Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is there anyone here who longs for life ... (psalm 33)

I returned last night from a wonderful gathering of Benedictine women who were taking up the question of vocation ministry. I was asked to serve as a member of a round table discussion that would stimulate thought/reflection as well as engage in dialogue with this particular Benedictine community of women. The time spent in preparation with the other vocation directors, as well as the conversation with the community, touched in me a genuine love for Benedictine monastic life. There is a desire to find ways to not only invite but also engage and companion women into the multiple layers of discernment that would give greater clarity in responding to God’s call.

As I was reflecting, I kept returning to a DVD I saw this summer called The Drummer. Here is the piece that came back to me (there is much more to the story). A young man who by profession is a member of a rock band ends up in hiding in Taiwan. He misses his drumming. One day he and his uncle are climbing the mountain terrain when the young man hears a faint sound. He follows the sound to a group of Zen drummers. For some time this young man simply watches from a distance. Eventually, he approaches the group and introduces himself as a drummer and expresses his desire to drum with this group. He shows the community his skill and they smile politely. The sound and music of the drum is what they have in common. If the young man is to join this group of Zen drummers, he needs to adopt a new way of being, a discipline essential to the Zen way. The discipline is a means of discovery of one’s true self. This seemingly burdensome way frees the young man to bring his whole being into the drumming and in relationship to the other Zen drummers. Again I want to say there is much more to this story.

So, how might these two experiences dialogue around abiding truths? First, I see in the Benedictine way of life, as in the Zen way, a long heritage of meaning and intentionality. Discipline gifts the student of life with a greater freedom to learn the more of oneself and one's relationship to the other and all things. Discipline is the unifying experience of the community. The seeker is often one who for a time peers into the life from a safe distance. The seeker observes and listens to the dynamic exchange of the group. It is the longing that is deep within the human spirit that prods one to risk entrance into this way of being. The way into this life takes time and there are no shortcuts. The cost is a surrender of the clutter that fills our space, externally and internally, so that in the emptiness and silence one can be filled with one’s original blessing, one’s original call to holiness.

original photo of drumming available at:


  1. Thank you for this story about the drummer. I'm going to be a student at St. John's this fall and have been following your blog for a little while and this story really resonates with me and what's put me on the way to St. John's. Thanks for the blog in general - a neat little peak into your lives - and for this post, too, specifically: a real blessing to me!

  2. So nice of you to post that comment, "Anonymous Johnnie"! Welcome to CSB/SJU. If you'd like to receive our monthly e-newsletter, send your e-mail to It will keep you up on what's going on at the monastery.

  3. I know a young gal who is at the moment lost. As I watch her in her struggles, I see a glimmer of desire. She was abandoned by her mother (who is long-time meth addict) at a young age. Today, at 18 years of age she is so filled with an unquenchable searching. She knows her pain but never takes the move to bring her closer to her desires. Her fears and angst keeps her at a distance, always longing for what she believes she cannot have or does not deserve. She does not take the risk or give herself permission to want. Reading today's prayer blog (Psalm 33) helps name what I have seen in this young gal. But yet, it saddens me because I know what peace feels like when risk is taken. Helpless, I can only feel the young gal's pain because I cannot give what she so desperately desires. I can only stand at a distance and pray. Somehow, that doesn't seem to be enough.