Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Take No Shoes
Okay, so it's Ash Wednesday. I've never seen anyone with a cross of ashes on their head, like that girl in the picture. The priest does make a cross on the forehead with the ashes, but it just always comes out looking like a big smudge.
Since we're embarking on Lent, my favorite time of year (except for my Christmas mania) and we're giving up things (at least, I hope we're giving up things) it turns out to be a good day to talk about this story, finally. I hope you've had a chance to give it the once over. The reader that brought it to my attention asked me what I thought about it. I have some thoughts.
If you're too weak from fasting to go read the story, I'll give it to you in a nutshell. Three couples (I think it was three) and their children decided to go live the monastic life, i.e. live frugally and give everything else to the community around them. They also wanted to become more active in helping those around them in the community in any other way they could find.
They found it difficult.
The first problem they had was the paring down. How much is too much? How little is too little? They had problems splitting up the chores and became aggravated with each other when some people shirked their duties. They had problems finding anyone to help in the community.
To me the whole thing boiled down to this one sentence: They had difficulty deciding how many bottles of salad dressing they should have.
Flag on the Field! Bottles? Meaning you have a choice of several different kinds of salad dressing for your monastic lifesytle?
The next time I have to hear about how crazy it is that priest can't marry and raise a family and be a priest, I'm going to blow up this aritcle and mount it onto foambroad and march around and around with it on a big sandwich board around my neck.
What is a monastery? It's a place where individuals go for a comtemplative life of solitary prayer. "But there are a bunch of monks in a monastery!" you say. Yes, there are. That's because it is SO hard to do, you need some support of other people who are doing it, too.
The first monks were hermits. They lived alone in the desert. Some of them lost their marbles. They started living a little closer to one another for support and eventually they just started living in communities. But the monks don't live in dormatories. They each have a cell.
And what's in the cell? Why, three bottles of salad dressing, of course.
Now you see why I think it boils down to that sentence?
A bed, a blanket, a prayerbook, a crucifix. Maybe a chair. Probably not.
No salad dressing at all. Not even one bottle of low fat vinegrette.
And! NO CHILDREN! Not even a little skinny one that only likes to eat dry oatmeal and hard bread.
Okay, so these people in the article are not Catholic monks and they are taking liberties with the word monastery. Let's give them that.
But I do think they would be helped greatly if they simply looked to a different model of community living, like a kibbutz or a commune or something. And someone has to sit them down and tell them that shirking their agreed to duties is not an option. We have ways of dealing with shirkers in our community lifestyle. For example:
Sister Mary Didn't Sweep the Floor will do better tomorrow.
Here's another tip: if you want to pare down your lifestyle, take some good advice from oh, say, Jesus, and pare it down to nothing. Take no shoes, no purse. Take no leather couch and no salad dressing.
I do applaud these people for their effort, and they are finding ways to help in their community now. I'm not sure I like having children involved. I'm not sure I would like the children not to be involved.
What they're doing is a little dangerous. But Jesus was a little dangerous, in what He asks of us. Loving one's enemies isn't for the feint of heart.
Neither is community living.