Monday, February 11, 2008

The schedule of things

This post has been mostly ready to go for some time now, but due to some technical difficulties and a fuller schedule these days, . . . Well, excuses, excuses.

The community’s daily worship schedule provides the main framework of my days. During the week, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours together at 7:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 7:00 p.m. Each of these typically lasts just under 30 minutes. We also have daily mass at 5:00 p.m. The particularities of the rest of the day look something like this for me right now:

- wake up and totter to the shower and get dressed for the day
- eat breakfast
- morning prayer
- (sometimes eat breakfast after prayers since I’m a reluctant riser)
- preferably stay in the oratory for some meditative reading or centering prayer
- go off to one of my jobs (in an office, or the bakery, or a weekly class on the basic tenets of Benedictine life for us postulants)
- noon prayer (except the two days when I’m still at an off-campus office job at that time)
- lunch in the monastic dining room
- work some more (typically massage-related tasks or blogging or preparing for class)
- move my body – in these days when darkness falls upon the northern latitudes rather early, I like to go for a walk or snowshoe while I can still see and be seen. Or, when I’m too wimpy to face the cold, I ride one of our indoor bikes.
- celebrate Eucharist – and on Mondays I go early to do the sacristy work and prepare the space for our worship
- eat supper – three nights a week, my housemates and I cook at home and eat together there. The other four evenings, we eat in the main dining room. Each living group has its own rhythm of when they eat where, except that everyone eats at home on Saturday evenings, when the staff in the main dining room gets the night off.
- enjoy a little break – often part of the time is spent in the community center where I can chat with whoever is there playing cards or fitting puzzle pieces together, and see if there’s mail on my shelf, and read the prayer requests and news items on our big bulletin board, or I might go early to the oratory to sit quietly, or some people watch the news or read the newspaper.
- evening prayer
- relax – regular evening stuff like watching TV or a movie with housemates, reading, playing games, doing crafts, putzing in one's bedroom, going to a concert or lecture, etc.

Of course, there are deviations from this neat little schedule, but that is the basic flow of my days here at St. Ben’s. Weekends bring a different prayer schedule—morning prayer isn’t until 8:15, so a person can sleep in a bit if she so desires. Saturday is a day for errands and cleaning and napping and walking and laundry and whatever else gets scheduled on a Saturday. Each of us has a house “charge,” meaning an area we’re responsible for cleaning (e.g., I vacuum the stairs and the long hallway upstairs), and much of this takes place sometime on Saturday. Then we have Eucharist at 11:30, lunch (often a smorgasbord of leftovers from the week), whatever the afternoon brings, evening prayer at 5:00, supper with our living groups, return to the oratory for Vigils at 7:00, and then whatever the evening brings. Sunday’s schedule is similar to Saturday’s, except that mass is at 10:30 (choir rehearsal at 10:00), and supper is in the main dining room.

So, we pray. And we work. And we do pretty much all of the normal, standard stuff that normal, standard you do. We don’t have one main type of work that we all do, as in some orders that center around teaching or nursing or social work. The Benedictine life is not so much about what we do, but what we are and how we are.

The standard question asked upon meeting a new acquaintance is, “What do you do?” meaning, “What is your job?” Benedict challenges us to be counter-cultural, to remember that we are human beings, not human doings. The important, life-sustaining thing we do in the monastery is to seek God. Of course, this happens in all of life. That’s our real job, as monastics, as human beings. The rest of our jobs flow from that, and right back into it.

Perhaps if we took “What do you do?” to mean “How do you contribute to our world?” we would all be a little better off for this shift in attitude. We all contribute something. And how we do it is possibly more important than what we do. I strive to be aware of God, and bring into being more of God’s presence, in the thousand ordinary parts of my life each day.