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Here be dynamite, and a window into the heart of Julian’s quest. Read the comments..
“The Monastic Idea in South Africa: 1879 – present” is the working title of a new dissertation I’m doing at UKZN. It came out of a question I’ve been asking since 2000: why are no new monastic communities in South Africa? This term is a little more defined than ‘intentional community,’ and I explored it in relation to Bonhoeffer’s seminary at Finkenwalde in a MTh thesis (see earlier post). My conclusion was that South Africa doesn’t share the counter-cultural ideology and economic trajectories in the West which spawn Protestant NM movements. The present study aims to go deeper in exploring the monastic idea or vision in this country.
A vague outline could look like this:
- the monastic idea – what is it, really?
- local monastic expressions:
- ecumenical / new monastic
A few questions immediately present themselves:
- Monastic idea: how would you define this? Are the following categories applicable: culture, charism, calling? What others are applicable?
- Time frame: 1879 marks the arrival of the Trappists in South Africa. Should it be earlier or later? Why?
- Location: South Africa or Southern? The latter would Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland – but how would this inflate the study?
A separate discussion thread for each monastic expression (above) would be helpful.
Br. Enzo on the monastic life. Bose is an ecumenical monastic community for both men and women
What did the Renaissance find so appealing in Jerome? It was the conflict itself of a man who loved both the Christian faith and the pagan classics. Jerome had a terrifying dream of standing before Jesus Christ on judgment day and being rejected from salvation because of his love for the classics, and especially Cicero. Jerome’s intermittent and not entirely successful pursuit of the ascetic lifestyle was an attempt to purge the influence of paganism from his life. In its attempt to synthesize humanism and Christianity, the Renaissance found a mirror image in Jerome.
An excerpt from Thomas Merton: A Life in Letters: The Essential Collection, edited by William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen. Reprinted by permission of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
To Susan Chapulis. Susan Chapulis was a sixth-grader, studying monasticism, when she wrote to Merton requesting “any information whatever” that she could share with her class.
April 10, 1967.
Thanks for your nice letter. You want “any information whatsoever” to help the sixth grade in the study of monasticism. Well, I’ll see if I can get the brothers down in the store to send you a little book about the monastery here. That ought to help.
The monastic life goes back a long way. Monks are people who seek to devote all their time to knowing God better and loving Him more. For that reason they leave the cities and go out into lonely places where it is quiet and they can think. As they go on in life they want to find lonelier and lonelier places so they can think even more. In the end people think these monks are really crazy going off by themselves and of course sometimes they are. On the other hand when you are quiet and when you are free from a lot of cares, when you don’t make enough money to pay taxes, and don’t have a wife to fight with, and when your heart is quiet, you suddenly realize that everything is extremely beautiful and that just by being quiet you can almost sense that God is right there not only with you but even in you. Then you realize that it is worth the trouble of going away where you don’t have to talk and mess around and make a darn fool of yourself in the middle of a lot of people who are running around in circles to no purpose. I suppose that is why monks go off and live in lonely places. Like me now I live alone in the woods with squirrels and rabbits and deer and foxes and a huge owl that comes down by my cabin and makes a spooky noise in the night, but we are friends and it is all ok. A monk who lives all by himself in the woods is called a hermit. There is a Rock ‘n Roll outfit called Herman and his Hermits but they are not the same thing.
I do not suppose for a moment that you wish to become a hermit (though now I understand there are some girl hermits in England and they are sort of friends of mine because they are hermits, so I send them stuff about how to be a hermit). But anyway, I suggest that you sometimes be quiet and think about how good a thing it is that you are loved by God who is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy and who in fact is going to make you supremely happy. Isn’t that something? It is, my dear, and let us keep praying that it will work out like that for everybody. Good bye now.
Chris Armstrong’s synopsis of the recent renewal in monasticism. Two years old but worth checking out..