Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Benedictine Values: Stability

by Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB

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"...The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community." Rule of St. Benedict 7.12

The Benedictine vow called stability is likely not familiar to you, unless you've either attended a monastic profession ceremony at some point, or you are a Benedictine oblate! The vow of stability is, first of all, just what the word implies: a commitment to this placeand this community

Stability is much more than a commitment to "place" as a geographical location, however. By the vow of stability, the monk daily strives to be present, yes, but also available; stable in the sense of emotionally even-keeled and approachable to others, rooted in and reliant upon this community for one's basic needs - physical (food/clothing/housing), relational (comradery/social connection), psychological (sense of purpose/well-being), and spiritual (meaning/sense of destiny). 

Given how often modern monks are sent to work outside the enclosure of the monastery these days - directing retreats, parish ministry, giving conferences and talks, or meeting with groups needing whatever expertise certain monks can offer, and such - it's important to understand stability as a commitment of mind and heart.

One has to be cautious, however, to avoid downplaying too much the importance of actual presence. It would be easy for me to reduce my obligation to stability to a mere "mentality," an abstracted approach to rationalize my persistent absence from the community.  But the obverse is also true; I can be physically present, in the house as it were, but not really at home because I am not emotionally accessible, not engaged. 

To honor the vow of stability means we strive to be present in mind and in body - seeking to engage our brothers beyond a merely superficial level: in our prayer together, in our shared meals and recreation times, and in our work.

Stability demands we be generous in sharing our lives by allowing others to know us, personally and professionally; ready to share ourselves through contributions to the common life - singing, serving, cooking, cleaning and the like - and by hospitably accepting and honoring each brother's contributions to the community's effort to be more than merely a bunch of individuals sharing a house, but, as the Book of Acts renders it, " one  in heart  and  soul." A community where, "No  one claimed that  any  of  his  possessions  was  his own,  but  they shared everything they owned" (Acts 4:32) in common - even our very selves! 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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