Dominicans, Neo(new)-monasticism

Is it really a flaw?

Found an intertersting blurb on “Anamchara.” It is in relation to neo-monasticism.
I’ve included it below…

The Flaw of Neo-Monasticism

(read whole article w/comments here.)

Yesterday I was talking with one of the Cistercian monks with whom I work at the
Abbey Store. I mentioned the concept of neo-monasticism to him and he
said he had never heard of it. So I told him it was a movement toward
new forms of intentional Christian communities, popular especially with
young evangelicals. He interrupted me. “Are they celibate?” He asked
abruptly. I said that I believed most neo-monastic groups neither
required nor forbade celibacy. “Then they’re not really monastics,” he
replied.

He went on to explain that a core characteristic of monasticism has
always been the quality of “monos,” or being alone, i.e. single, before
God.
He thought it was lovely that new forms of Christian community are
emerging, and pointed out that there has been a long-standing confusion
between the monastic and contemplative vocations. Perhaps in their zeal
to create new communities of prayer, the so-called neo-monastics were
simply being a bit over-enthusiastic by identifying themselves as such.

I asked him, “If these communities are not properly called monastic,
then what are they?” He replied, “just call them communities, that’s
good enough.”

(bold for emphasis)

I do have one question in response to this statement: Why did later monastics, such as Benedict, emphasise the communal if monasticism is being single before God? Yes the early desert fathers and mothers focused on singleness before God. However, later monastics recognised the need for a communal aspect to their search. Moreover, why pray the hours, if there is a need for singleness? There is a deeply rooted sense of community found in the hours which cannot be reomoved simply by praying them alone.

Just some thoughts….

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One thought on “Is it really a flaw?

  1. Yours are excellent questions. Since I am not a monk I can’t speak for the monastic community, but my sense is that monasticism has always had a tension between the “singleness” and the “communal” aspects of the life. Benedict, in his rule, is quite harsh in his criticism of monks who shirk the responsibilities of communal life. The monk I spoke with, as recounted in the blog post you’ve quoted, seemed to understand the “single” aspect of being a monk very much in terms of a vocation to celibacy. He didn’t see a contradiction between celibate singleness and communal living: in fact, to him the difference between being an eremite (a celibate hermit) and a monastic lay precisely in the communal dimension of the monastery. I should hasten to add that this particular monk was not in any way opposed to neo-monasticism, he just felt that it represented an a-historical use of the word monastic. But this would hardly be the first time in the history of the church (or humanity!) that a meaning of a word has evolved, and of course the “neo-” prefix keeps everyone honest.

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