I see a lot of new books that pass across my desk, one of the more remarkable trends is the embracing of traditional Catholic practices (which of course are rooted in the Scriptures), here is a take in Quiet Flirtation:
Be it Baptists, Presbyterians, or Pentecostals, evangelicals of all stripes can be found flitting around the ancient pathways of the Franciscan, Dominican, and Benedictine orders. What’s the attraction? I decided to investigate. It seems the frenzied and the frenetic are finding stillness and order; the alienated are discovering the richness of belonging; and the non-committal are jumping headlong into the freedom of vows.
A couple of months ago, I bumped into filmmaker Lauralee Farrar at the Washington Arts Council. She had shared earlier that day about her new film, Praying the Hours, a story about eight people connected by community, at a time in their lives when one of them has their life tragically cut short. The film’s themes grew out of Farrar’s own exploration of the way in which the Benedictine monks view time. After a shattering moment in her life that changed everything, she says she “stumbled upon the Benedictine hours of prayer and began to make them the structure for living through a day”—sort of a Benedictine AA: “one hour at a time.”
At the time, Farrar had no idea that she was a part of a growing trend of people keeping the hours. For the uninitiated, the practice of praying the hours grew out of the eight times each day during which the Benedictine monks stopped to pray the Psalter: Lauds (Morning Prayer) offered at sunrise; Prime (1st hour of the day); Terce (3rd hour, or Mid-morning); Sext (6th hour or Midday); None (9th hour or Mid-Afternoon); Vespers (Evening Prayer) offered at sunset; Compline (Night Prayer) before going to bed; and during the Night (Matins).
As she explains it, “I was thrilled to discover that the hours each had . . . different characteristics and prayers to match them. (Right now I am writing you during the hour of None, when the shadows lengthen.) The message is that death is a part of life, that nothing lives forever. The prayer is that even though I realize there is not time to complete in this day the things I’d hoped for, I will not give up.” For Farrar, exploring monasticism has generated a renewed sense of God’s presence in time, as well as the production of what I believe will be a fascinating film.
Karen Sloan’s love affair with monasticism started like so many love stories. Girl meets boy. Boy joins monastic order. Well, okay, perhaps not like quite so many love stories. While Karen’s crush on boy-turned-monk inevitably went south, her fascination with the Dominican way of life blossomed. As she explored it, she shared with her friends and documented in her new book, Flirting with Monasticism, “The more I’m learning about the Dominican order—even the practices that are difficult to understand—the more it’s blessing my own spiritual journey.”
Sloan, a Christian whose church background was a hybrid of megachurch, Vineyard, and Presbyterian religious strains, also was drawn to the ordered life, provided by the Liturgy of the Hours. In addition, she notes in her new book several other aspects that enriched her journey, from thoughts about vestitution to the profession of vows. But it seems the aspect of the monastic life that loomed most prominent in her mind was that of community.
After spending many months getting to know the Dominican friars in her neighborhood, Sloan had a realization one day: “Most of the friars, [she] regularly joined for prayer had been living in the order’s community longer than [she had] been alive.” She wondered how these communities were able to live and minister together so well.
From the Dominicans she got to know, she discovered that these men are formed in community from the time of their novitiate. They share living space, meals, prayer, ministry work, and through it grow deeply connected. In some ways, she notes that “it’s like marriage, except that you are tied to not just one person but everyone in the order.” For these friars, learning to live in community means foregoing the usual rights to individuality and autonomy. It means a lifetime spent in submission to others. But then again, this is a biblical ideal to which we are called in Ephesians 5:21, where we are told to submit to one another out of love. So it is not a radical thought; in fact, it is a biblical thought that, for the most part, the rest of us simply do not do.