred to a community of Benedictine monks. I had disagreements with them as well, however the Rule of St. Benedict has specific directions for dealing with these kinds of things which made the manner in which we dealt with them crystal clear.
Now that I belong to a community of very diverse monastics who adhere to a Rule of Life that grants a high level of freedom, I have experienced quite a few disagreements among members and potential members alike. I often ask myself what my former mentors would have done in my situation, and lament the fact that I have neglected to try every avenue of reconciliation before making decisions that affect the community as a whole, as well as the person most directly affected by the decision itself.
What all of this has shown me is that we do not escape our desire for control or our own selfish ways of thinking without a great deal of effort and discipline. Many people assume that monks and nuns are always at peace with one another, or that they do not have unkind thoughts or emotions toward those around them, when in fact, these things are a regular occurrence.
While this fact is unsettling and can arouse feelings of shame and bitterness, it presents to us many opportunities to cultivate our ability to be forgiving and to recognize those things within ourselves that inhibit our growth in the ways of love, charity, and compassion. It is also an effective catalyst in ensuring that we might experience humility on a regular basis.
It is my hope that as I grow and change, and as this community collectively moves through the trials and joys that are laid out before it, that each of us might become more skilled in considering others before ourselves and listening with humility and an open heart.
Reflections from the monks and nuns of OES.