I guess it’s time to join my voice to the throngs of bloggers that are addressing the topic of New Monasticism. At its very essence it is a yearning for a simple life that is dedicated to searching for a deep relationship with God. The young people who began this movement felt as though the church and its institutions had abandoned large numbers of people, especially the poor and oppressed. To them, as the desert fathers before them, the answer was to go to these abandoned places and discover the mission of God. In such places, where poverty and crime are rampant, the heart of what it means to share Christ becomes evident.
New Monastics live in communities and have a sense of obligation to make their neighborhoods better places to live and work. They minister to those who have been forgotten and abandoned. Their driving force is to be the hands and voice of Jesus in forgotten places. To accomplish this, these communities live in much the same way as the “old monastics,” sharing lodging, eating common meals, observing times of prayer, and seeking God in their midst.
I had the opportunity to visit one of the most widely known of these communities, The Simple Way, in Philadelphia. The purpose of my visit was to participate in “The School for Conversion,” which means spending an extended weekend observing and participating in the activities of the community. As I toured their neighborhood I met some very humble people, learned how veggie diesel was made, and was introduced to the Urban Chicken movement (I now have chickens). I found my time to be very informative and my discussions with Shane Claiborne, the co-founder of Simple Way, a source of soul searching.
As a third order Benedictine, my goal in life has been to incorporate monastic practices into my daily walk. I am very heartened by the New Monastic movement and its attempt to call us to a more simple and basic way of life. Indeed, our world has become much too complicated and expensive, and for those reasons and others, the ones who most need the love and care of Christianity are left behind