Wednesday, 30 October 2019
I have known two monks in my life, both members of the Catholic Order of St Benedict. The first, young Christopher, was a rather frivolous man whose failure at the vocation I saw before he did. I think he now works as a fry cook. The next was Matthew, whom I knew at Heythrop. Matthew was a general practitioner who gave up worldly success in medicine for the strict observance. He'd be about 50 now, but he was closer to my age when I knew him. I didn't know him well but I was disappointed when I heard that he'd failed because outwardly he seemed very suitable. I vividly remember watching him as he observed five minutes of silence at the railway station. His eyes were distant but he seemed in every other respect present. I became envious because silence seemed to me to be an unattainable ideal. I fidget a lot, with autistic habits (picking at hangnails, bruxism, cracking my joints, &c), and while I suppose I can detach from material things and simply not engage in conscious thought, I never could achieve what I consider to be true silence. It is not just the absence of sound!
I'm sure to discuss these things with my Bishop in the weeks to come but Fr Andrew is not the first to suggest that I should become a monk. See the comments on my old blog here. Another friend, when I suggested the idea, said "yes, yes, of course!" It was a very emphatic yes too. My grandmother always said that one day I'd be a priest. I don't suppose she ever had an experience of monasticism, though.
Now let me tell you why, far from sneering at them, I would be just like Matthew and Christopher. I have few material things (besides my precious books) to renounce in the first place; I have no worldly success; indeed, on the face of it, monasticism would be my material salvation more than my eternal! I have no passable skill to offer a monastery; I am practically useless; I don't think I can sing. Failure has been my principal success to date, and there's no reason to believe that I wouldn't fail at monkhood. St Tikhon of Moscow was destined to be a monk, and this was apparent to his contemporaries when he was at school. With me, it seems that people just want to lock me away as a nuisance and eccentric as opposed to divining in me something palpably holy. I'm not a saint; I'm an ordinary backslider who eats and drinks too much, and loses his temper. I suppose that exchanging my present lot for the sweet labour of God's vineyard would be good in principle, but is understanding that enough? I have my doubts.
I also feel a sense of obligation to my father. With my mother's health the way it is, he has confided in me his fears of giving up and becoming a tramp. I think he exaggerates a bit there but even my mother said, in a cryptic reference to her mortality, that he doesn't even know how to change his bedding. These are the things that go around my mind as I try to come to a decision. But I'm getting ahead of myself, having yet to arrange to meet my Bishop. He's over the sea in the Evil Empire at the moment but I shall call him on his return.
at 8:35 pm