Sunday, September 4, 2011

Loving Our Neighbor

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." (Mt 18:15) 
This week’s gospel could be summed up easily – How to Live in Community.
Several years ago I stayed in a Benedictine monastery for about a month, attending spiritual direction school there. One of the first things my spiritual director told me in our first meeting was that monastery life was not as easy and peaceful as it might seem. “Let's face it, living in community is very difficult.”
So how do they get through it?
Prayer. Forgiveness. Love of neighbor.
So I guess if monks in a monastery have to struggle with community, then those of us in community at our churches and our neighborhoods and our families are going to struggle too.
And so how do we get through it?
Prayer. Forgiveness. Love of neighbor.
St. Benedict in his rule had a lot to say about how to live in community. Some of his (paraphrased) instructions include:
Show equal love to everyone.
Do not act in anger or nurse a grudge.
Express opinions with humility.
Welcome all guests as Christ.
I watched these monks during the month I was there and at subsequent visits. All of them, including the abbot, ate with us, waited on us, washed dishes, and when a flu virus spread throughout the community, they nursed each other and us as well.
If they were unhappy, we never saw it. I am sure it wasn’t easy and who knows what arguments and tension took place in the private monastic enclosure, but we experienced love not friction.
We saw humility not pride.
We saw Jesus.
Dear Lord, thank you for sending people into my life to show me your love and your presence. Please help me welcome all as Christ. Help me to do better in loving my neighbor. Teach me, Lord. Amen.


Colleen(Inadequate Disciple) said...

Colleen, Good of you to share the example and to highlight how it is possible to live in community. Seems to transfer very easily to family life as well-- in terms of the secret ingredients: humility, no grudges, loving without favoritism. Of course it also follows that praying and meditating in Christ's Eucharistic presence helps the love of neighbor take root and bear fruit.

Karinann said...

Thanks for sharing this. As I am not a people person by nature, I struggle with this all the time. I often ask Jesus to help me to play nicely with others (especially in my thoughts).
Hugs & blessings!

Colleen said...

Colleen, amen to that!! I agree wholeheartedly. The Benedictine community had a lot of built in support systems. And yes, the Eucharistic Presence. I remember wandering down to the chapel late at night when I could not sleep and sit there before the tabernacle. Just 30 steps or so away from my room. Awesome. And the community prayer times during the day.

Karinann, glad to hear I am not alone. I love how you said that about playing nicely with others in your thoughts. Me, too, I am afraid. Hugs and blessings.

Barb, sfo said...

You're exactly right--family IS community. I am going to save those instructions from St. Benedict and post them where I'll see them often :) Thank you!

Colleen said...

Barb, glad you like the instructions! I have more to share. Amazing how someone who lived back in the 500's can still speak to us today eh? Thanks for visiting!

noreen said...

Hi Colleen, your experience at the monastery had to have been unique. I find it comforting to know that some people dedicate their lives to Jesus in such a sacrificial way. It has to be a calling from God to live in community.

Colleen said...

Noreen, I agree. I find it comforting also. Where would the world be without the monks and nuns praying for us?

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Hi Colleen,

Just commented on Daily Grace's blog about loving one's neighbour.

Believe me, it's very difficult when he continues to park his car opposite my drive. He's seen me struggle reversing and driving forwards several times to get out of my house yet he persists, selfishly, in parking his car(s) all over the street.

St Benedict had no such problems with cars I suspect. Yet ... on reflection, his advice is still helpful for us today.

God bless.

Colleen said...

Victor, no, St. Benedict did not have problems with cars but he had problems with monks trying to poison him, or so the story goes.
Yes, loving neighbor can be hard.
Thanks for the smile.

Sue Elvis said...

Hi Colleen,

My eldest daughter spent two years with the Benedictines as a novice. We were able to see a little into the lives of the nuns and the challenges they face every day.

Many people describe the nuns as "those holy nuns!" expressed with much awe, forgetting they are women like us who face many challenges and temptations each day. In many ways their lives are far simpler than ours, but in others they are much more difficult. All that order and peace requires much charity, self discipline and sacrifice.

You said, " If they were unhappy, we never saw it." I think this is such a difficult state to achieve. Many women would not be able to live this kind of life, me included.

An interesting and thought provoking post! Thank you, Colleen

Colleen said...

Sue, I agree - that life cannot be easy. Glad you liked the post. God bless!

Michael said...

Wonderful reflection.

And a reminder to me that I need to work on my patience ...

God Bless you

Colleen said...

Michael, thanks so much! God bless!

Jean Wise said...

welcome all guests as Christ. What a statement to live by. Now I just need to remember this each time. I think some monasteries have this printed by their doors.

Colleen said...

Jean, I need to remember it too. The monastery I stayed at had it over their door. Maybe we should all do that. God bless!

Barb Schoeneberger said...

One of the greatest safeguards for charity living in community is the enforced silence. Even in active communities the religious is to speak only when necessary. Structured recreation times together provide for speaking freely and laughing with one another. If we in the world would borrow and adapt the rule of silence to our situation we would find it easier to deal with life. I'm like Karinann. I am more of an introvert than an extrovert and I need to play nicely with people in my thoughts. Observing silence keeps me from interactions with others that will cause me to break charity. Maybe I'm a nun in disguise?

Colleen said...

Barb, I think I am too! Thanks for sharing about silence in community. I agree that we need to adapt the rule for our lives. So much wisdom there! God bless

mary333 said...

There doesn't seem to be an awful lot of "Loving Our Neighbor" going on in the blogosphere lately. Maybe we should e-mail this to all Catholic Bloggers :) Great post!

Colleen said...

Mary, thanks so much. Let's pray that we can all be more like Jesus for each other. :)

Kathleen Basi said...

I read a book called "Cloister Walk" a few months ago, and she made the same points you just did. It was a great book.

Colleen said...

Kathleen, I read that book too. Very good! In fact I was reading it when I first when to this monastery!