Images of Bonnevaux

We are now the owner-stewards of Bonnevaux. It is like becoming a parent of an old child waiting to become young again. Rejuvenation is the essence of all growth – which is why meditation is more than recharging one’s batteries. Over time the capacity of a battery decreases with each recharge. In prayer by contrast, we increase our capacity by becoming progressively more conformed to, more like God who is always younger than we are. ‘Though our outward humanity is in decay, yet inwardly we are renewed’ puts it well, as St Paul thought too.

Before him, the prophet Isaiah said:

And the LORD will continually guide you.. and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Those from among you will rebuild ancient ruins You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. (Is 58:12)

With the renovation of a building the outward form is improved; and its capacity to welcome and become a place for others to be refreshed and renewed is enlarged. The work involved is deeply satisfying even to the degree that it is challenging. There is fundraising, planning, meetings, plans and decisions at the micro and macro level. It begins in faith and it will end in faith: lot of work, as in parenting, creating, restoring or loving anything. But the people caring for this work at Bonnevaux is an extraordinary phenomenon. It has been moving and wondrous to see how it attracts people to give their time, their talent and their treasure.

We are more than grateful. We are strengthened and energised by the messages of support, the donations, small and large, the fridge from the meditators in Poitiers, the Dutch meditators who came down for a few days to help clean the house, the architects, planners, monks, the archbishop, the local mayor, the French community who will provide the refreshments at the blessing next week, to Odile for the icon of Cassian we will bless and install, and countless others who are already forming the Bonnevaux family. These are all sacraments of love which will build to make Bonnevaux what it will be again – a place of contemplation for all, a home of peace and a maker of peace.

Some people have the impression from the beautiful photos that it is all ready to move into. Not quite… I’m afraid! The building work will start soon and take a year or so for the first phase. How quickly we finish will depend on the donations coming in. Our first group of pilgrims from Asia is booked in for next Fall – so we are working hard to be able to welcome them then.

 

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Here are two images of the reality. Kailas Murthy, the architect with DPA who have contributed freely to the planning and vision of the building, working in the Bonnevaux kitchen. And a small group meditating in the library with Andrew and Delyth Cresswell who gave up their job and sold their house in Wales to come and be part of the community and the work from the beginning. The day we signed the sale they moved in to Bonnevaux, to care for it and prepare it for its transformation which is now under way.

We are working on a list of all the small things for the house and grounds – from kitchen things to gardening tools -we need to make this a reality and if you can help with any of these you would be a real part of this work.

You can visit the Bonnevaux website and here

Marvellous paradoxes

Reading the Rule of Benedict frequently reminds me of the mysterious way in which apparent gospel contradictions can reveal marvellous paradoxes – and, so, release different aspects of the same truth that then further enrich and transform us.

In Matthew 11, Jesus touches our hearts with a kind and light touch when he invites all those who are weary with life to come to him, learn from his gentleness and humility, and accept his light yoke and easy burden. In any true lectio on this passage, we will probably be given a glimpse of what metanoia means. We change our lives and undergo conversatio morum in such a way that we feel an unspeakable relief in the face of the heaviest problems and crosses we have to carry in life. Daily existence acquires something of the incredible lightness of being.

But then listen to Jesus speaking about following him in Mark 7. Here his tone is very different, sterner and less inclusive. The road that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it.

Benedict and the early monastic founders understood monastic commitment as a second baptism in which the true meaning of the Christian promises are re-discovered. Benedict warns of the hard challenges of this way of self-renunciation and emphasises the freedom we must feel when we commit ourselves to it. But then, he soon says, after an initial encounter with the hardness of discipline, we come to ‘run along the way of the Lord’s commands with an unspeakable sweetness of love.’

Maybe undertaking a contemplative practice is like starting to live the monastic life; they are each a re-baptism and re-discovery of what discipleship means. Because meditation creates community, we soon find ourselves inside a ‘school of the Lord’s service’. The Master of this School teaches each of us uniquely how we are to serve him and what kind of work we are called to undertake.

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Contemplative Exchange group in Snowmass

Narrowness and expansion, discipline and lightness. We reflected on these paradoxes recently at Snowmass Monastery in Colorado when a group of younger contemplative teachers and scholars converged from the WCCM, Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach and Tilden Edward’s Shalem Institute. When the four ‘founders’ (though we were ambivalent about this description) met last year to discuss the work of contemplative wisdom today we agreed to invite five representatives of our communities or networks to explore the question in the light of the next generation. Two of our five were oblates.

I felt equally proud of each of them for the way they participated and represented our own path It was a most fruitful time of prayer and discernment, with a self-evidently deep and diverse group of twenty younger people committed strongly to the contemplative path and serving the Lord through it. It showed the vitality of the monastic path as a way of transmission but also the quite new ways in which it is already being transformed – so that tradition can be regenerated and we who are ‘students in the Kingdom’ can ‘bring forth things new and old’ from our inner rooms as a contemplative way of serving the global needs of our time.