“There has never been a renewal of church life in western Christianity without a renewal of prayer and Religious Communities, in some form or another, often different.”
– Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, 7/5/13
In some ways the monastic has always stood as a counter-cultural symbol, a subversive immersed in what St. Benedict, in the Prologue to the Rule, called “a school for the Lord’s service.” The monastic’s way is not one of escape from the world but a deeper engagement with the world, an engagement that arises not from institutional structures but from one’s inner life.
Archbishop Justin’s words echo the life of St. Benedict, considered to be the father of western monasticism and whose feast day we celebrate today. Before St. Benedict there were St. Antony and the desert fathers and mothers. Before them came Jesus and his disciples.
Prayer and intentional and committed relationships have always been the context for the Christian life. Those two dimensions lie not only in the monastic tradition but also at the heart of our liturgies of baptism, marriage, and ordination. In that respect all are called to be monks and nuns, to live an interiorized monasticism.
A few, however, are called to a more visible and exterior manifestation of monasticism. One of those communities is the Order of St. Helena in Augusta, Georgia (on Facebook). It is a monastic community within The Episcopal Church. Below is an introductory video to the community.
How might we take to heart our Archbishop’s words? What practices will sustain and nourish a renewal of our prayer and relationships? How might the sisters of the Order of St. Helena be our guides, teachers, and encouragers? Are you called to a life in a religious community? In what ways might the monastic tradition inform your relationships at home, work, or school?
An important post, Padre. I’m glad for your (and the archbishop’s) support.
I’m finding more and more as I get older that the Christian life is really impossible to live outside of a community. I know that I am not called to live in a monastic community like these wonderful ladies are, but I think there is a great deal I can learn from them as a believer. I’m only an hour or two away, so I might have to pay them a visit soon. Thanks for the “introduction.”
Jamie, I hope you will visit OSH. I am sure my good friend, Sr. Miriam Elizabeth, as well as the other nuns will offer you a warm welcome. My visits to monasteries have been an important part of my spiritual journey.
Peace be with you,
Indeed, we would be glad to welcome you Jamie! Do come for a visit!
There is a great book, Monastery of the Heart………. I am a monastic, but something of a hermit, for now, until my energy is right for healing.
I was a student at Margaret Hall School when the order went from the Order of St. Anne to the Order of St. Helena. I never did understand why they changed! The main difference I remember was the change in habits.