A Lenten Ride

When St. Benedict wrote in his Rule that the life of a monk should be one of continual Lent, I wonder if he was smiling. It’s like a professor telling her first-year university students that they may need to study.

benbw1 After all, a monk signs on voluntarily to a communal regime of regulated prayer, study and labour. He willingly enters a community that holds, what were once "his things," in common with everyone. He then sets about to eat, sleep, work, and pray, in close proximity, day after day, with the same group of men—and he’s to do all this in a spirit of peace. What about any of this is not Lenten? But then—is there anything not Lenten about living at peace, day after day, in close proximity with any group of people, or even another person?

True, monastic spirituality goes head-on with the chipping away of self-referencing desire. But really, anyone persistently trying to orient their lives by something beyond mere self-actualization is in for a Lenten ride.

And a Lenten ride is pretty much the opposite of those grand conversions that have media buzz and mega-church appeal. Conversions we view with part suspicion and perhaps, part envy. No, souls (and monastics) in for the long-haul, who get up, wash, try, fail, fall down, ask for mercy, get back up and do it all over the next day are the ones who keep the world stitched together. They may not have understood the fuss about a Lenten calendar—they simply go about setting their daily lights on some quiet intuition that they, and humanity itself, cannot make it armed with envy, greed, and resentment.


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