Thursday, 14 October 2010

Monastic charisms

From this morning's set reading from Philippians: "You shine like stars in the world" (Phil 2.15b; NRSV). Polaris, the Pole Star, is in the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, at the end of the bear's tail. It is a humble star compared with the brilliancies of Vega, Sirius, Aldebaran or Capella. But it is the most useful star in the northern hemisphere. Sailors and other travellers have navigated by it for centuries, as it lies due north, and the angle of the star above the horizon indicates latitude. The night sky nowadays is often overwhelmed by street and other lighting. Broad Marston is a long way from a major population centre, so is a good place for viewing, and hopefully Mucknell will be too. But cloud cover meant no stars were visible this morning or evening.

David came over from Stratford for our second conversation, and the second part of the discussion became what the monastery means to each one of us. I said I was helped in my thinking by Sandra Schneiders outlining in of four levels of charism of the Religious Life*. Her levels are: first, the fundamental call to Religious Life itself; second, the call to contemplative, apostolic or mixed ministry; third, the ministry of the individual order or community; and fourth, the call of the individual members who bring into the community their particular gift. I'd misremembered the levels as: first contemplative, apostolic or mixed ministry (the community is contemplative); then the order (Benedictine); then the community (Mucknell Abbey); then the individual. But my points still stand: that Mucknell will be fundamentally Benedictine, but will have its own different way of expressing that, whatever it may be; and that individuals will have different callings within that, which might have different mixes of 'being' and 'doing',and different ministries. And these are both OK; Schneiders' outline effectively gives 'permission' for diversity between communities and individuals. Schneiders says: "This is why the actual type of ministry of a Religious congregation might change in changed circumstances without disrupting the fundamental continuity of the charism." So Mucknell's ministry can (and hopefully will) be different from Burford's. And each individual's ministries and mixes of being and doing may also change over time. But I was not quite that fluent; it's much easier to write it down afterwards than to say it at the time!

* Sandra M Schneiders IHM "Finding the Treasure: Locating Catholic Religious Life in a new Ecclesial and Cultural Context", Religious Life in a New Millennium Vol.1, Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah NJ, 2000.

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