THE NEW MONASTICISM

AN INTERSPIRITUAL MANIFESTO FOR CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING

By Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko, Published by Orbis Books (Kindle Edition, 2015)

A book review by Chris Staysniak a doctoral student at Boston College wasrecently published in the National Catholic Reporter. It brings us news of the widespread growth of groups of ordinary people, not necessarily associated with formally organized religious beliefs, seeking God in contemplation through methods that not long ago could be found only in monasteries and convents. The movement is an outgrowth of several international strands of active interest in responding to spiritual needs that were unleashed by or were able to be perceived after Vatican II’s modernization of church. These God-seekers are a living expression of what the Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee describes so tellingly in the Forward:

The spiritual or mystical journey is the heartbeat of humanity, always present even if            hidden beneath the surface. It is the most primal calling of the heart, the song of the soul        going back to God, from the outer world to the formless Truth that resides within each of             us.” (Kindle Location 115).

“An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century… was written in the summer of 2012….posted online by Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, who subsequently informed us that after only one day there had been over a thousand downloads of the document. It continued to go viral, and we began to receive emails from monks, nuns, hermits, academics, and young people who felt that it named something for them….there was a deep resonance with the spirit of the Manifesto.” (Kindle Location 593-600).

The New Monasticism appears as both a harbinger of things to come in harmony with the Francis effect closely scrutinized by the international  media and a validation of his promotion of contemplation for  a new international, non-denominational spiritual environment tailored for the vision of church in the world of today foreseen by the Council fathers.

The following brief look below at a few quotations of principal points of the book affords a window specifically on a vision of church that does not limit itself to traditional religious boundaries, but rather frames Jesus’ core message of a creator/father God and his way to establish a kingdom on earth within the lessons of created history and our contemporary model of cultural diversity in a global village. Denominational religious groups have legitimacy for their followers and boundaries need to be respected but as Pope Francis affirmed in his interview with the Jesuit editors,  “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” (Link: Quotes, Kindle Locations 291-292).

The book is intended as a “…spiritual praxis… particularly recommended for all those — nones included — seeking a rich resource that will challenge and inspire them to reach new levels of introspection, prophetic witness and compassionate activism.

Monastic contemplation in the activities of the world: “…the new monastic’s introspection unleashes a lifetime of compassionate and prophetic action, a sustained “sacred activism” that reorients the older monastic archetype toward the needs of today’s complex world….unless meditation is fed by concern with people’s problems and the world’s problems it loses its depth. There is no rivalry between contemplation and action.”

It is a new spiritual path for work in the kingdom: “…they contend that their work is in many ways making explicit trends they already see, particularly among younger generations who seek a spiritual pathway that is immanently and inextricably rooted in bettering the world….in the world” can be many different things, but at its heart lies a passionate embrace for the transformation of our societal, political, and religious structures.”

The origins and connection with the methods of Centering Prayer: “…expand upon and clarify the new monastic framework that the authors first made explicit in a manifesto written in the summer of 2012. The original manifesto, which emerged out of a dialogue run by Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado…

The path is open to the beliefs of all God-seekers: “…focus on interspirituality — its borrowing from several faith traditions despite its heavily Catholic influence, as well as central concepts like the importance of dialogue, the need for spiritual mentorship, the value of new monastic communities,…

The breadth of its vision: “…a sophisticated and sweeping theological achievement. Among its many influences, the authors draw upon Keating, Ken Wilber, Ewert Cousins, Raimon Panikkar, Wayne Teasdale, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, while incorporating modern psychology, Orthodox sophiology, Eastern and Western monastic traditions, and Sufi mysticism.

RESULT: paths to God generated in diverse religious cultures “…come together into a unified woven vision…transformed by the process, awakened to a life of ‘divine expressions of compassion, love, and wisdom.’”