Before I became an oblate (defined), I had only vague ideas about monastic life — most of those ideas were incorrect. I had thought that the significant fact to know about monasteries(1) is that they were places secluded from the surrounding population. As in: prisons do for criminals what monasteries do for monks and nuns.
But I was wrong.
A more accurate view is that monasteries interact with the surrounding population in many intended ways.
Monasteries are part of a community just like the local fair grounds or the blacksmith.
Monasteries organize the lives of their members in particular ways, but those organizational forms are also particular ways of becoming part of the surrounding community.
And that is exactly how our local monastery affects my life. The monastery is not a prison that locks life away, the monastery is the freedom of a life in God. For prison, you will need to look elsewhere.
(1) A monastery is where monks or nuns live in community, under guidance of a leader sometimes called an abbot or abbess, and under a set of rules or principles, sometimes called a Rule, such as the Rule of St. Benedict.
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