Monastic spirituality in the 21st Century Essay
Monastic spirituality in the 21st Century
In the 21st Century, it could be said that monastic spirituality in an outdated concept. In the contemporary world we live in today, it has become increasingly difficult to live obedient to the Churches teaching. Some people would argue that there should be no real set of moral codes, and that the Church should not have such high authority. This contrasts to the Celtic Monks belief that “Nothing must be refused in their obedience; to be Christ’s true disciple…it will not be pleasing to the Lord.” In society today, people don’t see a need for a moral code. They make their own subjective decisions about what is right and wrong from them, and don’t accept religious or government law. Grove argues “People do not see the Church as having a real relevance in their everyday lives, and therefore do not recognise its authority in everyday matters.”
Some sociologists have said that it is this belief that has led to religious organizations “watering down” their beliefs to accommodate many beliefs, in the hope that this would make their religion more popular. However, in actual fact this can often lead to the religious organization becoming less popular, as they may lose the devoted members, who aren’t looking for a watered down religion. Pope Benedict said that “relativism…does not recognise anything as being certain…its highest goals are one’s own ego and desire.” Relativism is the belief that concepts such as right and wrong, goodness and badness, or truth and falsehood are not definite and that they alter in different cultures and situations.
It could be described as the “cherry picking” for faith. An example of this would be ignoring the rule of no contraception, for promiscuous reasons. An other common example would be the issue of sex before marriage. The Celtic monks had a huge sense of Divine Will that had to be obeyed. Saint Columbanus reminded us of this by saying “by strict obedience shall the monk show his love of God.” Many of these traits, that the monks found so admirable, have been lost in today’s society. Monks believed that community was better than the individual, and that when we do something, it should be for the sake of the community, rather than for the sake of the individual themselves.
The monks saw obedience as responding to God’s call. We can see a huge lack of obedience to God by looking at the large decline in vocations in recent years. In 2008, in Dublin, only three people were ordained into the priesthood. There are many reasons for this, a main possibility being the recent scandal the Church has been involved in in recent years. In 1968, 95% of Catholics went to mass. By 2004 this amount had dropped to a mere 50% (BBC Newsline). These figures support the view that as Christians, we no longer feel compelled to be obedient to God. This can relate back to what Pope Benedict described as “The Culture of Relativism.”
Another debated issue is the importance of chastity and sexuality in our society today. Saint Columbanus said “a monk’s chastity is indeed judged by his thoughts.” He said that they were not only judged by sexual relations, but by the purity of the mind, and the sexual desires that they experienced. This view contrasts greatly to the view of society today. In our modern society, people are often sexually objectified. An estimated average of 75% of prime television shows include content of a sexual nature, and in soap operas it is estimated that extra-marital sex is referred to two out of three times every hour. This is because the television company’s know that in today’s society, sex sells. It is no longer thought of as a big deal, and there has been a massive increase in sexual promiscuity.
This has led to a big increase in sexually transmitted diseases, which are becoming increasingly difficult to control. It also meant a big increase in the amount of unwanted pregnancies. Unlike monastic living which promoted the selfless giving of ones self to the community, we have adopted a hedonistic, narcissistic attitude. We have become our own lust. Michael Maher points out that the standards in Celtic monasteries are “severe, particularly in the area of sexual morality”. For many today, the idea of chastity is an outdated concept and is problematic for the future of the priesthood in the Catholic Church. This would lead me to believe that in regard to this aspect of monastic life, monastic spirituality could very easily be perceived as outdated in the 21st Century.
Brigid of Kildare had a preferential option for the poor. She vowed to the king of Leinster, “If I had all your wealth, I would take it and give it away to the poor,” So Brigids monastery in Kildare, became known as the “City of the poor.” Aidan of Lindesfarm also expressed solidarity to the poor, when he gave away the kings’ gift of a horse to the first beggar he met saying “Surely this son of a mare is not more important to you than that son of man.” However, the Church didn’t always share the same view. Leondardo Boff argues that “the Church became an abstract speculation removed from the original spirit of the Gospel message, and out of touch with real life.”
The Church has been criticised for siding with the vested interest, and in its history has even been involved in colonisation and the removal of land from the peasantry, in its commitment to obeying the laws of the land. Richard Woods reminds us that “justice and chastity were the main hinges of Celtic social action.” This is another way, in that it could be said that monastic spirituality is an outdated concept in the 21st Century. Views that should be had today have slowly died off, and have left places worse off.
However, Bishop Casadaliga reminds us that “as long as there are poor people in the world, and as long as there is a God who cares for the poor, there will be a need for a theology of Liberation.” The spirit of Liberation Theology is very much evident in Celtic Monasticism in many ways, from the care of the poor and the sinner, to the welcoming of the stranger. Hospitality was always extremely generous in the monasteries, and any stranger who came was very well looked after. In 2004, 19% of asylum seekers were allowed to find refuge in Britain, while 78% were turned away. The Celtic monks in their openness to all, especially the weakest turned no one away. This shows another way that Monastic Spirituality could be considered an outdated concept in 21st Century life.
In conclusion, it would appear that Monastic Spirituality is in fact an outdated concept in 21st Century living, with our lackadaisical views on chastity and sexuality, and our selfish views on poverty, it seems that Monastic Spirituality has been lost, and I believe it would be in the Catholic Churches interest to try and retrieve some of this monastic spirit.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 September 2017
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