Last week we took a look at the promise or vow of stability which all Benedictines make. Today we will take a look at “Conversatio Morum” or “Conversion to the Monastic Life”.
The promise of Conversatio Morum flows out of the promise of Stability. As stability has bound us to a particular community, conversatio morum binds us to a particular way of life. The monastic way of living first begins with a monastic way of thinking. Although oblates do not typically live within the monastic confines we are called to live out the monastic life in a different way. This does not mean that we are called to be little monks or nuns in the world, but we are called to bring monastic values into the places we find ourselves in.
Conversion to the Monastic Life calls us to see life, people and events through a different lens. Instead of simply seeing work as drudgery, we are asked to see it as building up the Kingdom of God. Instead of seeing superiors as an annoyance we are asked to listen for the voice of God. In a disposable society we are called upon to treat the kitchen utensils as something sacred (RB, 31) Workacholics are reminded that “nothing is to be preferred to the work of God” (RB, 43) and community life takes precedence over individuality.
For most of our lives we have been formed in the ways of the world. The promise of Conversatio Morum calls us to take a different look at created things and the situations God places us in. It calls us to see with sacramental eyes as we search for God in the ordinary and mundane. The world would have us see the negative and banal yet Conversatio Morum leads us to see God’s grace in every moment of life.
After we begin to experience a conversion in our way of thinking we are inevitably lead to change our habits. We begin to see Christ in every one we meet. The “useless and ordinary” become means of serving God and others. Prayer is not simply confined to a moment in the day but extends through all our thoughts and actions.
The tools which lead us to fulfill our promise of Conversion to the Monastic Life are those traditions laid out in our monastic communities and the Rule – Liturgy of the Hours, fasting, lectio divina, hospitality, etc… In practicing these “monastic habits” day in and day out we will begin to form a different mindset which leads us to become more “monastic” in our daily lives. If it seems as though this is simply living out the Gospel in all its fullness, you are correct. Benedictine life is a life of striving to bring the Gospel message in a radical way into the ordinary and mundane moments of our existence. Conversatio Morum is the way in which we strive to do that.