We recently went to the St. Leo Abbey oblate Christmas party. Oblates buy a small gift for a monk and we have deserts and a social hour instead of the usual discussion session on Benedictine spirituality.
Oblates pick a monk for gift giving by drawing his name at random from a basket. When my wife and I drew the same monk’s name two years in a row, we were pleased. And when the selection process changed this year to allow us to select any monk rather than drawing a name out of the basket, we knew we had to purposely select the same monk that chance had given us for the two prior years.
When we drew our monk’s name two years ago the little sheet of paper with his name also had some gift ideas. We got the listed gift card. Last year the sheet just had his name, without any gift suggestions, but we still got him the same type of gift card in the same amount from the same store. This year when we got to select the monk without having to draw from a basket, we still got the same monk a gift card in the same amount from the same store.
I wonder if that poor monk did not write any gift ideas on the slip of paper a year ago in hopes that whoever drew his name (and what are the chances it would be us) would get another gift. And when he ended up with my wife and I buying him the same gift from the year before, I can just imagine this monk joking with the abbey office this year: “no more baskets, somehow I get picked by the same people who keep getting we the same thing, let’s have a select-a-monk system so they can get someone else and I won’t keep getting the same thing.”
In many ways it is difficult to buy for a monk. Sometimes it’s difficult to buy for that person who has everything. But it’s really difficult to buy for someone who is supposed to have nothing or next to nothing of his own — well, of course, except for his life in the “school for the service to the Lord.”(1) Maybe what I should do is give thanks again that there are such men who live in monasteries. The oblate Christmas party is when I get a tangible Benedictine lesson that the real gifts always seem to flow out of a monastery.
Picture is cohdranknxmasrbbn7.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.
(1) Rule of St. Benedict, the end of the Prologue:
“And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.”