Archive for September, 2017

Stability

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Many monks and nuns offer a lesser-known vow in addition to their commitments to poverty, chastity, and obedience. The vow is “stability.” The monastic promises to remain with his order in a given monastery or convent for the rest of his or her life–unless for some reason the head of the order requires relocation.

In our age where the average American changes job or residence every few years, stability is rare. Indeed, for many people, it may be impossible. In the Methodist Church, for example, clergy are usually moved every seven years by their supervisors.

There is certainly a value in change–a new home can be invigorating, a new job can be stimulating. But when one feels called to stability, it can be a blessing to one’s soul and to others around you. Speaking as one completing his 33rd year in the same job and home, I appreciate this blessing! —J. Douglas Ousley


The Gathering Storm

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Hurricanes are bad enough. Imagine them arriving before all the modern ways of forecasting the weather were available.

A hundred years ago, people might have had at best a few hours warning that a powerful storm was on the way. They couldn’t board up their windows, much less evacuate. I remember my grandfather talking about the arrival of the Hurricane of 1938 and how it came without warning to his orchard in Massachusetts.

Yet with all our technology, we still can’t control the weather. As Jesus remarked, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” So the theological lesson is clear: we don’t have ultimate control over our lives. Only God has that control, and his own influence over the world remains mysterious (he doesn’t save everyone from storms, for example.)

No wonder then that religion requires a lot of effort on our part to discern the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And no wonder that much of the labor of religion is prayer. —J. Douglas Ousley


Stability

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Many monks in traditional orders make a vow of “stability.” They commit themselves to remaining in the same house at the same location into the indefinite future–very likely, for life.

The same commitment used to be implied in the case of diocesan bishops: once installed, they would remain in their dioceses until retirement. This is still generally the case, though some bishops move on to other dioceses or ministries.

I’ve been thinking about the value of stability as I prepare for life in our parish without our beloved organist of 24 years, Matthew Lewis. Matthew was constantly coming up with new pieces to perform and new musical ideas. A priest colleague of mine who has, like me, been in the same post for a long time recently remarked that stability in fact forces you to re-invent yourself. You can’t repeat sermons; you can’t coast until the next job.

The same is true for laypeople who choose to serve the same parish for a period of years. They learn to deal with all kinds of people and situations. They learn a lot about themselves. And, like me, they have much to be grateful for. —J. Douglas Ousley