Friday in the Seventh Week of Easter
It seems to be quite providential that we should remember the martyrdom of a community of Christians at this time in our community’s history and the conclusion of the Commissions first meeting. The martyrdom of Charles Lwanga and companions was perpetrated by those outside of the community, as is commonly the case.
Monastic life was founded as a form of martyrdom, as a way of dying to self for the sake of something greater. Each monk can see this as he reviews his many years of living in this community. Sometimes those occasions were gradual, other times they suddenly blindsided a guy. Either way, meeting them with the patience and perseverance of Benedict’s 4th step of humility required a preparation of the mind. That came from a life and environment of prayer. It came from staying close to the power by which we live. That power is what we rely on now.
Each man faces the personal challenge of keeping his will subordinated to his mind. Evagrius Ponticus heavily emphasized the influence of one’s thought-life and their journey to God. One’s habits of thinking and acting are tested at these times, and one sees for himself the fruits of his years of monastic living. But the real test is for the power one relies on. While one can rely on habit to keep suiting up and showing up, the monk’s ultimate end will require the virtue of courage, nurtured by charity, the love of God. That love will take one beyond habit.
Each will experience a temptation to give in to hopelessness and futility. Only love will move the courage that will enable endurance, rather than mere involuntary suffering.
This endurance, without regret for having pursued the difficult good of the monastic way, will confirm that one’s call has been lived by the grace of God. One can endure the trials of a vocation because one’s love commands it. Charles Lwanga’s community exemplified that. That communal experience is important to us now.
Monastic life in this one dear place is important to each of us. It is important because it has made a difference. It contrasts with our pre-monastic life. The difference we each experience is the presence of God within. It is, as always with the people of God, associated with a community and the land. If it becomes necessary to renounce these, one’s love will have to be so much the greater. Indeed, love grows stronger the dearer is that which we renounce and the more burdensome that which we accept. The Lwanga community showed that in a furnace in Uganda. New Melleray is where we learned to do that. On that to which everything is owed, everything must be spent.