Fr. Placid explains what it means for the monk to live as “Strangers to the world” and how the monk deals with the changed relationship with his family and loved ones:
“Your way of acting must be as a stranger to the World” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chap. 4).
As simple as these words are, they need quite a lot of explaining to bring out their full importance. This is to be the mindset for the monk. To live the Gospel day in and day out on the level of community life, without getting mentally and physically tired, is indeed to be stranger to the world’s ways. Another of aspect of this, is humility. Benedict asked that the monk address his opinions humbly, quietly and without Obstinancy or Pride. In this day and age of Social Media, that may really be the complete opposite of worldly way of thinking and acting. To not broadcast or hype one’s self is monastic and the way Benedict wants his monks to behave.
In reference to this, relations with family undergoes a definite change. The family (depending on the policies of monasteries) is limited in contact to the monk. Here at New Clairvaux, family can visit once a year. I cannot visit home, unless one of my family members is in a grave situation or is dying, or has died. While there are exceptions, each case is handled differently between the brother and the superior. Phone calls are by permission only. Letters/e-mails are by how much I may want to write and the same is true of the family. This can be hard and challenging. Thankfully, I have talked to my family about the value of being “separated” from the normal dynamics of family and relatives. They understand, but they may not always agree or like it.
Separation will foster being directed to God in prayer, Liturgy and Community. And at the same time allow the monk to be connected to family in a different manner.