Saturday, April 07, 2007

not all prayer and sweet acts of charity

In any organization, there is a corporate culture that makes up the invisible nuts and bolts of how the entity runs. A monastic community is no different from a business when it comes to that. The difference is the culture itself. My own community tries to take into account the diverse viewpoints of each of its members, so issues you might never think about discussing (in your life) must be analyzed, measured, hashed over, hammered in, and agreed upon here. It makes for lengthy meetings and some tough decision making. All opinions are counted and weighed.

For example, I can't just decide to paint my room without checking it out with the house, can't make plans to go out to dinner with out-of-town friends without asking permission. Those requests are managed on a day-to-day basis, but larger issues must be handled in our monthly meetings.

The agendas for these meetings are diverse and reflect community-wide concerns: the liturgy, dress code, family dynamics, candidate formation, budget reports. Some of the topics never go away, but some are new. Last month's topic was new: blogging... and its impact on community. Because blogging is a relatively new activity for monastics (as is email and websites and the whole cyberspace experience) it only stands to reason that it would surface as a topic at some point. And, as I am a dedicated blogger, it certainly got my attention.

To say the discussion was difficult (for me) is an understatement. I dislike meetings in general, and any discussion that gets personal is hard to participate in, without going straight to emotional response. There were comments from sisters who have never read my blog, yet have clear opinions about it; there was concern that my content and my sometimes colorful language are inappropriate for a nun, hurt feelings from posts describing life and personalities I struggle with, that never surfaced until the meeting. There was an overall question: does blogging, in and of itself, remove a sister from her environment and allow her to live in a virtual fantasy world? Some of our sisters are already addicted to online solitaire and video games, might not blogging be another way to escape?

It was not all negative. But since I am human (as I keep reminding my readers) I focused on the negative. The upshot of the discussion was that nobody was shut down, but that all of us who blog (three in our community) will continue to be self-censoring, keeping in mind the concerns that surfaced. There were a few explicit guidelines covering language and content... so... no more *'s for me.

I was unable to write for several days. What was there to say? I didn't want to give it up, but if my blog was such a bone of contention, what was the point? Then St. Patrick's Day arrived and I finally posted again. It was a miracle. I was cured.

To say that blogging has become a spiritual exercise for me is an understatement. But it is also a creative endeavor, one that fills a void I never knew was there, until I started doing it. So it was with mild amusement that I learned I had been awarded the Thinking Blogger Award, not by one, but by two people who read my posts. Thanks guys. It makes being in the hot seat at that meeting worth it.

As a recipient of this award I get to choose five blogs that I read on a regular basis and give them the award. I will do that. (After Easter. Next week some time. In the near future.) Stay tuned. Oh, and by the way, my mother thanks you... my children thank you... my sisters may not thank you...


Anonymous said...

Thomas Merton had issues with his community too - - You stand in good company - and he's probably shaking his head but smiling. Keep it up - Becky

Jill said...

I think what you do on this blog sends a wonderful message; it lets the world know the human side of the religious life. There are few outlets where this type of glimpse is offered and I have (upon occasion) linked from my blogs to yours on the basis of the integrity of your writing.

I wish your sisters could see the value of the outward facing nature of this activity.

Sr.GJ said...

You still have my support and as for this sister I thank the bestowers of the Thinking Blogger Award and congratulate you. Atta Girl!!

merryn said...

I think I have mentioned before how much I appreciate your blog. I fully understand the concerns of the community. However, your blog allows me to feel more connected to the Community and I would miss that if you were to discontinue. Your blog makes me think AND makes me laugh. Thanks! And Happy Easter!

Leanne Shawler said...

I agree with what Jill said. It's like getting a peep inside what it's really like to be in a convent, but also inside a nun's head.

If you weren't located on the other coast, I'd come for a visit. (Assuming that was possible.)

HeyJules said...

Well, I think you already know how I feel about you and this blog and I'm sorry that some of the sisters don't feel the same way. However, when I read this, it just kind of reminded me that not everyone was all that happy about the message Christ was getting out there, I think you're in pretty good company. :-)