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Monk in the World: Conversion 1 – A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dear 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.

7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life.  In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time?  And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”

—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Conversion is one of the central commitments which Benedictine monks make.  The other two are obedience and stability which have to do with listening deeply for God’s voice in the world and committing to staying put even in the midst of conflict or struggle.

Conversion for me means to always allow myself to be surprised by God.  It invites me to a sense of wonder and awe and recognizing that God’s imagination is far wider than my own.

One of my favorite lines from Benedict’s Rule is “always we begin again” and he describes the Rule as for “beginners.”  This beginner’s mind and heart is central to conversion.  As monks in the world we are always on the path, always growing, we never fully arrive and so we always have more to learn.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD REACE

Art © Kristin Noelle

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