The Intentional Life: The Making of a Monastic Vocation, Cardinal Basil Hume, O.S.B., Paraclete Press, Massachusetts, 2007.
In this rare volume, the beloved Cardinal Hume imparts his Benedictine wisdom to his monks on their journey through the various stages of their vows. The addresses were given between 1965 & 1976, a time of tremendous change & turmoil in the world, in the Church, &, I imagine, especially within religious communities. These writings are as poignant today as the moment they were written, as the good Cardinal’s topic – following Christ – cannot be relegated to any historical period.
So, take the following passage & whilst reading it substitute the word “parishioner” for “monk,” “parish” for “Community” or “monastery,” “baptismal vows” for “monastic vows,” & so on. Read it as if it were directed to the situation of Christian community in which you find yourself. And the let this holy man speak to you.
A continual search
Things are by no means straightforward in the monastic life today. There are, as you know, differences of opinion on many subjects: the kind of work we should do; the type of school we should run; how the school should be organized; the values it should inculcate; our life of prayer; ways of celebrating the Eucharist; the manner of reciting the Office in choir. There are differences of opinion concerning the very principle of the spiritual life. These differences of opinion are realities and will, to some degree, provide the background against which you will be making your Profession. Moreover, these differences have to be dealt with constructively, with charity, good sense, and humor. There must be mutual tolerance, patience, and, above, all a continual search for God’s will, which is more important than the realization of one’s own monastic dreams. We need to remind ourselves that the forces destructive of community life and community happiness operate more quickly and effectively than those which construct and build up the house of God…
You may consider that our vows are personal, in that they are a personal commitment of ourselves to God, but the Community has a corporate life and the vows a communal aspect. Let me illustrate this from the vow of what is called “conversion of manners”: conversio morum. Each one of us is called by that vow to work at his personal sanctification – a change of heart, a change in our way of behaving, a purifying of intentions. But the Community collectively must work for the same end.
Think clearly, as men of God should, about the Community you are joining. Try to see the value of what we are and what we do. Take it that there is a great deal in the monastic life, as led here, which is pleasing to God – many monks who are prayerful, hard-working, with high ideals, laboring obscurely, thoughtfully, and without complaining. Be of that number. You will find happiness and receive the blessing of God if you are unflagging in search of him and in doing his will. It is not a soft life: indeed such a life would be unworthy of us as human beings, apart from our vocation to follow Christ. The peace it brings is hard-won and, believe me, brings suffering. And yet it is a peace unruffled by the tempests assailing us on this side and that. It is the peace of knowing that whatever are our personal deficiencies, whatever our limitations, there is a God, nevertheless, who wants us and loves us – each one of us. (p.57-59)
I penned an entry previously about the Cardinal's view of a different aspect of Christian life: obedience.