Man Leben – Convent years


Im Kloster entdeckt man Leben in vielfältiger Form

In the monastery one discovers life in various forms

You continues the story of your life:

“After my visit to the camps at Dachau and the grave of mother on All Souls ‘ Day in 1983, I moved on. My continued presence in Dachau was not appreciated: wanderers are not welcome. For one week I could sleep in the open air, but I became to visible. Early November I returned to the North. I had a vague plan to visit the grave of my father in Auschwitz. But quickly I understood the impossibility of this plan. The winter is a very bad time of year for wandering and Germany was still divided in two. I couldn’t walk through Eastern Germany to Poland.

I became ill. It started with a cold, and afterwards the fever came. A relatively small monastery gave me hospitality and within four weeks I was fully recovered.

In a very short time the monasteries changed considerably. At the beginning of 1960, there were many young men who entered the monastery for study, contemplation, focus on God and His works, and for disseminating faith and His works in other parts of the world. The monasteries were still in full bloom. Ten years later, no young men entered the convent and many monks had left the monastery for ordinary life with or without a partner. Again ten years later, only the older monks and the Abbot remained. In 1983 the buildings were very inward oriented.

[1]

The monastery where I recovered, was not very large. In 1983 the intrusion of emptiness was not depressing in the buildings. The last 15 years only one new brother entered the convent and the resident monks were 15 years older. If the monastery wished to survive, then a change was needed.

I also needed a change. It was still winter and moving without purpose was not on my way. During my recovery I was getting used to the rhythm of the monastery. After my recovery I could stay until spring came. I helped with necessary maintenance and I did jobs for my meals and indwelling.

In the beginning of the spring I had a farewell meeting with the Abbot. This conversation was a new beginning. The Abbot expressed his concerns about the future of the monastery; the convent had to a change in line with the tradition and focus on the future.

Any time, any act, each prayer and singing, every day, every year, everyone’s life, the life within the monastery and the faith in the monastery were focussed on God. The world outside the monastery changed constantly over the centuries. In the past the changes have had effects on the monastic life. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of almost all scientific knowledge and skills in the Western world. Many monasteries acquired richness that were not in line with the tradition of the monasteries. By the end of the Middle Ages – around 1550 [2] – many monasteries were violently stripped of their richness: a number of monasteries decayed.

The last 15 years, the world outside the monastery changed very fast. This rapid change had a significant effect on the monastery, because the average age of the monks increased very rapidly. Stillness, contemplation and focus on God belonged to the monastery; on the other hand inflexibility and clinging to the past was not in line with the tradition.

The Abbot asked if I could contribute to the orientation for the monastery. My architectural background and my introduction to different religions could give good points of view. In addition to the usual tasks for a lay monk, I would dedicate myself to advice for and contributing to this orientation.

The monastery building was in good condition. It was excellent for monastery. With a declining number of permanent residents, parts of the building could also be used for activities in line with the objectives of the monastery.

[3]

The orientation on the outside world showed that outside the monastery and the Christian Church, there was a need for reflection and contemplation. This need was often expressed in other manifestations.

[4]

This orientation resulted in a monastery open for reflection and education of outsiders: individually and in groups. A number of monks in the convent studied religions from Asia to enrich the monastic life with the motto “explore the new and preserves the good”. Also knowledge and skill was acquired for guidance of groups in religious activities and meditation. Lay monks entered the monastery for  guidance of contemplation and education. Often they stayed temporarily or permanently in the monastery.

Approximately 5 years I have worked and lived in the monastery accompanying groups. At the end of this period, the monastic vows oppressed me. The vows of simplicity/poverty was no problem; I had a luxurious life with good health, sufficient simple meals and a useful contribution to the monastery and the world. The vow of chastity was slightly trickier. Since my student days there were always women in my life. During my stay in the monastery, there were no women in my life; the temptation was not great. The vow of obedience was the major problem: I’ve always been independent and my motto was: “nobody’s boss, nobody’s servant”.

My wish to start studying Eastern religions did not go along with the request of the convent to accompany other monasteries with their changes. I remained involved in the drafting of future plans for other monasteries, but the implementation of these plans was carried out by others. Occasionally I have given advice given during the progress. From resident of the monastery, I became a periodic visitor.

Around my 55th year of life, a new phase of my life began. I began with my study of Eastern religions”, you say.

The next post covers your study of Eastern religions.


[1] Example of a monastery. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedictijnen

[2] In England by King Henry VIII – see also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries; In Europa during the reformation whereby in the Netherlands the iconoclastic and the Eighty Years’ War did harm the monastic orders.

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti.jpg

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meditating_in_Madison_Square_Park.jpg

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