The monastic life requires sacrifice. But, in the midst of the things that a monk offers up in order to follow Christ in our Benedictine way of life, there are many blessings. Everyone is susceptible to a myopic viewpoint only seeing the frustrations of life, and then falling into a habit of complaining and being unhappy or disappointed. But, when we step back, alter our perspective, we see God’s goodness at work in so many ways.
I have been reading Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. It is a marvelous document which reminds us of the joy of following Christ and how that same joy attracts others to the faith. Our Holy Father writes:
“The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervour. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that “where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds” (EG 84).
Later, when acknowledging the divisions within the world and even within the Church, Pope Francis laments, “It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy…Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?” (100)
St. Benedict wrote in his holy Rule: “This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love, “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other,” (Rom 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another” (chapter 71). There is much joy in monastic life. And, to prove it, I asked several of the brethren what they see as the greatest joy of monastic life.