As part of a fieldwork assignment for my present masters class, I’m required to visit an intentional community or monastery and learn about how the people who live in the community/monastery engage the practices of listening, guidance, discernment, simplicity, stewardship, rhythms of rest, and honoring the body. Upon contemplating the where, how and who to visit, I made a few phone calls and was able to connect with one of the priests of a local monastery nearby. He advised me what the purpose of my visit was and upon conferral welcomed me to come. After about a 30 minute drive, I made my way to the entrance with its architectural structures dating back to early 1900’s resembling a magnificent dimension of property that could take up a whole city block. I was greeted by a statue of the blessed Mary upon entering and looks of uncertainty from other personnel as I made my way inside.
The receptionist welcomed me with a warm smile and advised me that Fr. Barry was expecting me. As I waited, my eyes gazed at the beautiful paintings and surrounding arrangements of artifacts on display. Than entered an aged man in his 70’s with white hair and a long black robe that carried with him a distinguished appearance. As we sat down, he had prepared a two page typed paper explaining the order in which he was involved in. This was more than what I bargained for and we began the interview with some coffee and croissants.
Me: How do you engage in listening to God aside from prayer?
Fr. Barry: We take solidarity walks in the garden and meditate on nature. Also, we sometimes listen to music.
Me: What scripture verses do you meditate on that helps in your listening to God?
Fr. Barry: Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
Me: How do you seek guidance in your everyday life?
Fr. Barry: We choose certain spiritual directors within our community/fellowship and seek their wisdom.
Me: How do you live a simplistic lifestyle?
Fr. Barry: Our lives are not intrusive but isolated and revolve around everything accessible that we need right here. (barbershop, library, tailor, wood and tool shop, gym and we make our own sandals).
Me: What kinds of stewardship principles do you constitute in your own life?
Fr. Barry: Aside from many foreign mission opportunities, we give back our time to the outside community through visitation and weekend retreats that are conducted here.
Me: What do you do to rest throughout the day?
Fr. Barry: Power naps!
Me: How do you honor your body?
Fr. Barry: We eat a strict dietary meal and participate in some yoga.
Me: Last question, what is your everyday schedule like?
- 6:30am – Wakeup
- 7:30am – Morning prayer
- 8:30am – Reading/personal needs meet
- 11:00am – Chapel
- 11:30am – Contemplative prayer outside the garden
- 12pm – Lunch
- 1-3pm – Ministry opportunities
- 3-5pm – Chores
- 5pm – Evening prayer
- 5:30pm – Recreational activities with each member
- 6pm – Dinner
- 7pm – Watch the news in the common room
- 7:30pm – Rosary prayer in the chapel
- 8-10pm – Study the Bible
- 10pm – Lights out
After the interview, I was given a tour of the facility with its outdated furniture with barely any wi-fi capabilities. In the dining area stood a lectern where the priest would give a homily while the others sat in silence. We proceeded to the outer courtyard were a cemetery was located behind the building of past brothers of their order. He knew almost every one of them and gave me illustrations of their great successes. We then made our way back inside where he showed me the chapel area. There were seats on every side of the wall that faced each other where they would participate in a prayer, reciting it back and forth in a harmonized fashion. The living quarters were simple with only a bed, dusty lampstand and wooden desk. The lighting was poor throughout the building and portraits of ecumenical priest hung around every hallway. With a firm handshake and salutation, he bid me farewell in hopes of meeting again.
What Can We Learn From A Monastic Priest?
Many of you that read this will say that our faith differs and the object of our relationship is built on God’s word and to that, I say you’re correct. Let’s dig further deeper into the caverns of our soul and examine if we’re practicing spiritual disciplines within our own lives and actively hearing from the Holy Spirit. These priests believe that their commitment to making a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience grant them accessibility into God’s kingdom. The regiment of discipline they incorporate into their every day, hours of study and prayer can shed some spiritual light into our routine. For some, we have fallen short of our ability to hear His voice with a clouded array of selfishness causing an incoherent speech towards God in our daily prayers. This order of priest calls themselves “Passionist” and my passion is to so ignite such a flame in this Gospel community with the message of truth and love that will never be snuffed out!