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I hate to be a party-pooper, but it seems monasticism isn't very Christian. It looks like people such as Anthony of the Desert ran away from the problems of the city in cowardice. He and his followers, refusing to run full-steam into the Great Commission like muscular Catholics, hid themselves away. Sketes, hermitages, monasteries, and cells seem pretty much contrary to everything I read in the Gospels and Acts. This isn't mysterious "needs a Church to interpret it" stuff, but basic commands any old peasant can understand.

How can a monastic go forth, evangelise, baptise, and do the works demanded by God before the Judgment? Monastic schools, hospitals, and way-stops were never integral to the monastery, where men ran from life, so it can't be said that our Lord's commandments regarding feeding the sick, clothing the naked, etc., are a requirement by monks. How, in the end, is a monk supposed to get to Heaven by retreating from the world and the devil? We're supposed to meet it all head-on, as far as I'm concerned.

Monastics are said to pray for the world constantly, as opposed to secular people, but this is a fallacy. Those in the world can pray for it constantly, and often more effectively because they know what's going on and they meet people with real problems. It's not hard to keep the Holy Name on your lips while typing, doing construction work, or having an office meeting. Where did this fallacy originate? Sometimes I think the early monastics made it up to justify their headlong rout from the increasingly-lukewarm cities, as Catholicism was accepted and corrupted by the masses.

Honestly, what do monasteries accomplish that can't be done by a normal man? Priests pray the office... anyone can pray it, really, and anyone can do manual labour, and anyone can do basically anything today. There is no excuse for being so ridiculous and extreme. Why not live in the city as monastics and go out to follow the evangelical counsels, or live in upper rooms, or in basements and catacombs? Monasticism only popped up as Christianity was becoming accepted; isn't that interesting? The original muscularity was lost as the bodily threat diminished, and so we all became effeminate world-haters.

Please help me on this, since so many saints and doctors were monks.
This would require a long reply, but I'll give a short one.  I've read writings by quite a few monks who say that if the reason is to run AWAY from the world, then a monk's vocation is going to be difficult, because the world is right in our hearts and we'll find it with us in the monastery.  It seems that running TO God is the answer, not running AWAY.

I would also like to address your point that being a monk is effeminate.  QUITE the contrary.  I might recommend spending two weeks at a traditional monastery.  This one is SSPX (and I'm blessed enough to only live 2 hours from it):  http://www.ourladyofguadalupemonastery.com/  You'll see that the ascetic life is muscular and masculine, not effeminate.  It's tough business on many levels.  It's physically demanding, with little sleep (Matins, on feast days, begin at 3:30), lots of labor (there is  ALOT of construction going on at this monastery right now), little comfort (not a single cushion to be found), little relaxation, etc.  It's spiritually demanding, as the silence and solitude allow us to see how much our lives are ruled by distractions (such as this forum, hah).  On and on.

Being a real monk is not the piece of cake you seem to think it is.  It's probably why there are so few monks...

Here is a good article by Father Cyprian, the prior of that monastery, on the role of monastics, especially in today's modern world:  http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2068

Ok, perhaps more thoughts later.

Pax,
Jesse

ETA:  Here's a great quote from St. Bernard that is in that article:  "The monastic man is a fighting man."  Read the article to find out more ;)
I think of Our Lord saying that St. Mary Magdalene chose the better part.  Nothing more to say, really.
Well, the link in Father Cyprian's article is broken, but I found it.  After reading his intro, read "Contemplatives: Their Place in the Church Militant":  http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2064

(09-29-2011, 03:30 PM)The Curt Jester Wrote: [ -> ]I think of Our Lord saying that St. Mary Magdalene chose the better part.  Nothing more to say, really.

Exactly what is the "better part" spoken of? All she does is greet Him, kiss His feet, and adore Him while Martha cooks and is anxious for the cares of the household at that particular moment. The words of our Lord do not imply that she went off alone and stayed a nun. Everyone brings this passage up, but never explains its connection to monasticism.

(09-29-2011, 03:35 PM)Jesse Wrote: [ -> ]Well, the link in Father Cyprian's article is broken, but I found it.  After reading his intro, read "Contemplatives: Their Place in the Church Militant":  http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2064

Thanks a lot friend... both for that and your patience. :D
When St Therese was sick with the illness that claimed her life, she offered every step of the walk she was sent on each day for a 'poor, weary missionary priest'. Years later, a priest came forward and said that had been him - he had been struggling, exhausted and weary both physically and spiritually, and had become aware of being supported in prayer, at exactly the time that, as shown by hindsight, Therese had been offering up her walks.

It is not for us to jusdge why God calls some to the life of silence and prater and others to the dirty hands work, we just each need to give ourselves completely to the life we discern we are called to.
(09-29-2011, 03:52 PM)Laetare Wrote: [ -> ]
(09-29-2011, 03:30 PM)The Curt Jester Wrote: [ -> ]I think of Our Lord saying that St. Mary Magdalene chose the better part.  Nothing more to say, really.

Exactly what is the "better part" spoken of? All she does is greet Him, kiss His feet, and adore Him while Martha cooks and is anxious for the cares of the household at that particular moment. The words of our Lord do not imply that she went off alone and stayed a nun. Everyone brings this passage up, but never explains its connection to monasticism.

Being a nun = devoting yourself to adoring God = what Mary was doing at the Lord's feet.

Being active in the world = what Martha was doing = good, but not the better part.

We are called to do lots of things, including evangelize, care for the poor, and so on.

But we are also called to pray without ceasing -- that is what being a monk is all about.
I'd say that monasteries are the places where the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are lived out most perfectly. 
Laetare,

Where is God? God is everywhere, surely, but He is "more" in some places than in others. Specifically, in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, a monk or nun, who can sit in the chapel at the feet of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist is doing EXACTLY what Mary did in the Gospel text, while Martha was doing the chores. As you know, Martha was not scolded for doing chores, but really for complaining, and if you look at the context clearly, her complaint was similar to yours: that she was doing the "real" work, while Mary was just sitting there doing nothing in front of Our Lord. Well, sitting in front of Our Lord is what manks and nuns do.

As for muscular Christianity, the concept is actually a Protestant one, from the Victorian Era. The most muscular Christianity in the world is to contemplate the living God, to pray in spite of the multitude of calls to us to do otherwise from the world, the flesh and the devil. Martha was doing great. But Mary chose the better part. And that was the monastic part.
(09-29-2011, 04:32 PM)newyorkcatholic Wrote: [ -> ]Being a nun = devoting yourself to adoring God = what Mary was doing at the Lord's feet.

Being active in the world = what Martha was doing = good, but not the better part.

We are called to do lots of things, including evangelize, care for the poor, and so on.

But we are also called to pray without ceasing -- that is what being a monk is all about.

Mary did not hide herself. She adored God, and then strove forward in the "real world", as it were, and did not look back. There is nothing to indiate she started a cenobitic or eremitical community in order to adore God. Prayer without ceasing is the realm of all baptised souls. Our Lord did not say that prayer without ceasing requires monasticism. One can be in the world and deny the world and take up the Cross; indeed, I dare say it is something like laying down the cross to enter a monastery. What harder work is there than raising children to be virtuous, a family to be united, and working in the endless toil of life? To pray without ceasing is more meritorious for the soul who has "other things" to do, surely, because he gives up more by praying constantly.

I'm sure Mary and Martha stayed out in the world, living life in the world but not of it. This is why I find friars are much closer to the Gospel commands than monks. It seems a logical conclusion. :)

(09-29-2011, 04:33 PM)Resurrexi Wrote: [ -> ]I'd say that monasteries are the places where the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are lived out most perfectly. 

It isn't about living them perfectly, but just living them. They can be lived by any Christian, but most of all by any Catholic who is in the state of grace and with the help of the sacraments. This is a fallacy, a huge fallacy, and puts down the world and family. Is this not dualism?

(09-29-2011, 04:39 PM)maldon Wrote: [ -> ]Laetare,

Where is God? God is everywhere, surely, but He is "more" in some places than in others. Specifically, in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, a monk or nun, who can sit in the chapel at the feet of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist is doing EXACTLY what Mary did in the Gospel text, while Martha was doing the chores. As you know, Martha was not scolded for doing chores, but really for complaining, and if you look at the context clearly, her complaint was similar to yours: that she was doing the "real" work, while Mary was just sitting there doing nothing in front of Our Lord. Well, sitting in front of Our Lord is what manks and nuns do.

As for muscular Christianity, the concept is actually a Protestant one, from the Victorian Era. The most muscular Christianity in the world is to contemplate the living God, to pray in spite of the multitude of calls to us to do otherwise from the world, the flesh and the devil. Martha was doing great. But Mary chose the better part. And that was the monastic part.

Friend, muscular Christianity of the sort I was referring to is definitely not a protestant-victorian idea. Read the Acts; this is what I mean. The Apostles did not hide themselves, but instead went out. St. Stephen, not an apostle, was out as a deacon all day administering and helping and preaching. All the early Christians spread far and wide - monasticism wasn't some "essential wing" of the Church without which she would sink. There simply weren't any monks at all before the 240's or so. What happened to the Church the first 200 years? It wasn't true? Righteous? Fully perfect? If monasticism were essential to the Church's life, it would have existed from Pentecost, surely?

Sometimes I think many souls went to hell because no one was around to evangelise them. Illuminating manuscripts and preserving knowledge through the centuries is nice if anyone can understand it. Most peasants heard a sermon once every Sunday if they were near the bishop. Monks and educated hermits and cenobites might have done a lot of good for their own souls and the souls of men if they were out preaching orthodoxy instead of what they did, or at least in addition to what they did. My contention isn't that they were useless (no prayer is useless), but that they were acting in a non-Christian way for their own souls: running away from what He told us to face.
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