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Ireland: sowing seeds of new monasticism

'Halfway to Heaven' - Skellig Michael inhabited by Irish Monks from 588-1222

'Halfway to Heaven' - Skellig Michael inhabited by Irish Monks from 588-1222

Religious orders in Ireland are facing challenging times in the wake of the issuing of the Ryan Report. However, this Report has also been the occasion to return to the core of religious life – being a community of people who seek God with all their hearts. Inspired by the New Monasticism developments in the United States and by organizations such as MONOS in the United Kingdom, a new monasticism initiative is now taking place in Ireland.

The vision of the initiative is to provide support for living monastic practices of wisdom, solitude, hospitality, respect for nature and a contemplative stance in the circumstances of daily life. This vision will be carried out by sharing the spiritual resources of monastic traditions, by facilitating the gathering of individuals for educational workshops on new monasticism and by providing web support for a network of new monastics.

The initiative is inspired by the work of Studium which is hosted by the Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery, St Joseph, Minnesota and which provides a forum for dialogue between monastics and members of contemporary society. In June 2010, Beverly Lanzetta who holds a PhD in historical theology and spirituality from Fordham University and who has studied at Studium, will explore the global emergence of a monasticism without walls. In January 2010, Douglas Burton Christie, author of the award winning book, The Word in the Desert, will speak about the contemplative face of new monasticism. (Information available from: sophiasociety@gmail.com)

Many new monastics draw inspiration form the works of the philosopher and theologian Raimon Panikkar who has said: ‘Since my early youth I have seen myself as a monk, but one without a monastery or at least without walls other than those of the entire planet.   And even these, it seemed to me, had to be transcended—probably by immanence—without a habit, or at least without vestments other than those worn by the human family.  Yet even these vestments had to be discarded, because all cultural cloths are only partial revelations of what they conceal:  the pure nakedness of total transparency only visible to the simple eye of the pure of heart. '