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?