Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
During this Jubilee year of sabbatical we are revisiting our Monk Manifesto by moving slowly through the Monk in the World retreat materials together every Sunday. Each week will offer new reflections on the theme and every six weeks will introduce a new principle.
Principle Three: I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.
"To be a monk today or someone seeking to incorporate monastic values into his or her own life presumes being a part of a community of friends, people with whom a person can share the counsels of the heart and speak a language of the heart to one another."
—Edward Sellner, Finding the Monk Within: Great Monastic Values for Today
Traditional monasteries are built around the heart of shared community life. People would become monks as a way to live in an environment of support for contemplative living. In our modern world we often feel isolated from one another and it can be challenging to find meaningful relationships centered around the spiritual life.
In the Celtic monastic tradition the soul friend was considered to be an essential companion on the spiritual path. A soul friend is someone with whom you can share deeply about your struggles for meaning and your longings for how to shape your life. Henri Nouwen describes such a friend as one "who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing." Soul friends offer us unconditional presence to whatever we may be experiencing. When we have this kind of relationship in our lives, it becomes easier for us to extend compassion to ourselves and others.
The spiritual life is meant to be lived in communion with one another, so as monks in the world, we have to create community in a variety of ways. Accountability and mutual encouragement is vital to sustaining contemplative and compassionate ways of being.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Art © Kristin Noelle
Text: His wish was a prayer: guidance, connections of the soul, friendship. He watched for them hopefully, eyes and heart trusting they'd come.