Benedictine Stability?

“Monk” by Br Robert James OHC

Benedictine monastic tradition values stability above just about everything. Our single monastic vow is stability, obedience, and conversion of life. Our monastic lives, like our baptized lives, lead to conversion of life – Jesus calls us to be made new. I believe that Benedict included stability and obedience in the vow because without them conversion of life is nearly impossible.

So here we are at St Benedict’s Priory, moving house for the second time in as many years… Where’s the stability in that?

A little more than a year ago we moved from Grahamstown to the Old Farm House at Volmoed. This move, from Old Farm House to another house on the property is massively simpler, but it is a move, nonetheless.

Moves, it would seem, are not a manifestation of stability. Or are they?

I like to think of stability in terms of sailboats. It’s easy, watching a sailboat glide elegantly across the water, its sails full of wind, to think you see all the important bits. The wind blows in the sails and the boat glides forth. But that misses a vital component of the boat: its keel. The keel sticks into the water usually at the very bottom of the boat. Without the keel the sailboat would go only where the wind blows. But the keel acts like a lever against the water so that the boat can leverage the wind. Archimedes long ago observed that with a big enough lever he could move the earth.

The keel is not the pretty part of the boat, but its important

The keel is the sailboat’s lever, and in some sense, stability is the monastic lever – the Christian lever. Without stability, change is random and at the whim of outside forces – like a leaf blown by the wind. Sometimes it can be fun to see where random events take us, but it is a leisure time activity, not a faithful monastic Christian witness. Stability does not mean set in amber. If it did, there would be no Christian journey. Stability does mean that change is purposeful, not whimsical.

The Cloister Garden and dining area

Old Farm House has been a very good place through which to enter life at Volmoed. The new priory, currently called Duck Inn, will take us further into this process. The house will better accommodate our monastic lives, and it will offer options for additional brothers to join the community. Growth is one of the most joyful examples of new life, of conversion of life.

We are settling into the new house, getting used to how the kitchen works and how to live in its various spaces. Various art works are going up in various places and boxes have been sent to the loft in the garage.

The west garden of the house

Please keep Bernard and Jane, the previous occupants of Duck Inn, in your prayers. They built the house and have lived in it for nearly 30 years – moving on is sure to have many complicated emotions.

Please keep us in your prayers as well as we go through another transition. And please include in your prayers those who may be called to explore monastic life with us – it is not possible just yet for someone to enter, but that time is coming soon.

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