So, you remember that hypothetical New-Monastic community I posted about a while back? It looks like it just may end up becoming a reality.
As I mentioned before, I spent last weekend praying and worshiping with the brothers and fathers at Conception Abbey. The class I attended was a crash course on the links between creativity and spirituality, led by Dr. Molly Marshall and Dr. Amy Hartsfield. During the first day and a half, we were encouraged to meditate on "what we wanted out of life," or "what our quest was." I sat in a room packed with seminary students, surrounded by people whose dream it was to become ordained pastors, to become youth counselors, to build a career in the Church.
But that's not me. It's just not.
For years I have been confused about my "vocation." All I know is that I just want the life that God wants for me. I want to live in a community. To make my own clothes and to grow my own food. To give comfort to the ailing world around me. But I also want to live a contemplative life. Away from the world that serves largely to tear down the faith of good people. I want to live a life that is 1-part Desert Fathers, 1-part Salvation Army.
I was in a room full of future teachers and preachers this weekend, listening to the professors try to teach us about goal-setting and becoming active members of the Church, and how to get what we "want" out of our Christian lives. Needless to say, I felt out of place.
In the class, that is. Not the monastery. I actually had several people mention that I seemed to fit right into the contemplative community of monks. That was my first clue.
About the second day, I felt the presence of God stronger than perhaps any time in my life. Amid the dissonance between desiring the contemplative life and living a life in mutual submission and love together with my wife, I was suddenly and forcefully presented with another way: I am going to found a monastery. I can be a leader without being a preacher or a teacher. My wife and I will live our lives together as monks, our doors open in invitation to follow us. There is no reason we cannot live contemplative lives without falling into the common American Christian traps of consumerism and apathy. We will simply have to blaze our own trail, forge our own way.
I am familiar with the New Monastic movement, and the 12 Marks of New Monasticism. But what I have in mind is, I feel, quite different. My vision is fuzzy, but looks something like this:
I want to move into an abandoned Church, preferably somewhere in Kansas City. A church sanctuary would provide the ideal setting for contemplative worship: No jumping up and down in religious ecstasy, no band, no children's sermon, no offering. Just a time of coming together in simple liturgical reading, singing the Psalter, praying, bowing and silence. We would pray together multiple times daily, rising early. And we would have a rule, similar to that of St. Benedict's.
We would live in the rest of the church, taking small cells (classrooms, guest housing, the parsonage, etc.) in which to live simple lives. We would be open to married couples as well as celibate singles as tenants, and will not turn away visitors, choosing instead to welcome every guest as though they were Christ.
I'm curious about funding, though. I know that eventually the goal would be to help support ourselves through the import, roasting, and selling of Haitian coffee, as well as possibly hand-thrown pottery sales. But this is dreaming far into the future. In a more immediate sense, how to pay for our contemplative lives is troubling--the Benedictines (lucky stiffs) have their tab picked up by Rome.
In the meantime, I'm looking for a few good men and women. People with talent who are called to monastic life. Good with kids? How about an after-school program. Are you an artist? We will need someone to join us in producing art that is evidence of God's manifestation of creativity within us. A good cook? This goes without saying. A carpenter? A scholar? A passionate heart? A wielding axe? Please, come with us.
I have chosen to lay down my life to become a leader by following Jesus. If you're interested, please: follow me.