Monday, June 2, 2008

Monastic Lexicon #2


Cen-short e; o-long o; bite, as in to take a bite of an apple.
Cenobitic: cen (same); o (same); bi- short i; tic.

Here's a word I never heard before joining a monastic community, although it is indeed in the dictionary: Cenobite-a member of a monastic community under a Rule and an abbot/prioress.

When I was first in religious community I remember my father's response when I was sharing with my parents our routine in the convent: "Just like the army," he said. At the time I was a little offended, but I grew to understand that wherever you have a large group of people together--anything from schools to employees to apartment residents to the army to religious communities there are certainly commonalities in dealing with the everyday procedures of life.

Although almost every commentary of the Rule of Benedict has excellent reflections on the hardships and graces of cenobitic living, one of my favorite definitions was one that I read recently in The Abbey Banner, the magazine produced by St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

One of their older men was asked to comment on his many years in the abbey--as a monk at St. John's. "How has it been?" they asked. "Well, it's been fine," he replied, "there's only one problem: every monk's mother made potato salad a different way."

If you're laughing, you understand community living! If you're not--you've never had the "privilege" of trying to live it!

A sunset over Lake Erie.
Photo by Ann Muczynski, OSB