We begin a new series in which the some of the brothers answer the question, “What is One Thing you have Learned in the Monastery?” Abbot Paul Mark gets us started: “It is not uncommon for me to be asked what it is I have learned in the monastery these past 41 years within the walls of this Trappist-Cistercian monastery. To answer this question I ask myself, what is the one thing I came to find in the monastery? I wonder what I would have answered in 1980, the year of my entrance, in comparison to how I answer the question today. I hope, that while I would have used different words to my answer in 1980 then I do in 2021, the answer is fundamentally the same. My answer is not in the past tense, “what I learned” but rather what “I learn” every day and hope not to stop learning until the Lord should say “enough” and welcome me into my eternal dwelling place with the Lord. That answer is LOVE.
In his Rule for Monasteries, Saint Benedict lays out his project for the monk’s life. That project is “to love Christ above all things”. In the Tools for Good Works, Chapter four of the Rule, Saint Benedict outfits the monk with the first two of seventy-four tools, namely to first, “Love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength”, and second, “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
We Cistercians develop this further by emphasizing that the monastery is a school of charity. This makes a monk a student of love, and I might add, a perpetual student of love for graduation only occurs when I pass into eternity. But love being God is infinite, so love remains.
Have I then learned to love? Yes, but believe me, it is a daily lesson and I never stop studying the manual of love. And every day I discover that I remain on page one of the text book of love, which is none other than Jesus Christ himself.”
#love #RuleofBenedict #trappists #monks