Fr Michael has been a Cistercian monk at Tarrawarra since 1960. After presbyteral ordination, 1971-1973, he studied New Testament at the Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium). In 1980 he was awarded a doctorate in theology from Melbourne College of Divinity for a thesis on Bernard of Clairvaux. He has published extensively on different facets of monasticism and, during the past 40 years, has visited over 100 monasteries in different countries giving seminars and retreats.
BENEDICTINE EDUCATION:TWO WORDS
A living tradition evolves according to the context in which it is found. This means that it is constantly adapting itself to its current situation – for better or for worse. Benedictine history is, thus, a history of re-formation, sometimes self-generated, sometimes the result of external circumstances. Living within the Benedictine tradition implies a double task: a return to the sources and a sensitivity to “the signs of the times.” In both monastic and educational contexts, this double task involves a certain distinctiveness from contemporary (post-modern) culture so that creative interchange and influence becomes feasible.
IS THERE A ‘BENEDICTINE SPIRITUALITY”?
There must be, since a Google search offers 55,400 hits! Yet Saint Benedict never intended to propose a “spirituality” as such. He simply attempted to re-interpret monastic tradition so as to provide a regulatory framework for a monastic way of life (conversatio). The beliefs and values required to live a life guided by the Gospel are, at most, stated elliptically and seem to undergo a degree of nuancing as the Rule progresses. Applying the principles that seem to undergird Benedictine practices demands some awareness of the sources, a willingness to engage in close reading, and a certain tentativeness in applying his teaching to contemporary situations. Not everything that is marketed under the label “Benedictine Spirituality” meets these conditions.