Why I Like Being A Benedictine
...by Sister Marita Funke, OSB
If you're going to make a life commitment to a way of life, there has to be something about it that outweighs your other options. For me that "something" has been a sense of dedicating my life to God in a special way. I chose the Benedictines because I knew them and liked them. Only later, did I discover that when Saint Benedict wrote his Rule for monks back in 480 AD, he had one very basic question for the person who wanted to join the monastery: "Do you truly seek God?" For Benedict that was the bottom line. That was the only motive strong enough to allow someone to make a life commitment to the monastic way of life.
You might wonder how one seeks or looks for God! Is God hiding? "Seeking," in this case, doesn't mean looking for something lost. It means keeping our focus on God, letting go of anything that might distract us from growing closer to God. All are called to seek God in many different ways. What is it about Benedictine life that helps me grow closer to God?
Prayer is very important. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours together as a community four times a day. At 6:05 AM we gather for Morning Praise and Eucharist. I have to admit I'm not always at my best early in the morning, but that prayer at the beginning of the day is very important to me. It's not just the words of the psalms and the Scripture reading that speak to me; it's the fact that we are all there. Older sisters, who get up very early so that they can loosen up their arthritis enough to walk, and younger sisters, who would rather sleep another hour, come together to pray. Our very presence to one another and to God is a daily reminder that we all share in one common desire to Seek God.
When the bell rings for noon prayer and I have to turn off my computer, I can see it as an interruption, or I can see it as a reminder that this prayer is calling me and the community back to remember that all time is God's time and all of our work is for God.
This brings me to a second aspect of Benedictine life that helps me: work. "Ora et Labora" is a Benedictine motto: prayer and work. Most of my work has been in education. I was a high school teacher for many years and principal for a few years. Now I'm director of our spirituality center. I also have one unusual job: I am a licensed boiler operator! Monastic life often calls us to the unexpected!
Prayer is essential, but I could become very unreal and self-centered if my life were not balanced by work. Work helps me to put my good thoughts and desires into action and to reach out to others. One of the places where I find God is in the people I work with.
I also find God in the people I live with. Community is a dimension of Benedictine life that is very important to me. I come from a large family, and I gain much support from the family spirit of monastic community. Again there is balance. Within community each one is unique. I enjoy the uniqueness of each sister, and I enjoy the freedom to be my own unique self.
Benedictine community is modeled after the early Christian Community described in Acts of the Apostles: "They prayed together and shared all things in common." From community life, we are strengthened to reach out to others in prayer and ministry. For fifteen hundred years Benedictines have committed themselves to this common life by professing obedience, stability and conversion according to the monastic way of life. We donít specify poverty and chastity because they are included in the monastic way.
Obedience challenges us to let go of our self-centered ways and to seek God together under the leadership of a prioress. The monastic vow of conversion of life says we are never quite finished with conversion. There is always more of God to seek and more of myself to give. The vow of stability is probably especially important in today's society because it calls me to trust that I can find God in this place and with these people in the very ordinary everyday things - if I am willing to make the commitment. Personally, I 've found commitment a very small price to pay for the peace and joy that the Benedictine life has brought me.