We live in an incredibly mobile society. The average young
American will change jobs more than three times within their first
decade in the workforce. In fact, Forbes reports that 91%
of Millennials (adults born between 1977 and 1997) expect to stay
in a job for less than three years, and the average adult overall
will hold a particular job for only 4.4 years over his or her
We also live in a high-tech world that enables, if not
encourages, more mobility - 90% of adults own a cell phone, 60% a
smartphone and other technologies that allow adults to carry their
office in their pocket or briefcase. As a result, Americans are
living their lives "on the run."
Not every job change means uprooting home, but about six in 10
adults (63%) have moved to a new community at least once in their
lives (2010 Pew Research on American Mobility).
Advances in technologies make life more convenient in many ways.
I can get my email virtually any time or any place, delivered to my
pocket via my iPhone 5c, and I can access the Internet and retrieve
information from my phone almost instantaneously via Google.
But along with the convenience comes the added pressures of
having to meet what can be weighty demands for instantaneous
communication, pressure we often put on ourselves when we think we
have to respond to emails or text messages as soon as we receive
them. This constant "need" to stay connected and up to speed, or
even entertained, can keep us distracted from our work, or from
relationships, that need presence and attention.
One of the vows monks make when we commit ourselves to living
the monastic way of life is called "stability," sometimes rendered
"stability of place." In his Rule for monks, St. Benedict
speaks of the monastery as a "workshop."
In the fourth chapter of the Rule, titled "The Tools
for Good Works," he presents what is basically a lengthy list
consisting of commandments from the Old Testament,
Gospel-imperatives that Jesus teaches to his disciples, and several
disciplines and attitudes Christians should cultivate regarding
their relationships with God, their fellow monks and
Most are scriptural, but there are also teachings that come from
the monastic tradition itself - moral and spiritual precepts that
monks are expected to observe in the "workshop where we are to toil
faithfully at all these tasks in the enclosure of the monastery and
stability in the community." (RB 4.78)
Stability protects the monk from the flux of society and roots
him in a particular monastic household by mutual commitments of
support. Stability is more important than ever in a society such as
our own that stresses constant movement - either literal, physical
mobility, or perhaps more prevalent, the mental gymnastics demanded
by a constant barrage on our attention from many directions at
The vow of stability roots us in a particular place - this
monastery - and commits the monk to a specific group of people, a
family of relationships that require care if they're to develop
beyond the merely superficial. In this technological age, stability
may also mean a commitment to limit distractions caused by
technologies needed for work, like computers, cell phones, tablets,
Perhaps, given the reality of high-tech demands on our
attention, we can exercise a new expression of stability by putting
a premium on concrete, physical presence and "high-touch/low-tech"
communication that goes deeper than texting, "tweeting" or Facebook
messaging. That would demand something more of us, something more
In recent weeks, the monks were busy with what we coined "The
Move" from our monastery into a temporary home in St. Anselm Hall
while our monastery undergoes a facilities upgrade. In the process,
the monastic community experienced a bit of what it feels like to
Of course, we only moved from north of the Abbey Church to the
south side, but my own experience of having to move my home into a
new space has certainly involved a certain amount of stress. As we
continue adapting to new spaces and routines, all this has caused
in me a deeper appreciation for stability, especially at the
For the monk, his "cell," his private room in the monastic
enclosure, is the primary place where he is to encounter God in
personal prayer, and as such, it is a cherished and sacred place
where he opens his heart to God.
He is also expected to become skilled with "the tools of good
works" within the monastic enclosure, where he engages Christ in
the community of brothers through service, fellowship and sharing
life in community. Our house is our home, but stability demands we
continue to faithfully do these things even in our temporary home
in Anselm Hall, which we will do, you can rest assured.
It's been my belief that the monastic value of stability has
very much seeped into our broader Saint Meinrad Archabbey culture.
Our co-workers are anything but "average" in the quality of their
commitment to Saint Meinrad as a place of work. The average Saint
Meinrad co-worker is employed here around 17 years, an impressive
commitment for which we are grateful.
May God continue to grace and bless them and their families, and
give success to the work of their hands!