February 2017

Cistercian Cowls

PreSunrise at New Melleray

A Light Heart

I understand love as the gift of myself to another. Sexuality is the exercise of this love. That means that love has an erotic color to it. Love, then, is also gendered: a man’s love is qualified by his masculinity, a woman’s by her femininity. Sexuality is the energy of self-gift. In marriage, the spouses consecrate their sexuality to one another, included the genital expression of their sexuality. From that consecration, they free up their love energy to overflow to an ever-wider circle of people, beginning with their children for whom sexuality is manifested not genitally but through nurture, protection, education, care, and all things that protect and promote life.

What about the monk? The monk is no less called to love, to give himself; and the energy of the monk’s love, he being first of all a human creature, is the same sexuality. The monk’s sexuality, like the married man’s is consecrated, too. “Whoever clings to the Lord is one Spirit with him.” This is erotic language. Just look at Gen 2:24. Paul had that verse from Genesis in mind when he wrote what he did to the Corinthians. This verse from Corinthians is a basis for the monk’s consecrated sexuality. The monk is a consecrated person. That means that his whole life including his body with all its energies is dedicated to God. He’s dedicated for the purpose of being united to God, “clinging” to God, and God to him. As a consecrated person the monk desires to cling to the Lord in a way analogous to how a man and woman cling to each other. “Clinging” here does not mean just physical embracing and sexual intercourse. It can’t mean that with God, of course. And clinging certainly doesn’t mean a childish dependency. Clinging means uniting your life to that of another so that the two become one flesh (man and woman) or one Spirit (a human person and the Lord). “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” said Jesus, and Paul, “I live, now not I but Christ lives in me,” and the woman in the Song of Songs, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” The monk consecrates his sexuality along with everything else that makes him up for this purpose: to cling to the Lord, becoming one Spirit with him. It is making love.

Fr. Mark  

St. Vincent with Bill Murray

Film

Saint Vincent, Theodore Melfi, 2014.

Bill Murray is Vincent McKenna—the eponymous, hard-luck curmudgeon at the center of Theodore Melfi’s feature directorial debut, St. Vincent. Murray is a cantankerous Vietnam War vet, about as unlikely a candidate for a halo as they come. Vincent drinks too much, smokes, gambles, curses like a sailor and frequents the sexual services of a very pregnant Russian stripper, Daka, played by Naomi Watts. He is not the sort likely to roll out the welcome mat when a single mom, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), shows up next door with her timid 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and a carload of emotional baggage. Deep in debt, Vincent sells himself as a babysitter to Oliver and Vincent and Oliver bond as Vincent shows the boy the ropes, including how to mix it up with schoolyard bullies and play the ponies, while dispensing sardonic advice. In return, Oliver chooses Vincent when his teacher at the parochial school he attends assigns him to write an essay about “saints among us.” Much like Vincent himself, the movie has a tender heart under its gruff veneer; it is a feel-good film with an edge, sentimental without being schmaltzy. The film hinges on Murray, who should merit Oscar consideration. He plays ennui like a concert pianist, and manages to play Vincent as unpleasant but not unsympathetic or without redeeming qualities. In a sense, he embodies Robert Louis Stevenson’s contention that “a saint is a sinner who keeps trying.” Melfi challenges viewers to look through Oliver’s lens of charity and see Vincent’s true value, flawed though he is. In doing so, the film earnestly suggests that even the most seemingly vice-riddled soul has the potential for virtue. It was St. Augustine who said, “There is no saint without a past; no sinner without a future.” It is hard to find fault with the movie’s compassionate refreshingly non-cynical messageas summed up by Oliver: “To give everything and have nothing left to give is the best life you can have.”

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Sexuality, Celibacy, Saint Vincent

This simple communication is one way for me as abbot of New Melleray Abbey to communicate with the abbey’s employees and volunteers. My intention is to give our stakeholders some idea of the values and lifestyle of the monks and to share things that I have found worthwhile, thoughtful, and/or humorous. It is hoped that this sharing from the abbot will strengthen the bonds of partnership and collaboration between the monastic community and our extended community of employees and volunteers.

Fr. Mark

Abbot