Can you imagine making a promise to stay in one place, in one community, for the rest of your life?
You couldn’t move because of the bad weather.
You couldn’t move when your neighbors began to annoy you.
You definitely couldn’t move for a new job.
And no, you couldn’t move just for a change of pace.
Sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? A bit much?
Well, believe it or not, Benedictine monks and nuns have been going this sort of crazy for 1,500 years now.
The three vows of the Benedictines are obedience, fidelity to the monastic form of life (the vows of chastity and poverty are encompassed by this vow), and stability.
Why stability? What’s the value in staying in one place?
The benefits are myriad, and funnily enough, they seem like things that even we lay people might bear in mind.
Here are some of the “pros” to the stable Benedictine life:
- A Benedictine monk is freed from the anxiety of knowing whether or not he’s in the right place, pursuing the right opportunity. He does the work God has put in front of him.
- Moving is sometimes an option we entertain in order to escape from imperfections in our circumstances. A Benedictine, however, is free of these interior disturbances. Knowing he must face his problems, he gets through them. He perseveres.
- He is able to make real spiritual progress because he is not making endless new beginnings and experiencing constant flux.
- A stable monk commits himself to his community, to assisting his fellow-monks in their pursuit of holiness. This is his spiritual family.
- The rootedness of a Benedictine community speaks to the idea of endurance. This community will last, because it has committed itself to lasting. Like a great tree that can’t grow tall without deep roots and a fixed place, these communities grow into something great—from the roots up.
There’s more we could say about this extraordinary form of life, which is so different from the constant change demanded by our modern world.
We move constantly—for jobs, for fun, to seek out some perfect life that doesn’t exist in this world. We’ve got cars that take us anywhere, planes that can jet us to different continents. It’s glamorous at first—but in the end, it can get really exhausting, and we can end up feeling more alienated, rootless, and alone than ever.
As lay people, we don’t live the same life as monks and nuns. For us, the choice to move is sometimes a necessary one. But a little more rootedness in our society—a dash of that Benedictine spirit—might give us a valuable new perspective on just staying put.
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