Years ago when I was working with new members in the community, there was always one session in which I asked each of them individually, and in turn, why they went to prayer. The answers were always full of the piety that comes with newness and the theology that comes from books.
"Because," someone would say, "prayer is what leads us to perfection. That's why I go to prayer." I'd shake my head: "No," I'd say. "That's not why we go to prayer."
They'd think a while, then someone else would try. "We go to prayer to immerse ourselves in God." I'd shake my head: "No," I'd say. "We are always immersed in God but that's not why we go to prayer."
The brows would tighten around the table. "I think we go to prayer to remember God," someone would say a bit more tentatively. I'd shake my head: "No," I'd say. "Awareness is certainly a state we seek, but it is not why we go to prayer."
By this time there were fewer quick answers. Finally, one of the brave ones would say, "then why do we go to prayer?" I'd smile. "We go to prayer around here," I'd say, "because the bell rings."
It took a moment or two of stunned silence and then they got it. We go to prayer because the community sweeps us along on the days we are too tired to pray, too distracted to pray, to overburdened to care. Then the community becomes the vehicle of our spiritual lives.
The function of community is to sustain us in our weaknesses, model for us the ultimate of our ideals, carry us to the next level of spiritual growth even when we are unaware that we need it, and give us a strength beyond ourselves with which to attain it.
For this reason I am inviting you to become a member of Monasteries of the Heart.
There are, of course, hermits in the Benedictine tradition. They are an ancient and honored way of life. But Benedict is clear about their place in life. "After they have been trained in community," he says, they may be able to progress on their own. The message is as fresh today as it's ever been. We join communities, we create groups, to get to know ourselves and to get the help we need to enable us to do what we most want to do but cannot possibly, continually, certainly do alone.
When you join a Monastery of the Heart
"When two or more are gathered together," the scripture say, "there am I in the midst of them." The presence of God comes to us as much through others as through our own mental meanderings, however sincere. In a group people get to know us — what we need, what is difficult for us, what we're wrestling with, and what are our own gifts meant to be given for the life of this group, for the life of the world.
So come in, be open yourself, listen to others, explore the great questions of life together, and hold one another up along the way. That's what community life is all about. Share the wisdom, get the grace, give the life away.
Thanks for coming. We've all been at this community lifeline for years. We guarantee that it works.
How have you experienced the grace of community, of the body of Christ carrying you when you couldn't walk?