I have been a highly mobile person in a highly mobile culture, descended from a long line of geographically flexible ancestors who moved from Wales and England to Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia. They crossed through interior states, eventually reaching the end of the road at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
In nearly every generation there have been major moves. We are not Benedictines by nature or practice.
St. Benedict issues three vows in his Rule — obedience, conversion and stability. Of this stability, Friends of St. Benedict say on their website: “Stability refers to the importance of community and commitment in life. … While we all may not be a member of a monastic order, we can make our vow of stability to our families, to our faith communities, to our local and global communities, and to our fellow pilgrims along the journey of faith.”
Considerable growth is required to remain in one place, committed to a single community. In fact, I think more is asked of those who follow Benedict’s guidelines, in and out of the monastery.
Aleteia offers an article, “Holiness in Place: The Counterculture of Stability” by Colin O’Brien which suggests “the freedom that stability provides not only encourages but necessitates change, growth, conversion.”
O’Brien says: “To spend a few days in a monastery is to discover how much time we who live in the outside world spend going from one place to another, contending with traffic, running errands, shopping, or going to a job. In monastic life, everything is in one place: home, work, family, church, leisure time; in a sense, one is presented with the frightening opportunity to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do.’
“Seeking after new surroundings, new circumstances, and ‘new beginnings’ … is an aspect rather of our broader culture of globalization, social media, and constant access to up-to-the-minute news and information. There are always new things to see and do, new destinations to travel to, and new people to meet.
“The life of stability boldly promises the possibility of boredom, detachment, familiarity, simplicity, and intimacy. Stability takes away empty novelty and proposes personal growth in holiness and love; it takes away entertainment and proposes appreciation of simplicity; it takes away networking and proposes love of God and of [others]….”
I have a friend from childhood who has lived his life in the same rural community in which we grew up. He has lived the happy ups and gut-wrenching downs of life in full view of everyone. He has been the target of gossip and rejection. Yet, he remains. He lives fully without shame or guilt, refusing the lure that might have attracted others to greener grass far away from there.
When I think of stability and the growth required to fulfill such a vow, I think of my friend. I believe Benedict would commend his devotion, accepting all that has come from a million and one decisions.