The aspects of monastic life which turned out to “fit” me are, in the first place, the structure and disciplines of daily life, which open a space for prayer. Prayer in community several times each day and the daily spending time with the Word of God in lectio divina have been a beautiful channel of grace. The stability in the community of profession, characteristic of Saint Benedict’s Rule, has provided a support for stability in the search for goodness and virtue. Although, ironically, I never did have the teaching career which I had sought initially, the relationships developed over the years with succeeding generations of students, and with friends and colleagues in the college faculty and administration, have incredibly enriched my life and have been for me a significant part of that hundred-fold recompense promised by the Lord to those who follow him.
Finally, there is another question students ask which offers another opportunity to perplex them. When they inevitably inquire, “When did you decide to become a monk?” I like to reply, “This morning.” That takes them by surprise, as it is obvious that I have been around for a while. But it offers the opportunity to explain how the commitment to monastic life, like a commitment to any good and worthy undertaking, is never a one-time decision. It must be renewed constantly, and nourished by the repeated choices which strengthen that initial commitment. It is never an automatic process, but is the daily renewed invitation of grace to create something beautiful with the one life we have been given.
Abbot Placid Solari, OSB, is the Chancellor of Belmont Abbey College. He has been a monk of Belmont Abbey since 1974, and was ordained in 1980.