Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Welcome to "Monastic Muse," an account of my personal
monastic journey over a number of decades. Following this
story, it will be necessary to go to the Index and select the
earliest input--which is the "Introduction" and then move your
way forward.

[This site is dedicated to the memory of an esteemed friend,
the late Rt. Reverend Leonard Vickers, O.S.B., 3rd Abbot of
St. Anselm's Abbey, Washington, D.C., and 8th Abbot of
Douai Abbey, Woolhampton, England.]

(1) Quo Vadis ?

Where am I going? Actually the question peers back as well as
forward. So, first, where have I been? After snow-birding out in
Southern California, where I have a large and loving extended
family, I decided to move away from the Washington area and
settle permanently in the San Diego region. That was some 15
years ago--and until this very day I remain happy with this
decision to move West.

Volunteering in my new community, I spent at least a dozen years
as a trained docent naturalist--first serving at the San Diego
Natural History Museum and later with California State Parks
at the Tijuana River National Estaurine Research Reserve.
I felt this community service appropriate for one who honors
the Benedictine Tradition with its emphasis on community
and so many facets of such.

Additionally  I am connected with a Communion that historically
has come forth from the Benedictine Tradition; and, also,  I
befriended an inter-faith  congregation which serves both as a
fellowship and an academy,  These communal connections consist
of friendly people who enjoy one another, sometimes study together,
and oft are engaged in social justice projects.

We live in a Craftsman bungalow, a Greene & Greene architectual
design featuring natural light and materials. And I added lots more
outdoor living space by building a small park of patios, tropical
trees and plants, where I can sit, be quiet, and truly enjoy the birds
and the butterflies. My little dog rolls in the grass and makes me
laugh. It's a place of peace and beauty, perhaps reminiscent of
those Benedictine gardens of old.

As for my monastic orientation, alas I am too far away from the
nearest monastery. And I no longer feel comfortable driving any
great distance on the freeways. But I have found the "virtual
world" of the WEB. I start my mornings by visiting a favorite
monastery's website, where I can listen to their Lauds beautifully
sung. And there's Vespers at night, sung by many Benedictine
communities on YouTube. Also, I have begun providing myself
with occasional "retreats" via YouTube, finding marvelous
monastic presentations by renown monks and other religious.
Indeed, there's a lot of different possibilities to engage the
monastic life aboard the WEB, and actually forge shared
friendships. This new technological outlet may be a godsend
for those now elderly or unable to find an immediate monastery.

And all these years I have stayed true to my commitment towards
"my" Pantocrator, the Lord of the Universe, who I have studied
from lots of different perspectives. Again, working into websites
and blogsites, I have written a fairly large amount of essays and
stories that are mostly about "Seeking God" from various angles.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these essays and stories,
giving freely of my time and energy to do so.

However, I do wonder if I can squeeze out another story, in
which I try to make complex issues more comprehensible in
straightforward language. I may have reached my zenith, but
we will see. As for my essays, I've touched upon all sorts
of subject matter. I still will have three on-going essay
sites. One is past-oriented, relating ancient Scripture to
our own modern knowledge-base; another is future focused,
discussing cutting-edge mostly scientific theoretics that
somehow manages to connect with the Mystery that presides
over the All of us. And I'll continue my sojourner collection,
where I continue to seek and sift through the seemingly
never ending path that I trod.

Finally, quite awhile ago I completed my "Benedictine Beacon"
essay site. Over the years I compiled a fairly large library
of books by Benedictine authors. These books were a big assist
in terms of my own monastic-oriented formation. So I decided
to share the thoughts of some of these books on this particular
essay site as well as my own commentaries. Perhaps they might
prove helpful to others, as these great Benedictine books
proved helpful to me.

Now at the end of this journal, I can only reiterate over
and over what a wonderful treasure I discovered in the great
Benedictine Tradition.


(2) Metamorphosis

If I may, I should like to present Panikkar's discussion via quick, under-
standable points. Quoting from pages 10 through 16 in his book:

• By monk...I understand that person who aspires to reach the ultimate
goal of life with all his being by renouncing all that is not necessary to it.

• The monk is the expression of an archetype which is a constitutive
dimension of human life. This archetype is a unique quality of each
person, which at once needs and shuns institutionalization.

• One does not become a monk in order to do something or even
to acquire anything, but in order to be...

• Human perfection: The perfection of the human individual is not the
fullness of human nature; it is not nature but personhood. Yet there
are people who actualize their dormant potentialities and others who
don't, people who reach a high degree of humanness--and others
who don't.

• I shall call the *humanum* this core of...humanness that can be
realized in as many fashions as there are human beings. Religion
is a path to the *humanum*. [Also] the poet, the intellectual, the
craftsman, the man of action...all express different facets of it.

• The archetype of...the monk is an expression [that] corresponds to
one dimension of this *humanum*. Monkhood is a dimension that
has to be integrated with other dimensions of human life in order to
fulfill the *humanum.*

• The monk within the institutionalized framework often suffers from
the fact that his vital impulses toward full humanness are curtailed
merely because they are absorbed in the total institution.

• One of the crises of present-day monasticism is precisely this kind
of *quid pro quo,* that something which belongs to human nature
as one of its constitutive dimensions loses a good part of its force
and its universality once it becomes a particular form of organized

• The monastic vocation is essentially personal...[involving] the
search for the center...[which] immanent to the human being...
but at the same is transcendent.

• Monasticism is not a specifically Christian, Jaina, Buddhist, or
a sectarian phenomenon; rather it is a basically human and
primordially a religious one..

So--reading over these initial points, I began to realize that my
sense of being a monastic might not be so strange after all.

Working through over the years, I couldn't help noticing something
about myself. I tend to be an integrator. I suppose this began
when I worked in government. Data would come from everywhere,
from all different sources, from a variety of disciplines--and it was
my task to keep up with all this, putting all this different data together
to reach an appropriate conclusion. Indeed my earlier university
background involved three academic realms that I seamed together
into one. And at Georgetown I played in different academic fields,
threading them together to better understand the Great Story.
Integration came naturally for me.

Consequently, when I read the following--I thought "a hah." To
quote: "While traditional monasticism tends toward simplicity
through *simplification*...with the accompanying danger of
reductionism, contemporary monasticism seeks simplicity through
*integration,* with the consequent danger of an eclectic
juxtaposition." [Panikkar, p. 33.]

There's little doubt that I have an eclectic approach to life; yet, I
have always felt fairly focused on my goals. As an integrator, I
worked to attain or support a particular result. So I cannot plead
guilty to being a dilettante, just fiddling around without any sense
of commitment. Rather just the opposite, in that I wished to "seek
God" via many avenues. We need all the tools at hand just to
even approach the contours of this Mystery.

So--in the end, with the help of Raimundo Panikkar, I had found
a way for me, albeit non-traditional and far more universal. But I
had at last found Peace.

(1) Metamorphosis

It would seem that I wasn't the only one concerned about the
future of the Benedictine Order, to quote:

"Clearly thtis order of monks which once provided the very
structure of early medieval European society is in no position to
play the same role in post-modern America. A few thousand
monks have no chance of affecting this vast and complex
society the way their predecessors influenced the fragmented,
rural peoples of the Old Country in the Dark Ages."
[Terrence Kardong, O.S.B., THE BENEDICTINES, 1988,
pp. 199-200.]

As for myself, I had to admit that when I get this uptight over
an issue It has to be personal. Long a student of History, I've
read about movements that come and go. I knew about the
rise and fall of empires and governments, even religions.
There's a life-cycle involved in all this. It's in the nature of
things that everything is born and dies.

Yet we cling to the idea of rebirth, of resurrection, of
transformation--the idea of "metamorphosis," which is about
a "change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a
completely different one."

So here I was, before my abbot's death, seemingly ready to
identify in Benedictine terms. I really had set forth heart-and-
soul on "seeking God," whether via scholarship or contemplation.
Also, I began to understand another ingredient that predisposed
me to the Benedictines. It's best told in a small story I heard.
It's about a news reporter encountering a Jesuit priest and a
Benedictine monk. The reporter asked about what the Jesuits
were best known. In turn the Jesuit mentioned their great
intellectual character, talked about the great universities their
Order had created. As for the Benedictine monk, he said simply,
"We are Civilization."

I never forgot that story. From the very beginning of my meeting
the Benedictines, I felt that these people were the most "civilized"
I had ever met. They were not only cultured, but they were
virtuous and upright people. And historically they had uplifted
countless others down through the ages!

So the Benedictine character had become my ideal, and now it
seemed that the Benedictine future itself was in jeopardy. Perhaps
selfish, I had to wonder how I would work through my own sense of
being a monastic--especially if the Benedictine under-pinnings
might eventually collapse.

I worried too much, and in the end I need not have worried at all.
At this point an interesting priest popped into my life and made
the situation better. An expert in inter-religious dialogue, Raimundo
Panikkar taught at places like UC Santa Barbara and Harvard.
But most important for me was a conference held sometime around
1980, over which he presided as the respondent. It was sponsored
by the Aide Inter-Monasteries (A.I.M.), which is the Secretariat of the
Benedictine Confederation. Coming out of this monastic conference,
Raimundo Panikkar published a book in 1982 entitled BLESSED

When I saw this book, especially the monk as "archetype" as part of
the title, it only took me about 20 seconds to decide to buy it. (I'm
glad I did, because it is now out-of-print.)

(2) Death & Dissolution

So I set out, focusing on those ancient ruined abbeys and those
still standing great cathedrals that were once Benedictine. I started
with Canterbury Cathedral, went to nearby ruined abbeys, and also
visited Ely Cathedral, St. Alban's Cathedral, Wells Cathedral,
Bath Abbey, and Tewkesbury Abbey. These are still living churches,
under the Anglican Communion. As I browsed through these
religious edifices, I had occasion to hear the beautiful choirs of
both Wells Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral. At Canterbury
I actually was able to sit in the ancient monks' stalls as I joined in
Vespers. And at Ely Cathedral, I later discovered a paper by Peter
Sills--then Vice-Dean of Ely--entitled "A Spirituality for Everyday Life
& Work," which is a beautifully thorough account of the Benedictine

So I had visited the crucible(s) of the Medieval Benedictines in
England. Yes, they were gone from these ancient abbeys and
cathedrals, but their spirit seemed to have flared-up in recent times.
The Anglicans were fanning the coals.

In the midst of this English journey, I did stop off at my late abbot's
monastery and paid my respects. After a hiatus of nearly three
centuries, the Benedictines did return to England. However, their
more recent abbeys are once again bordering on being old, along
with a dwindling membership.

Now more than 1500-years old, I suppose it is not surprising that the
Benedictines would see destruction and dissolution over their long
lifetime. On the other hand, *rebirth* also seems to loom big in the
Benedictine horizon. This put to mind my late abbot's crest. His
overall crest was spliced into three parts: two of these were historical
crests of the two abbeys where he was abbot; and the third section of
his crest consisted of the Benedictine Tree, which is depicted as a
tree once struck down that somehow always grows back. So the Tree
represents this positive idea of rebirth, which is well taken since it
comes from the Benedictine experience.

I pondered over this issue of a Benedictine rebirth during my long
flight home. Today the threat isn't some king who kills off monks, but
rather the threat is far less transparent. Perhaps it is a malaise, a
general feeling amongst the populous that institutional monasticism,
even institutional religion, no longer seems to apply to the issues we
moderns now face? It is hard to put your finger on it, but the sad
statistics are like a barometer that tests the climate.

A number of years ago I had read there there were only some
10,000 Benedictine monks in the world. There were more Benedictine
Sisters. But in both cases their numbers were falling, and the average
age in the monasteries was beginning to creep upwards due to the
lack of current vocations. I know for a fact that some Benedictine
monasteries have had to sell their property and double-up in order
to make ends meet. Others have sadly had to sell their schools, in
that they were no longer able to maintain them.

So life is definitely changing for the Benedictine world. Still, there's
considerable interest amongst some laity--and this is reflected by
yet another statistic I saw, that noted there were at least 40,000
Benedictine Oblates in the world. These Oblates are considered a
"Secular Order," the Benedictine Arm out in the world. According to
the dictionary, an "oblate" is a person dedicated to the monastic or
religious life but has not taken full monastic vows. As for the future,
I do wonder if eventually that the transmission of the Benedictine
Tradition may ultimately fall on the shoulders of the Oblates.

(1) Death & Dissolution

All through my seeking and exploring I had a Benedictine lifeline--
my good, gentle abbot. Ours was a comfortable friendship, one
that I cherish unto this very moment. But my lifeline began to
slip. One day my good British abbot made mention that he was
returning to England. His home abbey there had elected him to
be their abbot--and they had claim over the one in Washington.
Also, it was obvious that my good abbot pined to go home. So
in time he left for England.

I was really sorry that he had left. But being just sorry soon
turned into sorrow. Within a year after he left for England, my
good abbot suddenly died. This was shocking news for me.
I became angry over the waste, in that my good abbot was in
his prime, had done so much for so many people, and would
have continued his Christ-centered life as a good pastor and
abbot. To be taken at this point seemed cruel and unjust.

I guess that I was angry for him; but, eventually, I realized
that my good abbot would never have approved of such
feelings. Still the loss of my Benedictine lifeline was near a
spiritual catastrophe for me! I moved from sorrow into a
prolonged sadness.

Beyond this personal event, my observation of the Benedictine
Order--in general--became more intense, more concerned.
Periodically I would read statistics about the dwindling number
of religious, about the average age creeping steadily upwards.
Even some monks were discouraged over what might happen
to the Benedictines in future. Pausing, I remembered the very
last thing my good abbot said to me, "pray for vocations." He said
that he was returning to only 20 monks in his English abbey,
whereas when a young novice he had entered a community of
80 monks. Those numbers represented the statistics in a nutshell
when it came to the future of the Benedictine Order.

After my Benedictine lifeline was cut, I felt that I was slipping
away from my moorings. On the other hand, it sometimes seemed
as if my moorings were slipping away from me. My periodic visits
to the monastery became even less frequent. There seemed
little there that now touched me spiritually. I felt that somehow I
had moved on and out of the Benedictine world. It was a bleak
time for me.

Naturally, Providence fiddled with me. I came across a rather
unique book published by the British Library, entitled THE
BENEDICTINES IN BRITAIN. Published back in 1980, the
book was an exposition of the British Library's celebration of
the 1500-year anniversary of the Benedictines. The book
included marvelous illustrations of manuscripts, religious art,
and beautiful drawings of ancient abbeys and cathedrals once
manned by English Benedictines. As part of the history of the
Benedictines in Britain, there was a sad chapter that discussed
the terrible Dissolution of the Benedictine Order in the year
1589 c.e.

King Henry VIII had broken away from the Church of Rome, and
he decided to bounce out religious orders such as the Benedictines
and the Jesuits. A goodly part of this effort involved land-grabbing,
since the monasteries oft included vast tracts of property. The
Dissolution also involved heinous executions as well. It was a
dangerous times then for monks in England.

I cannot explain, because I hardly knew my own mind when it came
to this decision, maybe prompted by this book, but I decided to make
a special journey to England. Perhaps I thought of it as a "farewell,"
if you will--a farewell to my good abbot and, indeed, also a farewell
to the Benedictines.

(2) Enthusiasm

One bright Sunday morning I was reading the Washington Post
Magazine. I latched onto an article about John Haught, a
theologian who taught at Georgetown University. Professor
Haught specialized in the study of "Science and Religion."
Rushing off to Georgetown, I discovered that its Graduate School
offered a Liberal Studies Program for mature students. It allowed
for an interdisciplinary approach in a number of academic realms.
I decided to give it a try.

So--scurrying about I managed to acquire recommendations from
a high government official, a dean at one of my former universities,
and my good abbot. Smiling to myself, I realized that each of these
men represented major parts of my life. Somehow I squeezed into
Georgetown, trekked off to see John Haught, who agreed to be my
academic mentor, and began professional studies that integrated
philosophic, religious, and spiritual approaches with contemporary
science theory.

My Georgetown program mainly concentrated on Quantum Physics,
Astrophysics, and Evolutionary Systems. And eventually I wrote a
thesis entitled "The Play of the Cosmic Process: A Synthesis of
Teilhard's Cosmogenesis and Bohm's Theory of the Implicate Order."
A mouthful, I know, but I loved every minute of all this hard work.
Indeed, Georgetown almost became "home" for me. After my degree,
I spent an additional two years as a Scholar of Advanced Study.
This time around I concentrated on the new theoretics of cutting-edge
technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, CyberSpace, and
NeuroArchitecture as they might apply to Teilhard's sense of the
Noosphere. I studied with a Rensseleer-trained engineer who
worked in Washington and taught at Georgetown.

After all this effort I began to get an inkling where I might head.
By this time I had slowly stepped into the budding Internet world,
working with one of those first boxy-like Mac computers. In those
days there was the old "UseNet," where discussions were fairly
wild and wooly. Periodically I would submit small segments of
some of my Georgetown articles. I felt that perhaps I might begin
to freely share what I was gaining from this venture with others.
But much of this was to come later.

To top off this special period of my life, I remember one evening I
was with Francis Jean--my Benedictine Oblate friend--and as we
were leaving one of those Smithsonian lectures, I mentioned my
wonderment over the joy and enthusiasm these scientists seemed
to embody. They were on the edge of understanding, yes, but
it seemed something *more* as well. Francis Jean put it nicely.
She reminded me that the root of the word "enthusiasm" is
"en Theos."

Well, there you have it. Via other avenues, via other labels, these
scientists were broaching what I believed to be new understandings
of God. Through scientific discoveries, through science theory,
there was something new--beyond earlier religious and philosophic
concepts--when it came to the pursuit towards comprehending the
Ground of Being, the ancient Logos-Pneuma translated into the

In time some scientists would begin to write God-oriented books.
Some scientists even won the Templeton Prize, a high-paying
honor that focuses on Science and Religion. And besides these
scientists writing these sort of books, a few famous Benedictine
monks had begun to move into this field of Science and Spirituality.

See two such landmark books:


• Fritjof Capra & David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B. (with Thomas Matus,

All this was a wonderful time for me, full of joy and energy and
enthusiasm. Little did I know that I would soon be exchanging
this happy time for a long period of sorrow and sadness.

(1) Enthusiasm

Several months after returning from Greece and Turkey, I was
still pondering where I might head after my encounter with the
Pantocrator. Yes, I had made the connection about the
CONTINUUM of the Logos, but I began to wonder whether we
need stay in the territory of archaic information when it came
to the concept of the Pantocrator. Perhaps there need be a
way to thrust a more modern mantle onto the Pantocrator.

Again, one of those strange events happened! One day I was
wandering about in a bookstore, and I ran into a Benedictine
Oblate I occasionally saw at the monastery. Her name was
Francis Jean. Probably some 20 years older than me, she
was a little bird of a woman--small, fragile, but no fear! A
free spirit, she was not only tough-minded but also a super
spiritual explorer. I still remain grateful that she took me under
her wing.

Francis Jean was into Thomas Berry, the Passionist priest and
monk who had worked with the physicist Brian Swimme.
Eventually we both would head off to yet another workshop
presented by these two gentlemen. Looking back, it would
seem that they belonged to that cadre of early forerunners who
espoused the "New Cosmology." Essentially it is a spiritual
approach to the evolution of the universe, integrating what we
now call Evolutionary Theology with the theoretics of modern
Particle Physics and Astrophysics. Whew! This workshop was
my first serious exposure to the Phenomenology of Science
and Spirituality. I was rattled by the wonder of it all. And there
was more to come!

Returning to Washington, Francis Jean introduced me to the
Smithsonian Associates program held at various museums
down at the Mall. The Smithsonian had started providing a
series of lectures given by some of the world's greatest
scientists. The very first lecture I attended was presented by
Alan Guth--a physicist and cosmologist at M.I.T. He talked
about his concept of an Inflationary Universe, about the Grand
Unified Field Theory.

Frankly, at the time, I was barely cognizant about what Guth
was discussing. What I really began to notice was his demeanor.
This scientist was utterly enthralled by his subject. He was full of
enthusiasm. He was wonderfully joyful, and he thrilled his

Guth's special enthusiasm grabbed hold of me. It was like I was
taken by the shoulders and turned around towards a new
direction. From that moment I knew that I needed to know more
about these wonderful new science theories--and somehow
relate them to my old friend, the Pantocrator.

Catching on fast I not only enjoyed the Smithsonian lecture
series, but I also joined the Washington Evolutionary Systems
Society. With both accounts, I had exposure to not only world-
class scientists but also to the really bright scientific minds
available in the Washington area. And beyond the lectures, I
started acquiring a library of recent theoretic publications by
renown scientists.

Slowly I was developing a background in modern science
theory. However I was not satisfied, mainly because I knew
that what I really needed was a disciplined professional approach
when it came to the study of Science and Spirituality. Providence
saw to it, per usual.

(2) Pantocrator

I read once that "synchronicity" might be connected with the
depth that one puts into the mulling over of a subject, and thus a
corresponding event occurs to highlight the topic or relate to it in
a nearly mystical manner. It happens this way for me upon occasion.

Here I was, concerned about such subjects as universality, about the
Christian Pantocrator, about the Stoic Logos, all started because of
an iconography seminar focusing on Byzantium and the Hellenistic
World. So what happens? I see a Benedictine advertisement in a
magazine about a trip, "Following in the Footsteps of St. Paul." It
provided an opportunity to go to Greece, to its beautiful islands, and
to Turkey as well.

I signed-up. Then the Benedictines sponsoring this trip sent me a
brochure. It became obvious that we weren't going to follow "exactly"
all those saintly footsteps, but there were enough available to become
familiar. These kind of tours ultimately are dependent on the tour
agency arranging the trip. So, beyond St. Paul's few footsteps, we
would also be visiting places that belonged more realistically to the
ancient Gentiles. Actually, I couldn't have been happier about the
arrangements. I had reached a point where I felt I needed a small,
but finer understanding of the ancient Hellenistic world in which
St. Paul traveled and preached. It's about the audience as well as
the content.

Flying into Athens was memorable. Looking out upon the rising
morning sun, the Aegean spread out before us. Bathed in a purplish-
pink mist, one could see strings of islands catching the glint of the sun.
It was simply a gorgeous sight. After Athens and the Acropolis, where
we paid homage to the Temple of Pallas Athene, we went to see the
ruins of ancient Corinth. Then we hopped on a Greek ship and
took off for a batch of islands, like Crete and Patmos. At Patmos,
we visited an Orthodox monastery where the monks were called to
worship by the gong of a wooden bell.

The high points for me, however, were in Turkey. I was astounded
by the excavation work done at Ephesus. The whole ancient city
seemed nearly spread out before us. I especially liked standing
atop the theatre there, being able to hear even whispers said down
on the stage. Even some two millennia back these people knew
a thing or two about acoustics. I believe Saint Paul preached in
this theatre, and years later I watched a TV concert by "Sting"
presented at this very same theatre. Amazing!

I hated leaving Ephesus, but we had to set sail for Istanbul.
Cruising overnight, I awoke in the morning to see outside my
porthole that we had entered the Golden Horn. And there in the
distance was Istanbul (once known as Constantinople) and,
clearly in sight, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

After the original Hagia Sophia was destroyed by an earthquake,
the Roman Emperor Justinian rebuilt the present-day Hagia Sophia
during the 6th century c.e. Built as a basilica, the Hagia Sophia has
a larger dome than that at St. Peter's in the Vatican. Once a church,
later a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is now a museum. It is really a
stupendous place, just nearly overwhelming!

Confused, I was expecting to encounter the great Pantocrator in
the dome of the Hagia Sophia. It's not there, having been plastered
over centuries ago. Today the building is a strange mix of Muslim
writing and Christian icons. However, at last I found Hagia Sophia's
Pantocrator. It stood atop the Emperor's special entrance--and I fell
in love with it.

Hagia Sophia's Pantocrator is a great study in brown and blue, and
the face is surprisingly gentle. It takes a lot of artistic skill to create
a gentleness interlaced with a majestic strength. At long last, I had
found *my* Pantocrator, if you will.

But it was time to return to Athens and onward towards home.
Sailing back, in open waters, it happened to be Orthodox Easter.
Our ship's captain presided over a midnight vigil service on deck.
Not knowing beforehand, but at the stroke of midnight all the ships
at sea shot-up fireworks. It was an incredible sight, watching this
vast celebration lighting the Aegean sky--as far as one could see.
I thought of my Pantocrator, thinking that all this celebration was in
his honor. It was a very, very special occasion.

(1) Pantocrator

I must admit to having an affinity for cathedrals in Washington.
Besides the National Cathedral, I happened to visit the Shrine of
the Immaculate Conception. It was an astounding place, really
different, in that it was a huge Byzantine church replete with tile,
icons, and beautiful side chapels where one could go and lose
one's self.

One could not miss the great "Christ in Majesty," a massive icon
situated in the back of the church. It depicted a youthful Christ,
whose solar crown shot forth fire as if in the form of a cross.
However, the face of this particular Christ was different, not
Semitic in detail. Neither was this icon a depiction of the suffering
Christ. Rather, the face was strong, almost fierce, sheathed by
a head of blonde hair.

Well I had to ask about this. A docent told me the story; and it
was the first time that I had heard the term "Pantocrator," which
means the Lord of the Universe, of the Celestial Realm, Cosmic,
having Dominion over Nature. The depiction in the Shrine
was borrowed from likenesses of Christ found in the Roman

Frankly, this particular Pantocrator took my breath away. I
was in awe, having never understood Christ in this manner.
Interestingly, here I was, at the point where I felt I needed
somehow to translate my concept of Christ into a more
universal perspective.

Running to the dictionaries, to the encyclopedias, I discovered
that the Pantocrator was part and parcel of Early Christian thought.
Scholars believe that they very earliest icon of the Pantocrator
was found at an ancient monastery in the Egyptian Sinai. Then
this particular iconography proliferated in the Aegean world, and
eventually into the West.

I talked to friends--and no one knew anything about the Pantocrator!
How could such an incredible concept of the Christ become lost?
After some digging, I discovered that the Pantocrator has never
been lost. It just changed its guise down through the centuries,
operating almost in memetic fashion as the "Christ of Faith." I
discovered, too, that as an *ideaI* that continues and continues,
moving forth peoples, through their hope and aspirations,
throughout the world, that this great Universal Christ is actually a
CONTINUUM with roots in the pagan world, as the Logos of the
ancient Greek philosophers unto the Cosmic Christ. I realized
that the Pantocrator incorporated all this.

Lucky me! Living in the Washington area I had access to so much.
All I had to do was wait for something to drop in my lap. It did.
The National Gallery of Art was providing a weekend seminar on
Byzantine Iconography presented by Jaroslav Pelikan, then an
eminent church historian from Yale University.

Iconography, of course, is about icons--images or representations
that can be produced from various materials. Jaroslav Pelikan
talked mainly about the earlier imagery, those Christian icons that
dated from the 6th century c.e. onward. But occasionally Pelikan
would slip in some comments that caused my ears to perk. He
talked about the pagan and early Christian connections when it
came to the Logos. Long held as the Ground of Being, the Reason
that stands behind all Creation, by both Platonist and Stoic
philosophers, Christian Fathers in turn declared Jesus Christ as
the "Incarnation of the Logos." This declaration was the point where
Pagan Philosophy and Christianity met. Professor Pelikan also
talked about what the Church calls the "Christ of Faith," as discussed
in his book "Jesus through the Centuries."

After the seminar I rushed out looking for this book. And, again, the
incredulous: the book was dedicated "To the Benedictines of Saint
John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota." It would seem no matter
where you turn, you can't run ahead of those savvy monks!

As for the Pantocrator, what early Christianity seemingly did was give
this great Intelligent Force a living face when it declared Jesus as the
"Incarnation of the Logos." This great Cosmic Energy was no longer
just a pantheistic concept, but rather had become a Person among
us--the Pantocrator that has continued with us down through the
centuries, ever shifting its imagery within our minds, ever moving us
forward in our Passage.

(1) Sensate Side

Whenever I was nearby the Washington National Cathedral,
I would stop and pay a visit. Architecturally, it was built in the
English Gothic style. There's a grandeur there, what with its
beautiful stained glass windows--one in which is placed a
moon-stone brought back by one of the astronauts. And
outside there's a beautiful garden where I would go and
just bask amongst the trees and flowers and simply relax.

Not knowing it back then, but the cathedral quietly turned me
onto yet another path in my journey. One day, as I was leaving,
I spotted an announcement about the Shalem Institute for
Spiritual Formation. It was an ecumenical spiritual community
then connected with the Washington National Cathedral. The
founders were Tilden Edwards, a priest, and Gerald May who
was a psychologist. The institute offered an entire program on
"spiritual direction." I didn't go into this, but I did participate in
some workshops presented by Gerald May.

Again, so many years have passed by that I find it difficult to
related accurately the specifics that Dr. May conveyed in these
workshops, but what has stuck in my mind is his emphasis
that we are *incarnated* beings. As he put in one of his fine
books, "Humans are physical beings. We are incarnated.
The live of our bodies and minds is both an expression of
and a prerequisite for our growth as souls."

This inspired me to consider how my sensate side might be
such an expression when it comes to enhancing my soul.
Doing so, I was rather surprised.

It would seem that I had long combined creativity and beauty
with my sensate side. Over the years, close to home, I invested
a lot of effort enjoying interior design and landscaping. Colors
were very important to me. The combinations of leather, rugs,
objects of art were significant. I also built gardens.

Music, too, fed my sensate side. Often at concerts my body
would be nearly thrilled by glorious music. Indeed, let me hear
Beethoven's "Egmont" and I can almost guarantee an energy
burst, like lightening bolts, shooting out of my head.

I found, also, that travel complimented the sensate in me. I had
been in some wonderfully exotic places--whether Egypt, whether
Brazil, whether Hawaii, whether Alaska. Riding a camel (that
seemed as tall as a skyscraper) aside the Pyramids resides
keenly in my memory. Lounging poolside in Rio de Janerio,
watching paragliders in the distance, jumping off jungle-green
mountains, and drifting down to the beach, walking in the mists,
amongst triple rainbows, or standing on glaciers where the cold
penetrated all through my body--all these experiences somehow
are always with me, all have helped forge my soul in unknown
and wonderful ways.

The appreciation of Beauty is not only the purview of poets and
artists, but such is significant among monastics as well.

(2) Image & Identity

Earlier I mentioned that I was experiencing some "Big Dreams" that
seemed to point towards a monastic archetype dwelling deep in my
soul. However, moving into dreamwork can be tricky. You are always
walking on fairly slippery ground. Yet, as the Medieval Mystics had
their visions and insights, presumably via contemplation and prayer,
I might dare to say that these special series of dreams were the form
in which I experienced some insight.

In order to glean anything half-way sensible from dreams, of course
one has to remember them, write them down quickly before they are
lost, and especially realize that their language is usually symbolic.
One has to become adept when it comes to dream symbolism.

So this was the situation I faced, trying to become more cognizant
not only with the wherewithal of dreamwork, but also with what I
discovered to be a very well documented examination of the
Archetype. What specialists declare that we are encountering here
is a "Typos" or an "Original Typos." The archetype is imprinted in our
psyche. And if we believe such, well--if mined appropriately--we can
discover the *blueprint* of who we really are, about our personal
map! And in the end I suppose it boils down to an invested faith
when it comes to not only the Archetype but in any spiritual treasure
one might find in the hard dreamwork that is about un-earthing,
mining the soul, in in regard to not only "who" it is, but what it need
be about in terms of a life-course.

Eventually I moved into Typology. I came across an advertisement
put out by a Jesuit retreat center offering a Myers-Briggs Typology
test accompanied by a spiritual interpretation of such. Again--only a
day's drive away, I jumped into my car and took off for the rolling
hills of Pennsylvania.

The Typology retreat was fun. The presenter was a Jesuit priest
and psychologist. I took the type test and discovered my type.
And I could hardly believe it, but the definition of my particular type
described me, my preference, nearly perfectly!

So, to make a long story short, following my dalliance with typology,
I graduated into at least several years studying depth psychology.
Understanding better the individuation process, I worked through
to another level of spiritual experience. By this, I mean that I finally
encountered what psychologists call the "Greater Self." This
involves the discovery that deep within one's soul there dwells
another Personality that is far and beyond the ego-self. And
some have dared to call this Greater Self "God."

My encounter with the Greater Self astounded me. For the very
first time I realized that no matter how I might have planned or
plotted, even if I had a century to do so, there was absolutely *no*
way that I could have wrought the Wisdom and the Goodness I
met upon this occasion. Call if mystical, call it mine!

This special encounter also helped me to accept my deeper
sense of identity. My role was to be a seeker, an explorer,
taking new paths, finding new ways, working into different
paradigms of thinking. All through, follow the Light. And I need
not fear. So it would seem assuming the mantle of a monastic
was just right for the job. But as always with me, it's all easier
said than done,

(1) Image & Identity

When enrolled in the Psychology seminar at Matthew Fox's
workshop, I had occasion to talk privately with the Jungian
analyst who was leading it. Not normally giving over to talking
about private issues, I surprised myself. I had been having
dreams that were bothering me, dreams about death and
resurrection. As I related these dreams to the analyst, he
finally said "you have to make a change."

What had been bothering me was the disparity between my
professional life and this big shift I had made that had led me
to the monastery--and eventually towards a more monastic
orientation. The disparity was huge. When young I majored
at various undergraduate and postgraduate schools in several
disciplines. As put, they included International Studies, Science
Studies, and Policy Studies.

This academic background prepared me for the "real world," if
you will. It was a world of super-powers standing off against
one another during the Cold War. The super powers were
gaming with one another, rattling their swords with those
monstrosities of technology: weapons of mass destruction.
And my work as a government science and technology analyst
specifically focused on global security issues, involving non-stop
stress. Occasionally a crack opened in this dangerous game,
and that's where the business of arms control and disarmament
entered into the picture. It was the ancient business of trying to
forge swords into ploughshares. More than often, however, it
was a fruitless endeavor. Weapon systems would be retired,
only to be replaced by even more sophisticated, more
dangerous weapons.

My last few years in this kind of work I had become sick to death
of it. And those death and resurrection dreams had become
obvious to me, even before the Jungian analyst said "you have
to make a change."

It was a big life decision for me, but I decided to retire from the
government as early as I could--while I was still youngish. I
cannot deny that it was scary, carrying through with this decision.
I had financial concerns, but I figured that I could manage. Of more
concern was the question over what I would do for the rest of my
life. As it turned out, I need not have been worried over this at all.
There was plenty to do, even though I wasn't clear at the time.

Leaving my professional life was like a "death" for me, but it was a
happy death! For the first time in a long time I felt really free.
Nevertheless, at this point, the challenge facing me was the issue
of "resurrection."

In a very real way I suddenly had lost my sense of identity. Tthere's
always that light discourse that one's identity should be about who
you are, not what you do; but, when push came to shove, I realized
that over those many years with government that--yes--I had
identified with this work. It was important, necessary. Stressful as
it had become, there was a part of me that identified with the idea
of being a good guardian. But now I had seemingly had become

Being "nothing" doesn't mean that there's nothing to do. It didn't take
me long to start filling in the days. Now free with my time, I decided
to enroll in a course at the Washington Theological Union. Focusing
on Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, the course was
taught by John Welsh--a Carmelite priest and monk. I was still
trying to come to grips with the Medieval Mystics. However, at the
same time, I noted that Fr. Welch approached these two Carmelite
saints from a psychological perspective.

Again, as with the Psychology seminar at Matthew Fox's workshop,
I was especially interested in Welch's use of Jungian Psychology.
Though not yet all that cognizant, I was becoming keenly interested in
depth psychology operating on two levels: the personal level, and the
religious level. By "religious," I was mostly trying to harken back to who
Jesus was, trying to understand more explicitly--psychologically--what
his message might intend.

Fortunately I was lucky. In this course I found out about the Jungian
analyst and priest John Sanford, who wrote some very important books
to which I attend unto this day. Two I'll mention:


Approaching depth psychologgy at the religious level proved an
eye-opener for me. I found loads of Jungian authors publishing books
in this field, With this, I had moved into the psychological imagery of
Religion--only to discover that this approach towards our human
understanding of the Numinous had long been around amongst
religious scholars and mythologists. Again, I was not threatened; but,
rather, totally fascinated by the new insights that I was encountering.
Also, I was beginning to use depth psychology regarding my own
understanding of "who I am." It's back to this business of identity.

(2) Introspective Interim

Given my earlier enthusiasm, I had begun to read some of the
Medieval Mystics. Albeit, at my lowly stage of spiritual development,
a lot of this material was going right by me. Intriguingly, when I first
started this project I had mentioned it to a church friend of mine. He
said that he did not read that kind of "stuff," because it was
unhealthy. I couldn't figure why he said that, but I wasn't put off.

Moving into the Medieval Mystics, I slowly began to understand
why my friend said what he did. Reading on, I could see that there
was a lot of flagellation and fasting as well as an extreme emphasis
on sin and suffering. Then--as now--I am rather cool when it comes
to this kind of religious expression. I since have discovered that
there have been a number of psychological studies pertaining to
these mystics. Sometimes they can make for some uncomfortable

Nonetheless, dipping a little into the history of the Middle Ages
there was plenty to be sad about, to suffer over, to be concerned
with guilt. The Black Plague wiped out a large percentage of
medieval Europe's population. The scourge of death was
everywhere. People must have wondered why God was doing
this to them. Likely they carried around a deep sense of guilt
and fear. Historically, it was most definitely a dark, dark time.
And ignorance abounded as well. So there was a lot of negative
feelings and fear seeping into the collective sense of consciousness--
and it provided a platform, a feeding ground, that prompted some of
the more unhealthy leanings found in the Medieval Mystics.

Still, one cannot dump these mystics "en masse." There was also
insightful introspection that speaks to the human experience, to
our spiritual needs. I liked Saint Teresa of Avila. I liked Hildegaard
of Bingen. And I especially liked Meister Eckhart. Teresa was one
tough mystic. She not only sustained her brother mystic, Saint John
of the Cross, but occasionally she told the Pope what to do--and
managed to live through it.

In the midst of my mystical studies I was alerted to a workshop on
the Medieval Mystics. It was going to be presented by Matthew Fox--
then a Dominican priest, who specialized in the spirituality of the
mystics. Being held up in the Philadelphia area, at a religious order
college, I went and was astounded by what I found!

Upon arriving at this workshop, I expected a small group of people
similar in size and focus as the Gospel workshop was at the
Benedictine ArchAbbey. Wrong, very wrong! Rather, there seemed
a cast of thousands. Maybe not really that many, but there were tons
of people circulating around that small campus up in Philadelphia.
Probably at least half of the attendees were clergy and religious,
but the other half were laity of all stripes and spots.

I have to admit that at first I was overwhelmed by this huge crowd.
Beyond even the numbers, the workshop itself took on different
colors. It turned out that only one small section was devoted to the
Medieval Mystics. There were other sections where one could study
Yoga, Sacred Dance, Gestalt and Jungian Psychology, Native
American Rituals, Science and Spirituality, and Feminist Theology.
Too, too much! I like like a "babe in the woods" in the midst of all

The next morning I finally did find Matthew Fox's seminar. Over the
course of the week, he focused on Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of
Bingen--the two mystics who fascinated me. But let me talk a little
about the other adventures I had there. In tandem with Fox's
seminar, I found the seminar on Science and Spirituality fascinating.
I hadn't been introduced to this approach before, though it
ultimately turned prophetic for me. A really handsome young man
by the name of Brian Swimme taught this seminar. He was a
physicist by profession, and was a protege of Thomas Berry--who,
at this time, I didn't know but in time would.

And as an addendum, I also attended the Psychology seminar.
It was taught by a former Dominican, turned Jungian analyst.
As it turned out, Providence was giving me an assist--in that from
this seminar I gained certain insights and would embark down an
altogether new path.

(1) Introspective Interim

Looking back, a term comes to mind: a "wannabe monk." This
term implies a person who usually spends far too much time in
a monastery without taking the plunge. Perhaps in my own case
I wasn't able to do that because of the considerable distance
away from the monastery I attended. Consequently, I could only
visit there occasionally.

But to be fair to myself, I once visited a motherhouse of
Benedictine Sisters in another city. After meeting with the
prioress, she handed me off to a younger sister who gave me a
tour. In fact, in her mid-40s, she was the youngest professed in
the priory. We talked about the life there, and she told me
straight. Even back then monastic houses were growing
thinner in numbers and older in age. Not bitter, yet somewhat
saddened, she said it was hard to live fully the Benedictine life
as it once was, because of the need to be mostly a geriatric
nurse! She showed me what she meant.

We entered a huge room where some twenty aged sisters, fully
garbed in their old-fashioned cloister clothing, sitting separately
in armchairs replete with foot-stools, were watching a single big
television set. It was afternoon, so I could imagine the only
thing showing were the soap-operas. Anyway, the sight was
kind of shocking--yet, oddly funny. I felt bad, because it was all
I could do to keep from laughing at this strange sight.

But, really, it was no laughing matter. Seeing what I saw during
this visit was a prelude of what was to come in religious houses
all around the world. It wasn't where I wanted to be, and I have
never been sorry about *not* taking the plunge--choosing to live
behind the walls, so to speak. So I didn't haunt the monastery;
however, the monastery haunted me!

I tried to configure a Benedictine life outside the walls. But I
went at it far too compulsively. I literally wrote out a very rigid
"game plan," wherein nearly every minute of my day followed
the old medieval regimen of the Order. Well this effort was
doomed from the start. I bucked like a wild horse, mentally
flogging myself constantly because of my failure(s). It was near
a hopeless effort on my part. My situation, my disposition, my
professional responsibilities simply precluded living out my
game plan in any meaningful way. Constantly trying and falling
brought me to tears.

Normally a practical person, I couldn't grasp why I was doing
this to myself--trying to live a rigid, medieval-sort of life to which
I was not well disposed. Yet I felt myself drawn to the monastic.
And it was at this point that I began to have a long drawn-out
series of what the Native Americans call "Big Dreams."
Numinous, these kind of dreams demand attention. And even
then, a neophyte when it comes to dreamwork, I realized the
strong archetypal monastic rooted deep in my soul.

I needed help and at least had the good sense to seek out a
spiritual director. Going to the monastery, I was assigned to a
wonderful monk. In this, God gave me a gift. Meeting about
once-a-month, I began a new adventure with my good, gentle
abbot. A British gentleman, he was a cheerful wise soul who
possessed that greatest of all Benedictine capacities: the ability
"to listen."

Upon our first meet I remember mumbling, nearly unable to
convey my concerns, because I couldn't figure such myself. At
the end of the hour my abbot exclaimed, "well you are a loner!"
And with this he seemed exceedingly delighted. Driving home,
I was confused. For the first time I realized that I was a solitary
trying to live a Benedictine life. I couldn't connect all the seeming
disparity. Rather it appeared that I was a walking breathing

(2) Gospel Truths

There's lots to learn in biblical scholarship; but, as one learns
more, it doesn't have to be threatening. Indeed the challenges
involved make these great Gospel Narratives even more intriguing.

The Gospels workshop at the ArchAbbey proceeded throughout
the week. During the breaks and the meals I was able to meet
more of the monks and priests. They were friendly, and maybe
for the first time I really began to be comfortable amongst the
religious and clergy. As for the workshop, it covered a lot of
territory that I can only discuss very peripherally. Even as far back
as then, computers were being used to determine the writing style(s)
of the Gospel writers. Using this technological tool, the idea that
there was more than one writer in some texts was made firmer.

The director of the workshop also mentioned what most of us
already know now, but maybe not so much back then. A whole
battery of major biblical scholars were hot on the trail of the
"Historical Jesus." (In more recent times I have read a good
number of these studies, but back then I hadn't even heard of the
term --the "Historical Jesus".) Much earlier Albert Schweitzer--
the great missionary and musician--had proposed a major
professional effort to try to find out more about the man Jesus,
about who he was, how he lived in the 1st century c.e. in Ancient
Palestine. And there were even efforts before Schweitzer!

There was also mention of the Nag Hammadi Library in the
workshop. Again zero--I didn't know a thing about this
momentous event. Back in 1945 an Egyptian peasant discovered
jars full of codices (ancient books) that contained other Gospels.
Well you could have blown me away with a feather! Presumed to
have been part of a monastic library in the Egyptian desert, the
monks hid these books so as not to be persecuted. These other
Gospels are part and parcel of the dichotomy between the orthodox
and the heterodox groups in the early Church. They represented,
probably at a later date, another perspective when it comes to
understanding Christ and the human ontological condition.

Some of these other Gospels were considered to be gnostic
writings, some not. Gnosticism actually existed before and outside
Christianity, but there were also Christian gnostics. And "gnosis"
was about knowing, about a special insight, when it comes to
understanding God. There were Christian gnostic bishops and
leaders, just as there was in that other part of Christianity that
tended towards orthodoxy. But the crux of the problem between
these two groups would seem to have been about "authority,"
mainly human authority. The differences in outlook regarding this
issue was like a wide chasm.

In time Christian orthodoxy would have seemed to have won the day.
For nearly two millennia there was only a trickle of information about
those other Gospels. Seemingly, they disappeared--except for
fragments here and there--until that momentous day in 1945. Alas,
the Egyptian peasant took these ancient codexes home, kept them
for awhile, and horrors upon horrors his mother tossed a few of
these ancient books into a cooking stove. She used them as fuel
for the fire. God only knows what was destroyed.

Participating in this workshop at the Benedictine ArchAbbey really
set me off onto a new exciting venture. Determined to follow
through on some of the presentations, I have spent many years
reading scholarly understandings of Jesus. Nonetheless,
questions--big questions--remained. Still (for me) the lesson
taught by this effort is that we need try to understand *the* world in
which the Gospel writers were addressing. Today many of us
haven't an inkling about these ancient conditions under which the
Gospel writers wrote their story.

However, what I did discover is that I really "like" Jesus. An *Imago
Dei* or not, he's my kind of man! Here's an incredible soul, born in
the midst of poverty, born under the rigid Law of the Pharisees,
born under the iron Rule of the Romans, yet somehow letting his
light shine, trying to bring forth the Light into a very dark world. It
was an impoverished world struggling towards light, towards
knowledge and freedom, towards making meaning. And Jesus
tried to provide an answer and was murdered for his efforts.

Scholastically I worked towards getting more of an insight into how
he thought, about how he presented himself. What were the great
themes, the great universal symbols, that tried to explain who Jesus
was. And beyond the scholarship I had also reached the point
where I was trying more to understand this Mystery of Jesus (of God)
within myself via contemplation, dreamwork, mystical accounts. I
was about to move into the territory of the Medieval Mystics as well
as facing my own depths while circling the Abyss.

(1) Gospel Truths

Arriving home from the Holy Land I pretty much settled into
some more familiar activities. For quite awhile I had been
collecting and reading books by Benedictine authors. I was
trying to understand better the monastic approach to life.
Nearly from the start I depended on the writings of Thomas
Merton--a Trappist monk whose Order, nonethless, focused
on the Benedictine Rule.

Reading through these books I realized that these monastic
authors had a far better grip than I when it came to their faith.
Their writing presupposed a far better background than I
when it came to biblical study and Christianity in general. I
suppose I could have excused myself, being a mostly
unlearned lay person, but I realized that this was no excuse.
Rather, becoming "learned" was the challenge! Call it part of
the schooling process; or more specifically, call it the continuing
never ending endeavor towards "Seeking God." This is a
Benedictine mandate, and I was wondering how to go forth
with this.

At this point Providence provided some direction. While
wondering how to go forth, an opportunity arose to attend a
week-long workshop at a large Benedictine ArchAbbey
that was about a day's drive away. The subject was an
examination of the Four Gospels, presented by a monk-
scholar whose expertise was well known. Indeed he had been
a contributor to select Bible publications. I felt I couldn't miss
the opportunity, so off I went.

Arriving, I found the ArchAbbey an absolutely huge facility,
There was the monastery, much larger than my local abbey
and full of a great deal more monks. The ArchAbbey also had
a Benedictine college attached to it. So I was able to make use
of its library during my free time. And I did, discovering many
new Benedictine books that I added to my list to read later on.

After my afternoon arrival, we were served dinner and then
treated to a lovely concert in the sanctuary, One of the monks
had once been a professional opera singer, and he delighted
us with an hour of gorgeous songs. Sitting there I looked around
and admired the large sanctuary. It was not a cold place, but
rather exuded a warmth and a peace that somehow can envelop
a person. This special hour went far too quickly. Again, it was
part of the famous Benedictine hospitality.

Following a walk around the spacious grounds, we went to the
classroom for introductions. It turned out that I found myself
surrounded by priests. There were only two lay persons in the
class: a gentleman and me. The remainder, maybe about 25,
were both religious order and diocesan priests. Need I say I felt
a bit uncomfortable (being the only female) surrounded by all
these men in their collars, robes, or at least totally black attire.
Nevertheless, I was determined to see the workshop through.

Little did I know that this workshop would propel me into entirely
new territories of spiritual study--and generate some really big

Our Gospels workshop at the ArchAbbey started out slowly, maybe
even carefully. Even I knew about some of the disparities in the
Gospels, not getting the stories straight; but what threw me was the
gradual scholarly understanding that, indeed, the Gospels were
written as "narratives." They were stories about Jesus, involving
symbolism, written to fit a certain ancient audience or group to
which the writer was affiliated.

Tradition has it that the disciples--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--
were the authors of the Gospels named after them. The only
trouble with this was that it is now fairly well known that the Gospels
were written decades and decades after the death of Jesus. For
example it is believed as follows: Mark in 70 c.e.; Matthew in
90 c.e.; Luke in 90 c.e.; and John at the end of the 1st century c.e.

This makes a person hard pressed to believe that those first
disciples,who likely were illiterate or nearly illiterate fishermen,
could write the original Greek texts of the Gospels. Matthew the
Tax Collector perhaps was somewhat literate in that we know that
he could count. And Luke the Physician was likely literate--and
probably spoke and wrote Greek, which was actually the major
language of commerce in the Hellenistic World.

Also the Gospels written towards the end of the 1st century c.e.
would seem to have been written by writers who assumed the
name of a disciple in terms of authorship. This was not uncommon
practice then in the greater Greco-Roman culture.

However, we know that the Gospels were written by humans--not
by the hand of God. Were the writers "divinely inspired?' Who is to
say. The Gospels have had a long track record. Still the Gospels
are not to be taken literally, like a historical document with a writer
following Jesus around like a scribe. Rather, scholars believe the
Synoptic Gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--were based upon Oral
Tradition, or upon another earlier record that is referred to as the
Q-document. This supposed unknown document has never been
discovered, however. As for John's Gospel, presumably written in
Ephesus, it's more a spiritual testament written maybe by several

(5) Holy Land

Being back in Jerusalem was almost too much. I had to see so
many places before I was due to return home. Unfortunately I
wasn't able to see nearby Bethany (now an Arab town) where
Jesus knew Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Speculating of course,
it would seem that Jesus must have gone down to Jerusalem
periodically, maybe on feast days, because he counted the two
sisters and their brother as his friends,

As for myself, finding some friends, we bravely went forth into
the Old City of Jerusalem. Unbelievable, but we walked through
narrow streets, amongst bazaars, that surely seemed as if they
were transported unchanged through the centuries--all the way
from Jesus time to our own. Lots of Arabs, selling their wares, and
I ended--up buying a little crucifix made by a Muslim. Somehow
it all seemed appropriate.

I did manage to reach the "Wailing Wall," reputed to be the last
standing portion of the Second Temple--the one where Jesus
preached on its steps and drove out the moneychangers.
Probably this particular act led eventually to his condemnation
and ultimate crucifixion. But I returned to the scene of his agony:
the Garden of Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of

After his trial Jesus was crucified. I read later the fine details of
a Roman crucifixion, It was very "tough" reading. Bluntly put, the
prisoner wasbrutalized first, whipped harshly, and stripped naked
he was usually roped to a tree or a cross. As Scripture notes,
Jesus was nailed to the cross. The technique of hanging caused
gradual suffocation--and to hurry along this process, there was a
crotch piece that proved terribly painful, thus disallowing a point
of rest where the victim could catch his breath. Oft the prisoner's
legs were broken to hasten the process of death. And upon death
the body was left to rot on the cross, eaten away by birds. dragged
down into the dirt by dogs. Roman crucifixion was a terrible,
terrible way to die.

With this in mind, I ended my time in Jerusalem by visiting the
Holy Sepulcher. As I started this journey, I ended once again
with Constantine's mother, the good lady Saint Helena. She
supposedly found the "True Cross" in a rock-cut tomb, thus
determined as Jesus' tomb. (There's competition, however, called
the Garden Tomb where landscape around shows sunken holes,
looking like the eyes of a skull.) Nonetheless, I chose Saint
Helena's choice.

Entering the dark old church that encases the Holy Sepulcher ,
I found myself in a long line of pilgrims. We slowly inched our
way into the tomb area that looked utterly strange and un-biblical.
There was simply a dark slab standing underneath a canopy of dark,
black stone with supporting columns, People paused at the slab
where one could light a prayer candle. I offered a prayer and
started to move forward out of the tomb area, only to be stopped by
a huge burley priest with a long bushy beard. He was holding what
I first thought to be a tambourine. Imagine my confusion in that dark
place. He wouldn't let me through, and I didn't understand.

Finally the priest shouted "money, money"! Whew, but I'm dense
sometimes. The tambourine suddenly became a collection dish.
And I was expected to pay as I go--or at least pay for the prayer
candle. I should have known better. Nevertheless, this event proved
very sad for me. At that point I was most glad to leave the Holy Land.
Flying home I had a lot over which to ponder.

(4) Holy Land

Following the sequence of Jesus' timeline I next found myself in
Capernaum. After being spurned in his home village of Nazareth,
Jesus moved to Capernaum--perhaps a town of 1,000 in his day,
located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Reportedly
he made his home here, using it as a central headquarters for his
ministry in Galilee.

The radius of Jesus' ministry, fanning out from Capernaum, was
at most 25-30 miles. All in walking distance. And it was at
Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, that he found his
first group of disciples. Peter, Andrew, John (all fishermen) and
Matthew (a tax collector) hailed from Capernaum.

Upon arriving I was struck by the beauty of the place. Even if in
ruins today, it is a singularly pleasant spot full of palm trees,
majestic cyprus, gorgeous flowers, and other plants. And gazing
across the Sea of Galilee, there seemed a hovering fine mist that
made it all seem mystical. Of course I woke from this mini-dream
when it was pointed out that over across the water I was looking
at the Golan Heights, a place of contention, occupation, and war
in our own modern day.

Eventually I managed to break loose and go off by myself. So I
chose to go sit on the side benches of the ruined synagogue,
knowing that there was a very good probability that down below
was the spot where Jesus might have actually stood. Trying to
ponder the significance of this (at least for me), a helicopter came
and flew overhead. I felt like I was being attacked by some gigantic
locust. My quiet time destroyed, I went and visited St. Peter's house
that was later turned into a house-church. Scripture notes that it
was in this house that Jesus healed many of the sick and infirm.

In time I learned that most of the houses of ancient Capernaum
were small and poor, oft made out of the local basalt stone mixed
with other stone and mud. There were no hygienic facilities or
drainage. However, Capernaum was the juncture of some major
crossroads that linked Damascus and Caesarea Maritimia as
well as Tyre and Egypt. Caravans stopped at Capernaum for
resupplies of food and dried fish. Hence customs taxes were
collected at Capernaum from the travelers using these crossroads.

Of course this explains the presence of Matthew the Tax Collector.
It also explains the presence of a Roman military garrison quartered
on the outskirts of Capernaum. Scripture mentions the centurion
(who likely headed this garrison), in that he came to Jesus asking
help to heal his sick servant. Reportedly, too, this good Roman
centurion built the earliest synagogue for the people of Capernaum.
So once again we see Jesus upfront with the Romans.

And not far away I set sight upon the Mount of the Beatitudes
where I visited next. It proved to be the high point of my visit to
the Holy Land.

Not far from Capernaum there's a low-lying hill called Mt. Eremos.
And, traditionally, it has been picked by pilgrims to be the Mount of
the Beatitudes. Below the hill is an expansive plain that could
accommodate large crowds of people.

In Scripture there's no specific place mentioned where Jesus gave
his "Sermon on the Mount." Indeed, some scholars question where
such a sermon was ever presented in its entirety. Some have
considered that fragments of Jesus' sayings were later put together
in sermon form. Who is to say? Regardless, the message comes
through loud and clear!

Approaching the Mount of the Beatitudes I was constantly struck
by the beauty of the place. Like Capernaum, the area had palms
and cyprus as well as old gnarled trees and sea-pine type
evergreens. What caught my eye most were the fields and fields
of glorious wildflowers, sweeping down towards the Sea of Galilee.
It was like you could see forever!

Admittedly I'm prone to natural beauty--so I guess I thought in
these terms, thinking that if the Son of God came to this planet,
well he surely picked the right place to rest and be "at home."
Capernaum and the close-by environs off Mount Eremos, as well
as the Sea of Galilee, are just sumptuous. Their beauty fills the
mind and the eye and surely must make one tend towards the
finer elements of earth and spirit. Jesus certainly had good taste,
if you will.

I hated leaving this special place, but I had to head back to

(3) Holy Land

Cruising alongside a river can make one hard pressed as to
where they are at. After Nazareth and Sepphoris, on another day,
I found myself standing by the River Jordan where Jesus was
baptized by John the Baptist. Where I was standing, this river
seemed more a stream to me--considering I come from a country
of huge expansive rivers.

I had to do some follow-up study about the River Jordan. At
least the geographers agreed with me, in that they refer to this
river as a shallow stream. It rises in Syria and flows some 200
miles south through the Sea of Galilee to the northern end of the
Dead Sea.

As for where Jesus was baptized, there has been some debate
as to any precise location. For years most modern Christian
visitors (who wished to be baptized or re-baptized) went to
Yardinet, on the western side of the River Jordan in Israel.
However, more recently a challenge for the baptismal site has
come from Jordan. Scholars there declare that the more likely
place where Jesus was baptized was on the eastern side of
the river, at a place called Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Not to
be confused with the Bethany near Jerusalem, this particular
Bethany in Jordan has been considered John the Baptist's

So one is left to take their pick, I suppose. But what interests
me more is why Jesus would require baptism? What did baptism
mean back then, in his day? From what I could discover, the
historical background of this is that the Baptist's baptism rite is
probably Jewish proselyte baptism, with John emphasizing by
this that both Jew and Gentile were ceremonially unclean as far
as the true people of God were concerned. Hence, as scholars
put, the baptism of Jesus by John is to be explained not as a sign
that Jesus needed repentence, but rather that by this act he was
identifying himself with mankind in the proper approach to
God's kingdom.

As Scripture tells us, after being baptized Jesus headed into the
desert where he struggled with the dark power for 40 days and
40 nights. I, too, followed the River Jordan southward heading
into the desert,

Driving into the desert was not as gradual as I thought it would
be,especially after leaving the valleys and hills of Lower Galilee
where Jesus had lived. It seemed suddenly that we were in the
Judean Desert, assumed to be where Jesus headed after his
baptism. Though there's always speculation, one cannot
presume to know the exact part of the desert where Jesus

The Judean Desert is not a sandy Sahara, but rather a
mountainous and rocky landscape. Essentially, it is a scrub-
coveed badland; but it does have intermittent oases. As I
looked out upon this rough place, I really had to wonder how
any man--including Jesus--could have survived on his own for
some 40 days and nights. It could be that Jesus was already
familiar with this desert, knowing where the oases were located.
But climbing and walking alone out there in that demanding
place would imply a certain physical and mental toughness!
As for battling the dark power, well this would be the place to
do it.

As we continued towards the Dead Sea we passed the mountain
caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Those
Scrolls are a story all by their selves, consisting of three types of
materials: (1) a collection of copies of the actual books of the
Hebrew Scriptures; (2) commentaries on these biblical texts; and
(3) material that offers insight into the life of the community,
presumably the reported Essene monastic establishment at
nearby Qumran. There's continuous debate regarding the Scrolls
and Qumran, from wondering if the Scrolls included parts of the
Temple Library to whether Qumran was actually an Essene

Nonetheless, speculation runs wild. And some of that speculation
may not be unreasonable. A lot of focus is on John the Baptist--
presumably a kin of Jesus. Could the Baptist have been an
Essene, perhaps somehow linking Jesus to the Essenes?

All I can justifiably say is that there were three major religious
groups in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus: the Saddacees, a
priestly group; the Pharisees, who were concerned with the Law
of Moses and were kind of "moral policemen;" and the Essenes,
a puritanical reform group noted for their abstemious living.

As for the Essenes, specifically, they had their own communities,
lived in villages of their own or in establishments in larger cities.
Of course, too, they had monastic communities composed of male
celibates, who adopted children so as to guarantee continuance
of the monastery. When it comes to Jesus, we can only wonder o
ver but not prove if he ever had any links with the Essenes.

There were similarities: a close community life; sharing a common
purse; baptism; healing ministry with power through the hands;
and the importance given to common meals. However, Essenes
did not go out into the world, like Jesus; and Jesus enjoyed festive
meals, whereas Essenes were quite picky. And Jesus was loose
with puritanical laws, so valued by the Essenes.

(2) Holy Land

Nazareth proved to be more interesting for me. Today Nazareth
is a huge Arab town, a far cry from the small village where Jesus
lived as a boy and young man. We went to the Church of the
Annunciation, where again 4th century Christians declared this
to be the spot where the angel Gabriel came to Mary and
announced that she would give birth to the Son of God. Under-
neath the church we visited were excavations. They consisted
of limestone caves, some of which contained pottery and other
cooking material. While down there, some archaeologists were
at work. They speculated that people may have lived in these
caves back during Jesus' time. This kind of boggled my mind,
that Jesus might have grown-up in a cave! Why not, as the
excavators put: these caves were warm in the winter and cool
in the summer. Still there's some confusion, in that these
excavations are considered by some to be tombs.

Since my visit to Nazareth I have been fascinated with the on-
going archaeological evidence coming forth about 1st century
Nazareth. For example an ancient Nazareth farm has been
unearthed, where a wine press was discovered. The evidence
shows that likely some of the early villagers made their living
growing grapes, olives, and grain.

Also archaeologists have been investigating the discovery of a
large bath in Nazareth. Identified as a Roman bath, it consists of
a hypocaust and frigidarium. Startling, but this evidence strongly
suggests that this bath had to be used by a Roman garrison. This,
too, boggles the mind--in that there were legionaries present near
or in that small village. Again, maybe not so surprising, since
Galilee was a major crossroads of the Roman Empire and
probably was well protected by Roman soldiers.

What this seems to suggest is that Jesus was upfront with the
Romans. As a boy, he could have talked with these legionaries.
Perhaps got ideas from them, even religious ideas from these
soldiers whose religion was more than often centered around the
Sun God Mithras. Beyond this, just four miles away from Nazareth
was the ancient capital of Sepphoris--a large town whose
population (during the time of Jesus) consisted mostly of urban
Jews and some pagans.

Unfortunately, as I passed by Sepphoris, though pointed out to
me, I didn't know anything about it at the time. But I do now!

Built on a hilltop, Sepphoris can be seen for miles. Even I saw it,
being only four miles away from Nazareth. Today its ruins are
being excavated. At the time I passed by, I didn't know that
Sepphoris was actually the capital of Galilee during the time of
Jesus. It was the administrative center of Herod Antipas, who
actually resided there upon occasion,

Following a revolt in 4 b.c.e. the Roman Governor of Syria
destroyed the city; but by the 1st century c.e. Herod Antipas was
rebuilding Sepphoris. Jesus was a boy and a young man during
this major building period; and it has been speculated by scholars
that he and his earthly father, Joseph, may have been involved in
this new construction.

As these scholars put, both the gospels of Matthew and Mark note
in the Greek that Jesus was a *tekton,* which meant "builder"
rather than the inaccurate later translations calling him a carpenter.
Essentially he was a skilled craftsman, skilled in both wood and
stone work. The close proximity of Sepphoris, being walking
distance from Nazareth, as well as a likely job market, makes it
highly suggestive that Jesus probably worked there--or at least had
visited there. Tradition has it that his mother's parents Joachim and
Anna came from Sepphoris and that Mary, herself, may have
grown-up there.

During his day, Jesus would have found Sepphoris a bustling
city with a population around 30,000. The inhabitants were
mostly urban Jewswith perhaps some pagan citizens as well.
Mainly Sepphoris served as an administrative center, replete
with a civil basilica with white mosaic floors and offices upstairs.
Hence it was understandable that amongst its citizens, there were
judges, scribes, and chief tax collectors.

Also the city was wealthy, providing support to the administrative
center. Thus there were also lawyers, physicians, soldiers. Of
course there were others amongst the population, ranging from
owners of estates to tenant farmers. Architecturally Sepphoris was
a Greco-Roman city with two market places that attracted caravans
from many nearby towns. There were colonnaded plazas,
mansions, a theatre (under debate, however, as to whether it
existed during the 1st century c.e.), cisterns, and a complex
drainage system.

Learning about Sepphoris causes one to pause and wonder
about this far greater and more sophisticated milieu to which
Jesus was surely exposed. We certainly didn't learn about this
next-door neighbor in Sunday School or in the Scriptures. Yet
here it is! I saw Sepphoris with my own eyes. It has been there
all along.

(1) Holy Land

At least for me, just about every aspect of the Benedictine
Tradition is about *formation,* particularly spiritual formation--
and it's a lifetime work. It certainly has been for me, and no
doubt I'll be engaged in this process unto my last breath. Why?

I can't speak for others, but within my own depths there was
something that really responded to the need to become a more
spiritual person: i.e., recognizing a Higher Power, needing to
relate to Such, and somehow living my life under its direction.
This is rather ambitious, actually. How does one go about
working into this? Especially if one is a solitary sort, so to speak,
standing outside the Benedictine monastery, far beyond the walls.

Even more challenging, how does one even begin the formation
process when one's grip on a sense of God is actually unsteady?
That was surely my case more than three decades back. I had
my little Benedictine booklets, pious, but necessary for a
beginner. Still I wanted to forge much further, much deeper.

Looking back those many years I certainly had an odd way of
starting out. Even though not from Missouri, I had to see for
myself. Other than culturally inheriting my religious belief system,
I hadn't done much depth work when it came to understanding
who Jesus really might be. Sad, but I probably wasn't alone when
it came to this particular situation. Perhaps spur-of-the-moment,
but I decided to go and visit the Holy Land and see those special
places where Jesus lived, taught, and trekked himself.

I was soon winging it to Israel. Naturally I had the bad luck of
landing at Tel Aviv on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath--and
finding transportation to Jerusalem was an incredible challenge.
But I did make it to my hotel, a distance out-of-town but with a
great view of this historic city. I just gazed at it, nearly incredulous
that I was actually there. What an astounding view, *the* place
where three of the world's great religions took root.

After such a long journey, I had to rest for awhile and figure how I
was going to carry through during my visit. Start at the beginning
I guess--so oft to Bethlehem!

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is very old. First built in
the 4th century by St. Helena, burned down (I believe), it was later
rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian. Upon entering, I knew that this
was like no church I ever knew. It was really *old,* really dark, lit
only by high-hanging lanterns. As for Christ's birth, we were given
a glimpse of a small wood manger near an altar--and we were told
that this was Christ's manger. Also nearby was a kind of bejeweled
cistern-like floor, where people could lean down and kiss the exact
place where Jesus was born. Unfortunately (for me), I left that
church and my experience there mostly skeptical.

I wanted to feel guilty over my skepticism, especially since probably
millions of pilgrims have come to that church and truly believed the
details provided them. But I come out of a more investigative milieu,
I guess. And those awful little questions--like how can they point to
this wooden little manger, this specific spot in the ground, and say
essentially that "this is it"?

This all relates back to not even a medieval mindset, but to an
archaic one. Their grasp of historical specifics simply did not exist.
Again piety was at work, assuming a historical correctness. Now
years away from that, I no longer remain so stunned. Yet, at the
time, I just walked out of that church shaking my head in near

(3) Benedictine Background

One aspect of the Benedictine Tradition is not specifically
written out, but *Apatheia* is a monastic backbone. Right off
it should be noted that Apatheia does NOT mean apathy. Rather
Apatheia is about reaching a psychological and emotional level
wherein a person can ward off negative passions. I suppose it's
about reaching a comfortable understanding with one's self,
eventually knowing how to sidestep these disturbing passions
that might come one's way. Of course Apatheia is an ideal, in
that being human one can only attain so much in this regard.

Having studied the philosophy of the Stoa, Apatheia was around
long before St. Benedict arrived on the scene. But, again,
Apatheia is also the backbone of the ideal Stoic Sage.

Presuming here, but if a person can prevent falling into negative
passions it leaves the person free (and somewhat sane) to live
more effectively. It's likely about being healthier. As we are
coming to know, the human immune system can be affected by
the negative passions; thus, such a situation can lead literally to
physical illness. And need it be said, there's also the danger of
mental illness if one falls too far into the abyss of negative
passions. Having said this, perhaps one can assume that
Apatheia might be a very intelligent habit to develop.

Beyond what I have already discussed, there are many other
elements covered by the Rule of St. Benedict. But I have hit upon
the main ones, and the last I shall discuss is about Hospitality.
Throughout their history Benedictines have practiced the pinnacle
of hospitality. Their monasteries have always been open to visitors,
to travelers--whether in the earlier days of the Order or now in our
own day.

In modern times the Benedictines have opened their doors to a
special group of lay people who actually become affiliated with a
particular monastery. They are called "Oblates of St. Benedict."
They receive some initial as well as on-going monastic training,
and are considered a Secular Order--the Benedictine arm out in
the world.

More so, many Benedictine monasteries provide retreats for those
who wish some spiritual direction or respite. Indeed, the need for
retreats oft challenges monastic hospitality--in that at some
monasteries there is literally a waiting list for retreats. Nonetheless,
the Benedictine door remains open, declaring "Peace" for those who
walk-in. With this, I have finished discussing the elements of the
Benedictine Tradition--and now I will move into my personal

(2) Benedictine Background

Benedict decided to leave Rome. Probably burned out by all the
social chaos, he decided to live the solitary life. However, stray
monks asked Benedict to be their leader, He relented, but evidently
did not endear himself to these monks--and they actually tried to
poison him. Later his monastic efforts took a more positive turn.
Benedict's first established monastery was at Subiaco (in Italy),
and later he founded the world-famous abbey of Monte Casino.
It was here that Benedict penned his Rule. In these monasteries
the Benedictine Tradition began--officially assumed to have
started in 480 c.e.

In these early monasteries Benedict's monks were not what we
might expect. Some of these fellows were rough, illiterate
actually, so the Rule (and its points) oft addressed this situation.

For a long period the Benedictines pretty much concentrated in
Italy. However, eventually Pope Gregory the Great asked a small
party of these monks to establish a mission in Britain. Led by a
monk named Augustine a monastery was eventually established in
Canterbury. Even later a British monk called Boniface took the
Benedictine mission to Germany. And over a few centuries there
were Benedictine houses all over the face of Europe. Indeed, for
nearly a thousand-year period in Europe, from around 500 c.e. to
1500 c.e., historians called this the "Benedictine Age." And in due
course Benedictine monasteries dotted the planet.

Essentially during this early European period the Benedictine
monks became the beacons of a civilization that had faded out
fast after the demise of the Roman Empire. The monks kept it
alive, teaching the peasantry the rudiments of agriculture and
how to establish fisheries. In their scriptoriums the monks
tediously duplicated not only the Bible but also great pagan
works of Hellenistic Civilization. These works were secured by
the monks from the Muslims, who actually had kept these scientific
and philosophical writings safe over the centuries. In time the
Benedictines established schools. There was the inner school,
especially designed for the monks. And eventually the monks
made available outer schools that educated the children of the
aristocracy. Their monasteries were not only beacons, but points
around which towns evolved, Once again the flow of civilization
was moving forward.

And what accounts for the success of the Benedictine Tradition--
especially throughout the so-called Dark Ages before the
Renaissance? From a tangible perspective, the Benedictines
concentrated on "community." They were an experimental
community based on the Rule. The Rule stressed that the
Benedictine monastic community was a "School for the Lord's
Service." It was a school where the individual monk would hone
his soul in relation to the other, in community. There were
elements in this Rule that served this purpose--such as
Obedience, Stability, and Conversio Morum.

Obedience was to the abbot, who represented Christ in his
community. Stability was about faithfully staying true to one's
location, living out one's entire life in the monastery. And
Conversio Morum was about an evolving conversion of
manners, moving ever towards the Christ Life. (These above-
stated elements of the Rule were also supported by a variety of
other elements--all of which I'll address further into my journal.

But Obedience, Stability, and Conversio Morum related directly
to an effective community that provided the environment for the
"School for the Lord's Service." It provided structure towards
becoming more civilized and Christ-centered.

I would like to harken back to the "school" that is part of the
Benedictine Tradition. When new monks move beyond their
novitiate, there's the monastic school that provides a serious
academic education that focuses on their vocation. Of course it
includes Christian theological studies, but surely too the reading
and study of the great spiritual treasures of the Church.

On a daily basis, also, there's Lectio Divina, which originally was
reading a passage from Scripture and then meditating on such,
listening, pondering how its wisdom might touch one in special
ways. Today Lectio can also include other forms of spiritual
readings as well as Scripture.

Incorporated in the Benedictine Tradition is the idea of the
"Love of Learning." Over the centuries this special love has
reached out, even far beyond the monastery walls. In today's
world there are monk-scholars in many corners of academe.
But more often they work in theological schools, learning and
teaching. And what is it that they are trying to learn?

It's about what the monk loves most! God. The major mandate in
the Benedictine Tradition is "To Seek God." But as a seeker
discovers, scholarship only touches the surface when it comes
to seeking God. As the Benedictines long ago discovered, there
are many other avenues of approach.

Two other elements of the Benedictine Tradition are significantly
important. Sometimes they go together, as put Ora et Labora. In
Latin they mean Prayer and Work. The main focus of the
Benedictine monks is what is called Opus Dei. Again, from the
Latin which means the "Work of God," Throughout a given day,
monks come together in choir, singing the Great Prayer, their
Work of God. They sing the Psalms, they chant, they sing this
prayer--and it's their major work as Benedictines!

As for prayer, the Benedictines also have engaged in various
forms of such. These past few decades, too, they have had
exchanges with Buddhist monks. And from the Buddhists, the
Benedictines have moved into the depths of silent prayer.

The Benedictines also work, laboring in many endeavors. In
their early days, through the Middle Ages, more than often they
worked the land. Over time monasteries accrued large land
holdings, from donations mostly. Today Benedictines can be
found selling their products, once marvelous liquers. Now they
mainly run private schools and retreat facilities. They serve as
academics, as spiritual masters providing talks, writing books.
They even design websites--probably a spinoff from their
scriptorium days!