Wasting Time With God

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The Monks of St. Mary Magdalene at Mass

Could you live every day wasting time with God? In the majestic documentary Watchmen of the Night, viewers follow along the daily routine in the life at St. Mary Magdalene Monastery in Le Barroux, France. These holy men, following the Rule of St. Benedict, have their whole lives shaped by prayer, and everything that is not prayer and worship (either corporate or personal) is lived under obedience to the Abbot (a term derived from “Abba,” or Father, who is in charge of the monastery).

As one of the monks interviewed put it, “You make one choice: to become a monk. After that, you have no more choice.”

And yet, there is a profound freedom in the discipline and order of their days, and we see joy interspersed in and with their work and worship. For me, the most profound statement came near the end, in a voiceover during Compline (the last of eight offices of prayer celebrated each day). This addresses what many viewers no doubt wonder as they watch the Benedictine day unfold:

“People often say to us,
‘You serve no purpose. What do you do? Praising God for 5 or 6 hours a day. That’s pointless.’

That’s the highest compliment we can be paid.
It’s true, it serves no purpose.
We do not serve a purpose.
We serve someone.
We serve God.”

As Marva Dawn put it, worship is A Royal “Waste” of TIme. It serves no purpose, it has no utility in the conventional sense. The purpose of worship is union with and adoration of God.

Who needs a “purpose” when you can have that?

I recorded Watchmen of the Night on EWTN, but it is also available in its entirety on YouTube. I commend it to your viewing and would love your own feedback. What appeals to you about the monastic life? What would you ask these monks? Have Protestants lost something in largely rejecting the monastic vocation?

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4 thoughts on “Wasting Time With God”

  1. Not all Protestants have rejected the monastic tradition. In fact, there is a monastic association that exists toward that was started by Methodists in 1947. I know because I am a member of it. It is the Order of Saint Luke, and it is devoted to liturgical scholarship and sacramental life and service.

    The Order of Saint Luke, or OSL, as it is called, is an ecumenical, dispersed monastic association of women and men, lay and clergy, who devoted themselves to praying the Daily Office wherever they are, as well as living for the Church of Jesus Christ in their own contexts. We gather every October around the feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist, Oct. 18, for a three-day spiritual retreat. Our leadership also gathers in Spring. Around those events, we participate through local chapters and associations, but we are often praying in dispersal, across time zones and national borders. There are OSL members of several denominations in the United States, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

    In addition, the practice of “praying the hours” has made its way back into Protestant observance through the work of writers such as J. Philip Newell, Phyllis Tickle, and John Bell of the Iona Community.

    The appeal of monastic spirituality, as least for this avowed sister, is its discipline and regularity in a chaotic world. Although I am an active United Methodist, I increasingly find the Order of Saint Luke to be my “discipling community,” as described by the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship. OSL is where I am held accountable for my prayer life, for my participation in and leadership of worship as a layperson, and for living “sacramentally” — that is, behaving in ways as a Christ follower that point toward the reality of God’s love and justice. In fact, the Order of Saint Luke has been so significant spiritually for me that I am now in discernment for Life Vows in the Order.

    For more information, please visit our website at http://saint-luke.net

    1. Cynthia,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with OSL. I have actually been contemplating joining for sometime – my main hesitance being that I don’t know any active OSL members in NC.

      And you are right, Protestants have reclaimed/retained some aspects of monastic life – that’s why I included (but could have emphasized more) that ‘largely’ in there.

      I think you would enjoy watching this documentary, as well as Into Great Silence if you have not already. Peace to you and thanks for stopping by.

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