On our Europe trip we learned about a number of monks who have had a vast influence on Christian spirituality. Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila and others. These men and women are spiritual giants who were driven to the monastic life in order to pursue God.
We tend to think of the monastic life today as something for crazy zealots, not for people like you and I. Although, in our postmodern age anything old and weird does have a certain “cool” factor attached to it so people are beginning to revive interest in monasticism somewhat.
In any case, monasticism centres around a threefold vow: poverty, chastity and obedience. These are the monastic response to the age-old challenges to Christian spirituality: money, sex and power. There’s probably a maximum of one degree of separation between any problem in the world or ourselves and these three things. None of them are bad in and of themselves, but somehow the human condition easily falls prey to the seduction and perversion of these three things.
Now, I do believe that the monks lacked subtletly in shunning these things altogether and forfeited learning the proper use of all three to those in the world who were sure to abuse them. But that’s another topic altogether. What I do want to focus on is how to connect their ideas to today. Things obviously haven’t changed that much as you see this trinity at the centre of all that’s wrong with N.American culture.
As for me, I want to learn how to deal well with all three of these things, but the thing that’s sticking out the most right now is power. Christians have an abominable history of dealing well with power, and I saw all kinds of examples of this in Europe where church and state have been one for much of its history. The church has never had nearly as prominent a role in statescraft here in N.America as it had in Europe, but the question remains: how do we deal with power? How can we learn from Jesus to rightly handle the power that we are entrusted with and how can we avoid the trap of its subtle corrupting influence?