Tomorrow I head down to the Priory for our annual Oblate retreat, the topic is “The Heart of an Oblate” and I am looking forward to spending time with some of my Oblate friends.
Sister Lucy asked if I would consider being a mentor this coming year to someone who is becoming an Oblate candidate, which means she is exploring the possibility of making this commitment to our community. I was delighted to be asked, even more delighted when I was matched with a woman I already know and for whom I have great fondness and engage in stimulating conversation. I look forward to how that journey will unfold.
Like anything truly meaningful in my life, I am discovering over time the depths of what a particular commitment means to me. Much like the gift of marriage, the gift of being an Oblate has revealed itself slowly over time as I continue to explore what it means for me to live out the monastic commitment and way in my own particular life, in this urban neighborhood in the midst of Seattle, in my work and presence to others.
In part, I am discovering that my commitment to this monastic path in the everyday world is really the primary and most meaningful source of my formation and practice, far more so than my experience of a local parish community. One of the beauties of the Christian tradition for me, and I imagine this is true of any spiritual tradition with long roots and history, is that there are many possible paths or ways of expressing my commitment to this set of stories and symbols that resonate deeply with my being. What initially drew me to a commitment in the Catholic church in particular was its commitment to social justice and the aesthetics of liturgy. My commitment as an Oblate helps me to live out my passion for beauty and justice in particular ways.
The root of the word monk is “monos” which means singular or solitary. It refers in part to a life committed to time in solitude and silence, but also refers to the monk’s heart and its singular commitment to cultivating a sense of the holy presence everywhere — in every person, in every thing, in every moment. This act of cultivation is also an act of hospitality, of welcoming the sacred as it appears in all manner and form, often in the most unexpected ways. Part of what I love about Benedictine life is how written into Benedict’s Rule are reminders that God shows up in surprising ways. This awareness helps to break the boxes to which we like to confine God. My work is to expand my heart again and again, always discovering new ways to love the world.
This is the work of a lifetime to be sure.
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts