Unique to the monastic life is our vow of stability. This
particular vow binds us to a specific monastic community, for life.
As monastics, we believe that this is one of the primary
instigators of our continuing conversion, or conversatio
morum, as it is called. As has been said before, it is only in
committing ourselves to someone, or something, that we really
change, that we really become more loving and Christ-like.
This puts us in an interesting conundrum when it comes to
evangelization. Do we, as monastics, go out and roam from city to
city preaching the Good News as the apostles did? The short answer
is "no"; our vow of stability keeps us stationary.
We are called, however, to preach the good news of the
Kingdom from a distance. I like to think of this as "lighthouse
evangelization." Like a lighthouse, we stay stationary on the
fringe of society, projecting out a beacon of light to guide
Instead of warning ships away from the impending doom of the
rocky shore, however, the light we project should always welcome
and draw others in. It should draw others into the peace that is
the Kingdom of Heaven, which we strive to live out in the monastery
this side of death. Crucial to this effort is maintaining a safe
distance from "the world." As monastics, we must remain distinct
enough from the rest of the world, yet at the same time, familiar
enough that we remain approachable.
I've spent quite a bit of effort lately investing time and
energy in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, with the
hope that I might be able to create a window into our lives as
monks while still maintaining some sort of healthy distance. To
some, the use of social media may seem contrary to monastic life,
but in fact, with it I believe we are effectively engaging in this
"lighthouse evangelization." It allows us to keep a proper distance
in order to maintain our quiet life of prayer, yet still share a
piece of ourselves with the world at large.
The ongoing question in religious communities is "how do we
attract new vocations?" I think a good answer to this question is
to simply use your particular method of evangelization.
Franciscans, as is their charism, will engage the world quite
actively, and this is the way new Franciscans will be born.
As monastics, if we truly believe in our method of
evangelization, what I am calling "lighthouse evangelization," then
that same method will undoubtedly prove effective in bringing new
life into the monastery. One of the best things we can do to
attract new vocations is to simply live the life, and to live it