There is a story from the Desert Fathers where one asks another “what is a monk?” And the response was “someone who asks ‘what is a monk?’ everyday.”
Laurence Freeman, OSB at the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates in Rome began his talk on contemplation with this image and invited us as Oblates to consider the same possibility – that being an Oblate means asking ourselves, ‘what is an Oblate?’ every single day. I loved this definition shaped by a continual return to questions. It embraces one of the central hallmarks of Benedictine life which is a commitment to conversion. Conversion of life means that we recognize we are always on a journey and have never fully arrived. It means we are willing to allow God to surprise us and shake us from our complacency. It means our identity is always evolving.
We might consider this definition for anything that is a meaninful part of our self-understanding. Each day I ask myself what it means to be an Oblate in this moment in time – and I ask myself what it means to be an artist and writer, a friend and wife, a teacher and mentor. I keep asking myself these questions because I recognize that the meaning of these dimensions of myself keep ripening and emerging with new discoveries about who I am and who God is. I continue to live more deeply into who I am, and in the process I continue to become a monk. I continue to deepen as a writer and artist. I continue to learn how to love well as a friend. I continue to discover new ideas moving through me and emerge in my teaching.
What is the identity to which you keep returning and discovering new dimensions?
(photo taken at the Abbey of Montecassino)
* Stop by this week’s Poetry Party *
© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts