Old Monks and New Monastics

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Below is a link to a thoughtful article about the relationship between a declining expression of old monasticism and burgeoning expressions of new monastic spirituality. Steven Hiltner of the New York Times reflects on some real adaptive and creative thinking among the brothers of Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.

In this generation the brothers read a healthy distaste for institutionalism alongside a hunger for immersive spirituality. I concur with that reading. And I like how the brothers of Mepkin Abbey have responded with an associate structure and time-framed immersions in the monastic community and experience. I see these kinds of initiatives as promising ways forward. Personally I have seen some appetite for those forms and through my association with Franciscan and Benedictine communities through the years and in my own work with boomers and millennials in Jesus Generation in the UK and Australia.

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Today when I read of the Trappists’ pioneering days and their self-sustaining patterns of life I see significant points of connection with movements among new generations for sustainable and Eco-friendly living.

The Trappist tradition, like many monastic movements in history, benefited in the C20th century from intakes driven by the social dislocation and disfranchisement experienced by veterans of war. I hear similar notes of disenchantment and disfranchisement growing in Western cultures whose forms of capitalism are creating a growing body of people who realize that in this world they are among the serfs and the excluded. If old monastics can be in active conversation with those kinds of demographics, many more would come to understand how relevant monastic ways and stories are for today. I have hope for new generations and for old monastics alike in that conversation.