I found the Norbertine Order a place where I desired to belong. I knew I wanted to live out my faith in community. What I experienced as attractive and only joyful in the beginning, I later found to be a cross and even a burden sometimes. There can be squabbles, ambitions, tensions, envies within the community of religious – Jesus´ disciples. May I remind you of what we read in the Gospel: “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). In Luke’s gospel, there is an interesting sentence spoken by Jesus right after this so-human ambitious dispute: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). Cardinal Martini comments on these words:
“Jesus is not under the illusion that the Twelve have reached a high degree of holiness; he does, however, know that there can be great fidelity even where there is failure, weakness and pettiness.”
I have experienced a variety of failures in my religious community; but also a lot of strength, loyalty, and beauty in this lifestyle. The beauty, which one document on religious life describes this way:
“The spirituality of community means the following:
to share the joys and sufferings of the brothers,
to know their wishes and take care of their needs,
to offer them real and deep friendship.
Further, the spirituality of community is
the ability to see in the other the positive above all
and to accept him and appreciate him as a gift of God;
this is the art of creating room for a brother by mutually carrying one another´s burdens.“
To live in religious community means to struggle with our selfishness, to be very patient with ourselves and others, to find strength and inspiration in God’s patience with all of us. It means to experience human limitations and imperfections and not to give up, but to hold on to God’s mercy all the more. It means to recognize how incomplete and unworthy we are, but to keep following Christ, because he is so worthy and God’s love is so mighty. It means to open our heart to other people – it can be very dangerous and hurtful in some cases, but it is Jesus’ way on which we walk. Perhaps the image of “gold purified in the fire” could be an appropriate image for life in community:
“Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”
Our patron, St. Augustine, carrying the burning heart (heart on fire), reminds me that to be a religious requires the courage not to run away from the fire of God and the fire of community.
I am grateful for my community, and grateful for the opportunity to experience the communio of Daylesford Abbey. It is a nice place with beautiful people. I hope that new people will find in Daylesford Abbey their spiritual home and will praise the Lord with my Norbertine brothers.