A Further Reflection on Monastic Decorum
Yesterday we received some thought-provoking comments after posting the article on decorum. I asked the novice directress if one of the novices could reply since she recently took the course. Here is what Sr. Lucia Marie had to share:
In our monastic decorum class, we do learn some of the things you mention pertaining to posture and how we carry ourselves, but it isn’t intended to turn us into robots! The way it is taught is very much in keeping with the ideas of the passage Sister shared in the original post, that is, we seek to express an inner dignity and gentleness in our behavior.
Our decorum class goes far beyond simply teaching do’s and don’ts of manners, and emphasizes the inner spirit that should animate all our actions so that we can grow into that “instinctive consideration for the feelings of others and a spontaneous preference for good form.” For example, when we learn about the times and places of silence within this monastic community, we also read excerpts from the teachings of the Desert Fathers on the importance of silence for bringing all in the community closer to Lord who dwells in our midst. (Hence – no whistling!)
Similarly, we learn from St. John Paul II the dignity of the human person, especially our dignity as women, and then turn to how to manifest our recognition of this dignity in our actions, both in our personal comportment and our treatment of our sisters (like offering a smile or a bow of the head when we pass one another in the corridors).
To sum this all up, we do learn guidelines of how to behave, but more than that we seek to acquire a gentle heart and attentiveness that will enable us to adapt appropriately to each situation we encounter in our daily lives, so that we can do all things – taking a meal, recreating, praying the divine office, working in the garden – whole-heartedly and from a love of God and neighbor!