Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Monk Myths. A Benedictine oblate blog

As a former long-time atheist, when I became a Christian, I changed my mind on several fundamental subjects. Or perhaps more accurately, I should say I came to see that my old ways of thinking were wrong because they were built upon dim assumptions. After an encounter with God, my entire life changed. I was led to the foot of the cross and a new life in Christ. That was about 25 years ago.

With such a large lesson in “I was wrong about that” out of the way, now I actually look forward to the frequent opportunities to learn something that will adjust my thinking toward a closer understanding of God’s truth.

One correction to my assumptions in the past few years has been about monks. I had gathered a mental montage of religious life from the wider culture, TV, books, and all the other sources that shrink-wrap our thinking. I had never met a monk.

Now that I know a few monks at the St. Leo Abbey in Florida, I can say that virtually every one of my previous images of monks was wrong.

The most striking change in my view is that monks are normal and regular people. They are approachable and welcoming. Gone is the stereotyped image of a person living in a false, make-believe land removed from world.

However, the most subtle change in my view is that monks are living witnesses to their vows of stability, conversatio morum, and obedience. Those are the vows from Chapter 58 of the Rule of St. Benedict.

My corrected understanding of monks is that they are people like the rest of us AND (not “but”) they live following ancient monastic principles with roots in the earliest days of Christianity — from “follow me,”(1) and “sell your possessions and give to the poor,”(2) to “pray without ceasing.”(3)

Monks are both more typical of human kind than my previous views AND are also more admirable Christian witnesses. Like nearly every more-accurate understanding I achieve, truth’s light is far brighter just below the world’s dull laminations.


Picture is "Abbot Philip of Christ in the Desert Monastery" in New Mexico, USA, by Bellagooch.

Christ in the Desert's web site is packed with monastic information. I enjoy, for example, the Abbot's Notebook. This monastery was where the 2006 TV show "The Monastery" (the USA version) was filmed.

(1) Luke 9:23-26

“Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” NIV

(2) Luke 12:33-34

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV

Above quotes from HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

(3) 1 Thess 5:17-18

“pray without ceasing.” NASB

Above "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 Used by permission."


  1. I thought he looked familiar! I first went to Christ in the Desert in 1970; it's where I first realized I was a contemplative, even though that aspect has taken decades to unfold. Abbot Phillip is definitely the real deal.

  2. The Christ in the Desert web site carries a lot of energy -- another tribute to their abbot. I would like to meet him in person.