Stability – a Benedictine Ideal

Stability – a Benedictine Ideal

by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM             Ireland                       13.04.2023

Many of you know that MMM spirituality has at its core “the spirit of St. Benedict”. But what can a spirituality set out for monks in a monastery or abbey have to do with our active life? I was thinking about this the other day in relation to the Benedictine vow of stability. For Benedictines it is a commitment to stay in the monastery you join. You opt for a particular place and to live with the same set of people your whole life.

Nothing could be more different for us missionaries! As soon as we finish our initial religious formation period, off we go to study. If we are already professionally trained, we are assigned on our first mission. Some of the older Sisters I know have been missioned in several countries, learning new languages and adapting to different cultures over and over again.

And still we are challenged by this Benedictine view of stability. We don’t take the vow, but it is part of our spirituality. For me, it actually helps when on an overseas assignment. I went to Brazil, struggled with Portuguese as I am not a natural linguist, and slowly embedded myself into the Brazilian culture and church life. Stability for me meant – “I am here now. I won’t run away when life gets difficult. These are now my people.” It helped me settle down in my new home.

I think the ideal of stability has become important in our world of rapid change and societal shifts. With social media reacting so rapidly to every event, often one can get swept away with the tide by social media. Even work is not stable anymore. Few young people enter a job and expect to be there for the rest of their lives.

Reflecting and living with the concept of stability calls me to two other basic virtues, the ability to listen and the patience to wait. We listen to what God is asking of us in our present circumstances. We listen to the needs of the people around us. While we work for change – in our world, better health care for those who need it most – we know that our work is always unfinished. We are often called to wait until people want to make the changes necessary to improve their lives. We are not “big mamas” coming in to solve problems!

Do I struggle with stability? No, in fact I value it. It helps keep me grounded in my present life and work – and if I am assigned elsewhere, I will seek stability there too. That is, until the end – what could be more stable than eternity!