Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Boat I Travel in

Recently someone asked me why I was carrying the Holy Rule around so much and I said, "Well, you see, I'd really like to be a Benedictine." The one who had questioned me looked surprised and said, "But you are a Benedictine!" I just smiled and later when I was at prayer I thought a long time about that funny little conversation that ended so unfinished. Then I remembered a meditation I wrote for my Jubilee last summer. I borrowed the idea from Balbir Mathur from a reflection called Planting One Tree at a Time that I found in Heron Dance. I read my meditation once again with that same haunting longing to really become a Benedictine.


The boat I travel in is called Monastic Life. My two chief oars are named for what I most need to keep me faithful to the monastic way of life. One of my oars is called: Seeking God. The other is called, Giving up My Own Will. There are other oars that I keep ready at my side, close at hand, lest I have a sudden inner conversion that requires some quick changes in my course. These oars are Loving Determination (in monastic language—better known as Stability), Radical Simplicity, Prayer, Obedience, the Common Life (also known as Community), Peace, Christ, the Spirit of St. Benedict, Gospel Values and Flawed Love. I know that Flawed Love sounds like a strange oar to cherish, yet it is the only love I have known and I have discovered even love with flaws has amazing powers, and who knows? … as I travel on in my monastic boat with my little oar of Flawed Love some day it may miraculously be transformed into the unfeigned love that I am asked to strive for in Chapter 72 of the Rule.

There are a few other oars laying around in the back of my boat. The fact that they are in the back by no means implies they are unimportant. They, too, are in ready reach. They are very necessary tools for my monastic journey. Their names are Bright Joy, Wonder, Beauty, Mindfulness, Creativity, Passion, Deep Listening, and Extravagant Yearning.

I have been in this boat for fifty years and sometimes I ache at how far away I seem to be from the Shore of my Longing and from that wild, pure, passionate light that we call Everlasting Life (which could be a kind of heaven on earth) but for the most part I am good at forgiving myself and others—so I’ll row on with my spare oars of Courage and Patience seeking God and trying to give up my own will.


  1. What you say here is really helpful to me, floundering as I often do with all the oars overboard!
    I'd really like to be a Benedictine, too. In my case a Benedictine Oblate. I took my initial vow about eighteen months ago and hope to make my full oblation this autumn. But I'm dithering. I don't pray enough, I don't study enough, I don't listen enough. Am I enough? Well of course I know I am enough, really, flawed as my love and everything else is. But... and then my mind goes off round in circles of not-enoughness.
    So thanks, this will encourage me to have more faith in the oars. And remember the example of my brothers and sisters around the world.

  2. You know, when I read that your two oars were Seeking Godde and Giving Up My Own Will, I felt that while I am not a religious it seems so much to describe my life at the moment.

    Where my oars differ it is when it comes to Radical Simplicity (a part of me is longing for it, the other not so much). The other oars are relevant but just a bit. On the other hand, Flawed Love...

    As to the oars at the back of your boat, I can identify with Wonder and Extravagant Yearning. The others are still wrapped and not really ready for use :-)

    Really I need to print your post and take the time to taste and ponder and visualize and explore. The coming months will be just right for that.

    Thank you so much.