Like most I expected that the three vows of a Benedictine monk would be poverty, chastity and obedience. So I was surprised to find that it was obedience, stability and this strange thing called 'conversatio morum'. A number of us have been studying chapter by chapter, Christopher Jamieson's book Finding Sanctuary. He makes all this highly accessible just as he did when the BBC TV reality show 'The Monastery' was shown in the last decade. In the chapter entitled 'Community' Father Jamieson explores this mysterious vow which is centred on a commitment to community life. It could also be interpreted as a commitment to discipleship, deep conversation and the moral courage to carry on when community life gets tough.
A few months in and Ed, Lewis and Johnny can speak about the reality of community life. The challenges are not so much the great areas of theology but the things of daily living, who puts out the bins, etc. Conversely the joys are friendship, companionship and the diversity of people who live under the same roof. The opposite of conversatio morum is grumbling, gossip, doing the minimum, coasting and, of course, eventually abandoning the whole thing. A commitment to the commitment is more than just human effort it is also about opening ourselves to God's grace. Without His power our efforts will be largely in vain.