On Monasticism and New Monasticism.ii
This is a response to Brenton and his post “On Monasticism and New Monasticism”
I don’t really want to “critique” your post, more than I would like to be in discussion with you! You obviously have a different perspective on the movement and, frankly, I would like to learn more about these European and Canadian streams you mentioned.
If we were to dispute anything, it would be monasticism without celibacy. Since I grew up in the Reformed tradition, I am looking at monasticism from the outside. In my bias, I have had to work away from a very – very – negative conception of it. I, and most reformed thinkers, see the solitary Medieval monk in a black robe denying himself every conceivable blessing from God, because he thinks his works will make him holier. The criticism of monasticism is its asceticism, particularly the abstinence of celibacy. This asceticism – although I prefer sacrifices of certain blessings – are inseparable from monasticism. How could there possibly be monasticism without celibacy? When you take that away, you suddenly move away from a vocation bound up with communal and silent tasks to a Christian still in need of picking a vocation
To put it in crass, secular terms, being a monk is a job for those interested. Part of that preparation is celibacy, another part is the dedication to silence and a skill (basket-weaving, gardening, book-binding, healing, beer-brewing, and, the king of all, writing). If this is not true, but is simply what I wish it was, then so be it. This is how I wish monasticism would be. Even that – a vision for what monasticism should be – is part of the monastic nature; thus the movements in its history. At the core, however, I think the vocation remains the same, because there are patterns which repeat themselves; silence, community, poverty, etc.
I think the identity – and attraction, even – of monasticism is its specificity. It is for people who are: alone, silent, scheduled, prayerful, artful, poor, communistic (as set apart from a community-orientation; a possible side discussion is that monasteries are the only place where distributism actually works), simple, intellectual, studious, subservient, and locked (in place, to a building, to a town).
Yes, some of these aspects intersect with the calling of the broader Christian. Other aspects – and the ones which make monasticism a stand-alone calling, are incompatible with some blessings that the universal Christian can take (marriage, children, loud noises).
For another example, where a monastery is (generally) more capable of having visitors and keeping them, it is (usually) inappropriate for a Christian family to take in strangers. At least the moms think so. Monasteries and monks are there for the world, not for the family. The monastery is a family; the monks brothers. Marriage does not fit in this and the dutiful protection of the family certainly does not.
I recognize that this is not really a “systematic” response, but I prefer a conversational tone if you do.