A while back, I joined Monasteries of the Heart to explore the riches there, inspired by Benedictine life. Today my exploration led to the Community page, and a short video... and a voice singing:
"O beautiful for brothers and sisters to imagine a new world, to join hands in love and trust, to bind each other’s wounds, to open wide their hearts that the suffering of the world may come in."
That the suffering of the world may come in.
Long ago, I read the Rule of Benedict that has flowered through 15 centuries in so many religious communities, many not named Benedictine. I remembered the themes of "pray and work" and hospitality. "Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ," says the Rule.
I've always thought that Benedict's door was open mostly to travelers, and I imagined them as mostly people of some means. But he says very clearly:
"In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims
the greatest care and solicitude should be shown,
because it is especially in them that Christ is received."
Open wide our hearts that the suffering of the world may come in.
The poor, as Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell reminds us, bring news that no one else speaks. "People on the margins who are less able to and less invested in keeping up appearances, often have an uncanny ability to name things as they are. Standing with them can help situate us in the truth...."
For myself, I don't think I could bear this truth of "the suffering of the world" - I'm doubt that I could even listen to the daily news - without a community to help me hear it, interpret it, and figure out how I am to respond.
Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister formed Monasteries of the Heart (MOH) to help people create communities (both online and face-to-face) of mutual support and shared transformation. This morning's visit to her MOH website reminded me about one of the communities that faced sorrow together:
"We found our shared grief in a part of ourselves that was immersed in God and deeply compassionate for the needs of each member in this shared tragedy.
"In our MOH gatherings, and beyond them, we touch one another’s souls, we share fully our own way to God and join the faith journey of each other member on the way with us. We see one another, at least in glimpses, the way God sees each. We are safe in one another’s presence and we trust one another beyond our gathering time."
"Pray and work" and hospitality are tools within Benedict's rule (which has lasted about 1500 years so far). He specified those and other tools in order to form faith communities of support and transformation and openness to the suffering of the world. As he wrote so long ago in establishing his Rule:
"And so we are going to establish
a school for the service of the Lord...
As we advance in the religious life and in faith,
our hearts expand
and we run the way of God's commandments
with unspeakable sweetness of love."
May each of us find a small faith community that gives us such a school.