by Brad S. Lutz, oblate class of 2000
In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy performs a simple magic spell: she clicks the heels of her magic slippers and repeats, “There’s no place like home….” Walking through the doors of Holy Wisdom Monastery does not require magic but it is an enchanting homecoming. The familiar sounds of bells and psalms, the warm embrace of the monastery’s communities gladden my heart—it’s like I’ve never been away and nothing has changed.
Truth is, however, I live a long way from this amazing place and it is increasingly expensive to travel. Truth is, connections through social media are not as fulfilling and distance dulls the senses of the heart to the wonder of community. Truth is, when I am away there are other relationships and demands to distract me. Truth is, at every homecoming, plenty has changed—I have changed!
No wonder Benedict devotes two chapters of the Rule (50, 51) to travel. Precisely because there are so many distractions, Benedict encourages us to be faithful to the rhythms of prayer, work, rest, and study—especially when we are away. These practices keep us rooted in the still-speaking God, who is the heart of community and whose presence knows no boundaries (see Psalm 139:7-12). Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove reminds us: “it is God who holds this body together, not strength of effort or will” (The Rule of Saint Benedict: A Contemporary Paraphrase, Paraclete Press, 2012). He further reflects: “a community that is centered around [God] is always poised to greet the God who shows up…looking every bit like a beggar and just wanting a place to stay.”
So, the open doors of the monastery usher me into an astonishingly safe space to step aside from the angst, to reconnect to the Center and renew my commitments. I cherish—indeed need—times to pray psalms in the oratory, share conversations at table and savor the beauty of the prairie. Sue Monk Kidd suggests that “unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.” Unraveling and coming home are images that express the meaning of being an oblate for me.
I need this soul work—we all do! I need the daily rhythms of Benedictine spirituality to keep me authentic, expressly in Florida when the monastery is far away. I need these practices to awaken my heart both to God and to the “cloud of witnesses” surrounding me. It’s not magic but it is the path to finding my true self anew—changed, yes, but hopefully for the better and ready to begin again to “climb on to the higher summits of teaching and virtue…and under God’s protection…reach them” (RB73, Hartgrove).
I love coming home to Holy Wisdom and the oblate community. The rhythms of daily practice along with the encouragement of my companion oblates unravels the trifles, transfigures the ordinary into a mystical experience, and transforms the journey itself into my home.