Being Benedictine in the 21st Century

The Being Benedictine in the 21st Century Conference was both a reflection on practice and a questioning of our practice.  

That next step isn’t looking for answers or even jumping into action. Yes, that is part of it. But as seekers of God, our true next step is to do theology, to explore the meaning of our practice, to examine our questions, in the light of our faith in the God we seek. That is what will guide our actions. For what is the purpose of finding ourselves, living into our call to embody Benedictine spirituality in the world, if not to then give ourselves away? To love unconditionally, no matter the cost, truly being Benedictine.

Communication, real conversation, is an act of creation. As noted in a comment at the conference, choosing to live Benedictine spirituality, to connect oneself to a community to seek God in the Benedictine life, is not to join a social club. It is not about sterile formulas or rituals or boasting rights. It is about lifelong conversatio, a lifelong commitment to seek God, to be Christ for our world. That is why we can interpret this Benedictine life in every age, because God is in all of history. That is also why we need what we are doing now: reflecting on our life’s practice through the lens of our guides: Scripture, the Rule, our Tradition. And that calls us to ora et labora, prayer and work. Or, as one of our speakers put it, prayer and protest. Not protest in a narrow interpretation but in its most broad sense: standing against all that is not of God, giving our lives to the Christ life.

What leadership is needed now so that rather than reacting too little or too late to the reality around us, we can take the initiative with new ideas? Whether vowed members, oblates, or other seekers, where do we put our best energies? 

The pressures and constraints of our lives are real. They are complex. How do we come at these challenges from a place of seeking understanding rather than fear, of knowing that our fulfillment is not in conflict with the demands of faith? We might need a little more Benedictine balance and a little less fear. But this life is not about giving up, not about asceticism or unquestioning obedience any more than it is about upholding an institution or a maintaining a monastery.

It is about finding Christ in our center. Let us remember this as we reflect on the outcomes of our first long conversation.

After the May 28-30, 2021, weekend, we complied more than 40 pages of feedback from three sets of breakout sessions and the evaluation surveys completed by 50% of our participants. In each of five major themes, there are questions. Lots of them.

These are questions posed, for the first time, by an inclusive and diverse group of Benedictines from across the country. It is our belief that they will help us further this conversation and guide our action. We don’t have to wait until we have all the answers, we don’t even have to wait until we’re sure we’ll succeed. All we need to do is try. As Joan Chittister writes in Radical Spirit, “An old monastic tale says it all. The disciple asks, “What do you do in a monastery?” And the old monastic answers, “Oh, we fall, and we get up. And we fall, and we get up. And we fall, and we get up again.”

Let’s fall together. And get up again.

Support for Being Benedictine in the 21st Century

Lynn McKenzie, OSBAs I travel the country speaking to many different groups... READ MORE — Judith Valente, Oblate, Being Benedictine co-chair, retreat guide and author

Lynn McKenzie, OSBIn recent years I have had opportunities through... READ MORE — Lynn Marie McKenzie, OSB, President, Federation of St. Scholastica; Moderator, CIB

Hugh Feiss, OSBThere are obviously momentous changes occurring in religious life ...READ MORE — Hugh Feiss, OSB, writer and monk, Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome, ID

Mary Lou Kownacki, OSBIf Saint Benedict were born in our times, ...READ MORE — Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, coordinator, Monasteries of the Heart 

Katie GordonIn the midst of the collapse of empire in the 6th century, ...READ MORE — Katie Gordon, M.T.S., Nuns & Nones national organizer

Jerome KodellThe vision of Benedict has often come to our aid when our world... READ MORE —Jerome Kodell, OSB, Author and Abbot Emeritus Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco, AR




Jodi Blazek Gehr, OblateWe live in challenging times, but there is comfort in knowing ...READ MORE — Jodi Blazek Gehr, Oblate, SoulFully You blogger

Martin ShannonWhen I think of the future of Benedictine life, I look at my children... READ MORE—Martin Shannon, Community of Jesus, past president, American Benedictine Academy

Mary Margaret Funk, OSBConversation seldom does justice to the past, ... READ MORE — Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, writer; advocate for interreligious dialogue; former prioress

Michael Casey, OCSOThere are two ways of approaching the future.... READ MORE — Michael Casey, OCSO, Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia; author and lecturer on monastic spirituality.

Kerry O'Reilly, OSBBenedictine women religious, seekers and pray-ers, ...READ MORE — Kerry O'Reilly, OSB, President, Federation of St. Benedict 

Antoinette Purcell, OSBSince 1947 the American Benedictine Academy has cultivated, ...READ MORE — Antoinette Purcell, OSB, President, American Benedictine Academy 

Monasteries Represented

Vowed members and/or Oblates of the following monasteries participated in Being Benedictine:

  • Abbey of Gethsemani, KY
  • Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, ND
  • Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO
  • Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, NE
  • Conception Abbey, Conception, MO
  • Dwelling Place Monastery, Martin, KY
  • Emmanuel Monastery, Baltimore, MD
  • Holy Wisdom Monastery, Middleton, WI
  • Immaculata Monastery, Norfolk, NE
  • Marmion Abbey, Aurora, IL
  • Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, SC
  • Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand, IN
  • Monastery of St Gertrude, Cottonwood, ID
  • Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome, ID
  • Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, SD
  • Mount Saviour Monastery, Pine City, NY
  • Mount St Benedict Monastery, Erie, PA
  • Mount St Scholastica, Atchison, KS
  • New Benedictine Community Anglican/Episcopal
  • New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur, CA
  • New Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco, AR
  • Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, IN
  • Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, GA
  • Queen of Angels Monastery, Mt Angel, OR
  • Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL
  • Sacred Heart Monastery, Lisle, IL
  • St Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, CA
  • St Anselm's Abbey, Washington, DC
  • St Benedict Center, Schuyler, NE
  • and 22 more>>>