09 July 2007

Final Oblature with Camaldolese Benedictines

Well, last Friday (July 6th) I celebrated my final Oblature with Trans-figuration Monastery in Windsor, NY. Transfig-uration is a Camaldolese Benedictine monastery of nuns, the only monastery of Camaldolese nuns in the United States. Sister Donald Corcoran OSB CAM (Prioress), received my oblature, and there were several other Oblates present, both from Transfiguration (Shirley L.), as well as from New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA, and Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley, CA. The brief ceremony was held in the former convent chapel of my parish Church between the homily and offertory which allowed my parish community (my MAIN community really) to celebrate and support me in this step. Afterwards a few of us including most of the Oblates, Sister Donald, some parishioners and my pastor went out for breakfast. It was a great celebration and I was glad to have a chance for people to meet one another!

One of the reasons I decided to affiliate with the Camal-dolese was their triple charism of eremitism, cenobitism, and evan-gelization.(More about that in a bit.) The fact that they live under the Rule of Benedict was also important. While I wrote my first plan of life for the Diocese back in 1985 or so, over the years it became clear to me that this was simply not sufficient for a diocesan hermit, despite it being all the Canon calls for. A personal Plan or Rule of Life needs to be subsumed under a larger, more vital and challenging Rule, and one that has a history of successful monastic formation and inspiration. By the time I rewrote my Rule/Plan two years ago, it had become clear to me that the Rule of Benedict was the way to go here, and added to that was the Constitutions and Statutes of the Camaldolese Benedictines. When I finished, it seemed clear that my own living had been formed by these influences and my own Plan of Life needed to continue to be informed by these sources. Otherwise, the personal Plan of Life becomes a description of what one is doing, but can lack the scope necessary to ensure growth and sufficient challenge.

And of course hermits need community. The stereotype of misanthropic recluses hardly fits any healthy hermit today (though healthy recluses there are!), and especially does not fit any Diocesan hermits who represent this form of consecrated life in the Church (such a person would never be admitted to vows I don't think, and likely would never even make it beyond the first appointment with the Vicar of Consecrated Life or Religious). The Camaldolese have @10 centuries of balancing eremitic and cenobitic life under their cowls, all while maintaining a simultaneous third emphasis on evangelization. Their triple charism is inspiring to me, and clearly what Christians of all sorts need modelled for them today. For Diocesan hermits, the Camaldolese story of Saint Romuald is apt to strike a chord as it did in me. Romuald, afterall, went about bringing hermits under the Rule of Benedict and also brought them to live in Lauras quite often. The lone hermit with neither Rule, nor superior, nor Tradition, nor roots, was anathema to him, and I suspect Diocesan hermits today would often find Romuald has anticipated their needs. This is even truer of non-canonical hermits living in today's world ---- hermits who have even less meaningful contexts for their lives than do Canon 603 hermits.

Chapel at St Perpetua Parish
Sister Donald made an interesting obser-vation during her com-ments intro-ducing the cere-mony. She noted that I had told her how important my parish community was to me, what a blessing really, and then she suggested that this is probably the way consecrated (vowed) life will look for the most part in the future: solitary Sisters, or Sisters living in twos at most, living in parish communities and looking to the parish to be their primary community as they give their lives for (or at least live them integrally in) that parish. I think she is right in this, and more than I could ever have imagined, I know how it is that having a hermit in the parish who is really dependent upon the parish as her primary community changes the way we see one another (and ourselves as well)!! The Oblature ceremony brought our interdependence out strongly as it included a promise to support my commitment in prayer, etc over the years. I am hoping that the parish community is beginning to know how important they are to my own fulfillment of my vocation. I think that is a perspective that is new for them and one which can only help the parish grow in prayer and vigor (not that they are lacking in either --- they are not, and that is one of the reasons I am so very fortunate).