jonmsweeney

My New Book, Cloister Talks, Now Out

In Catholic and Protestant, Monastic spirituality, Trappists on April 29, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Here’s a short excerpt from the first chapter…

Young men make big mistakes sometimes. They fall in love for the wrong reasons. They drive too fast, usually not because they are late for an important appointment, but because they are playing with the feelings of power inside themselves. They go to war because the sign-up bonus will pay off their credit card debt. They choose careers that will make them look good to their friends, or their parents’ friends. We make big mistakes—that’s unavoidable. Sometimes I wonder if our lives are marked not by how many right decisions we’ve made, but by how well, quickly, or thoroughly we learn that we have mis-stepped.

 

I will always wonder if I made a mistake by not becoming a monk when I was twenty years old. I took three trips back and forth to Kentucky that year, in and out of Thomas Merton’s old monastery. I talked with the brothers and I sat in church. I prayed and I listened for God’s voice. I wasn’t Catholic and so never took part in the Eucharistic portions of the services, but the life felt like it could be authentically mine.

 

“It’s just part of my figuring out who I am and what I’m supposed to do,” I explained one evening to a friend of mine, downplaying how important it felt to me. The Mexican restaurant where David and I worked was located in a shopping mall and was packed on a December evening. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Could I get some more chips and salsa?” I’d be rich today.

 

We should have been paying more attention to our tables, but it was hard to care too deeply about chimichangas and flautas, with or without guacamole, weighed against making such a serious decision.

 

“But don’t you feel out of place when you’re there? You aren’t even Catholic,” he said. “And what about your parents, your fiancé, your friends? No one you know is even Catholic, right? It’s as if this little dream of yours is not a part of your real life,” David said.

 

He’s right, I thought to myself later. I should be responsible and get married and begin the sort of life that I know best. That’s what God wants for me. All of this other stuff is probably me trying to avoid what I’m really supposed to do.

Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks

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