There was a kind of strange movie out a few years ago, called “Into Great Silence” It was a movie about a monestary so austere that the monks live in silence and solitude, eating most meals in their cells, doing chores and spending hours in silent prayer. They eat together…in silence…once a week, and speak to each other only for a few hours on Sunday afternoons. They clearly thrive in this life.
The movie was mostly silent, the charm of it in the beautiful work of the camera detailing the daily work of these men’s lives. The Monestary is located in the Alps, so the scenery is beautiful, and these monks live in well-kept buildings and rooms. It all looks so peaceful, so restful, so…orderly.
And then the camera comes to the Father Abbot’s office. Alone of all the spaces we have seen so far, this one is cluttered and strewn with papers. It takes only a little French to see that Father Abott has been writing a fund raising letter. It’s a kind of a shock…this surreal place needs money! Furthermore, on Father Abbott’s desk is a telephone. Alone of all the monks, their leader has been talking to the world.
The camera left this scene quickly, having made the point that this place of other-worldly beauty and silence is sustained by the world and its work, and that while the lowly junior novice may live in silence and in prayer, his religious leader has to talk, raise money, and endure enough stress that he never gets his desk cleared off. Apparently Father Abbott thinks it's worth it.
On Tuesday, I will pass the 30th anniversary of my ordination. I think it's worth it, too.