A Monk in the World :: CONVERSION of LIFE


Last month we learned the first of three primary Benedictine vows: Obedience. Second in our study is Conversatio Morum often translated: Conversion of Life. 

By this vow the monk recognizes that he is not yet fully the person God created him to be, that he is on the way to knowing himself as one loved and created in the divine image whose call is to be as Christ in the world but who has not yet arrived.                                                                              ~ Elizabeth Canham**

Most of my life I have been resistant to change; change in lifestyles, living situations, jobs, etc… Not until my late 40’s was I able to embrace change with joy, seeing the change as a God given adventure with a purpose for my benefit. 

Saint Benedict, writing to his monks in 6th century Italy, encourages them to embrace change and growth, to be transformed by the Spirit inwardly and outwardly.

As Christians we are called to continued spiritual growth. The vow of Conversion builds on this calling us to root out our vices and faults; to cultivate virtue and contemplation; to repent from worldly sin, and apply a lifelong process of discipline and spiritual formation.

With conversion we concentrate on the kind of person we want to become remembering there are no instant conversions. This is a lifelong marathon not a daily sprint. Not focusing so much on what must be removed but by adding in new healthier habits the negative ones will naturally fall away.

In this season of Lent what better time to embrace the Conversion of Life?

St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine **
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten
Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith, OSB
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Benedictine Monachism: Studies in Benedictine Life and Rule by Edward Cuthbert Butler

The 12 Steps of Humility :: ACCEPT SPIRITUAL DIRECTION


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

The first two rungs on Saint Benedict’s ladder of humility help us find our place in the universe. The next brings us to spiritual adulthood by opening ourselves obediently to the wisdom of others.

Step 3 of Humility: Imitating the Lord Jesus a person should submit to their superior in all obedience.

To begin our spiritual growth process we must first find a mentor / teacher and then be willing to accept direction from them. God graciously puts someone in my life to guide me. It is up to me to recognize their authority and to be teachable! 

Thinking we know it all usually land us face first in the dirt!  If we would have started in that position to begin with, humbly accepting direction, we could have saved ourselves embarrassment.

Growing up depends on learning from others. And learning from others depends on humility, being willing to submit this false sense of unlimited power to the experience and vision and penetrating heart of another. ~ Joan Chittister **

By practicing the First Step of Humility: Recognizing God’s Presence  and the Second Step of Humility: Accepting God’s will  it becomes easier to submit to the authority of a mentor or teacher that has been placed on our life path.

Ultimately it’s up to us to listen, accept direction, and value the insights of others. We must see our teachers, whoever they might be, young or old, as the voice of God speaking to us!

The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

Image credit: rolffimages / 123RF Stock Photo

BOOK REVIEW :: Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict


Esther de Waal

One of my new favorite people is Esther de Waal. In my opinion Esther is responsible for the global growth of the Oblate movement for the last 30 years. Her book Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict brings St Benedict’s Rule to life for those trying to live monastic principles in our ordinary lives outside monastery walls.

Ms. de Wall breaks down the Rule, written by a celibate man to other celibate men over 1500 years ago, into ways that can be applied to every life. Along with the beautifully translated Rule, each chapter is punctuated with sweet prayers and quotations perfect for a devotional or meditation time.

I learned many things in this wonderful book. But the most important is something I use every day; a principle that is tied to our daily work, whatever it may be.

Reflecting on this quote from the Rule:

He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected. (RB 31.2)

Esther de Waal writes:

What we can learn from the Rule is that the sense of God’s presence can be mediated throughout daily work and not destroyed by it…  seeking God does not demand the unusual, the spectacular, the heroic. It asks of me as wife, mother, housewife that I do the most ordinary, often dreary and humdrum things that face me each day, with a loving openness that will allow them to become my own immediate way to God. (Ch VII Material Things)

After reading this I put a daily ritual in place to help me keep this forefront in my mind. I start each morning by lighting a candle at my kitchen altar where I have placed a reminder card of this principle. Prayerfully, I dedicate my hands and work to God. Reminding myself that every implement of my work is a sacred vessel on the altar of my transformation. This immediately puts my heart attitude in check with the Holy Spirit.

You may not be interested in becoming an Oblate. But if you are pursuing spiritual growth, I highly recommend you read Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. Esther’s words have been so inspirational to me. This is a book I will read again and again!

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful teaching by Esther de Waal given at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2013. I love love love this woman! Her spirit is so sweet! I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. Blessings… Tamara

A Monk in the World ::OBEDIENCE


Closely linked to Step 2 of Humility is the discipline of obedience.  In the Benedictine monastic community the members profess three vows: obedience, stability and a life of on-going conversion. Implicit in these are the evangelical vows of chastity and poverty.

Obedience… is not one of our favorite words. Most of us like to think we don’t have to follow all the rules. Some would even say rules are made to be broken. But the truth is most rules are made to protect us from something. 

The root word of obedience is a Latin word for listen. When we want someone to obey us we are really asking them to listen to us. Thinking in this way obedience doesn’t seem so harsh. Isn’t this all God is asking of us? That we listen to Him? After all, He has our best interest in mind when He asks us to do something. 

In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul says obedience comes from faith, (1:5) faith comes from hearing God’s Word (10:17) and that we are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12). Which leads us to our next point.

In the spirit of Benedictine obedience, I should practice “mutual obedience”  obeying not only those in authority over me but also my fellow brothers and sisters. This fosters harmony in our communities and households. When we see others as the voice of God we will be better listeners.

Obedience is not what we expect from others, it is what we do ourselves for others… Obedience says: Set aside what you are doing. Focus your attention on the person before you to discern what God is asking you to do.  (St. Benedict’s Toolbox)**

Our response to obedience must be joyful and spontaneous. More than the action itself, what matters is the attitude of our heart. When we respond without grumbling, replacing competitiveness with consideration we can live a life of obedience as Saint Benedict teaches in his Rule.

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful worship song by Chris Tomlin.

**St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten

A Monk in the World :: LECTIO DIVINA

In Monk in the World we are learning the values, teachings and principles of Christian monasticism and how we can apply them to our lives outside the monastery walls. Today we’re focusing on the Prayer of Lectio Divina.

Lectio divina which means “holy or divine reading”  is an ancient form of prayer using Scripture as the voice of God to our heart. This type of prayer is simple in concept but  powerful in practice, taking us deeper and deeper in our relationship with God.

There are various takes on the practice of lectio divina. We are going to use the one I’ve learned from my resources listed below. Before beginning any prayer time we must find a quiet place to sit with the Lord. Focusing on our breath, we prepare to listen as the Holy Spirit brings openness and guidance.

  1. LECTIO: (Latin for reading) In this step we read a section of Scripture slowly, savoring each word as a delicious morsel that will nourish our soul. It’s helpful to read the passage aloud watching ever closely for a word or phrase that shimmers in our heart.
  2. MEDITATIO: (Latin for mediation) Here we take the phrase that caught our heart’s attention and ruminate on it through repetition and reflection. As we chew on the given text we connect it with our life situations.
  3. ORATIO: (Latin for prayer) In this next step we actually begin our conversion with God, our closest friend and confidant who we can share anything with. Here we may find much needed joy and gratitude; a renewal of hope and trust.
  4. CONTEMPLATIO (Latin for contemplation) Here we stop doing and just be, we still our hearts and minds, find rest in God’s loving arms as His precious child. We may continue our reading or end our prayer with thanksgiving.
Certainly one of my favorite passages of Scripture to meditate on is Psalm 23. Here are a few others you may consider:

Psalm 51 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.”
Psalm 91 “You who live in the shelter of the Most High”
Romans 8 “There is therefore no condemnation…

I hope you will enjoy the practice of lectio divina. I’m looking forward to putting it more into practice for myself this upcoming year.


St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten


For the last seven years God has allowed me to share my recovery journey with you. I’m very grateful and have learned a lot.  Now it’s time to share the new direction God is taking me.

A few years ago I began learning about Christian Mysticism. Then in 2011 I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality, which is is derived from The Rule of Benedict written by St. Benedict of Nursia for the monks in his monastery over 1500 years ago. Known as the founder of Western monasticism, St. Benedict and his rule have had a tremendous impact on the Christian church. Surprisingly, the rule provides extraordinary insight into today’s major spiritual issues. Once I began studying it I knew I was home.

Since studying monastic spirituality I’ve been led to become a Benedictine Oblate. Oblates are ordinary people who dedicate their lives to God like monks. But rather than taking vows and living behind the wall of a monastery, Oblates make spiritual commitments that are lived outside the wall. I’m excited to share the things I’m learning with you this upcoming year. I hope you’ll tag along as my spiritual journey continues to unfold… Blessings!

Here is the Reaching Hurting Women monthly schedule for 2014:

First Wednesday: The 12 Steps of Humility 
What I am most excited about this year is my focus on the topic of Humility. Each month we are going to learn one of the 12 Steps of Humility from St. Benedict. I think you will be amazed at how they line up with the recovery steps and principles.

Second Wednesday: A Monk in the World  
In this column we will learn how to implement monastic spiritual practices into our daily life, enhancing our Christian walk with Benedictine principles.

Third Wednesday: The Twelve Principles 
This year we are going to take a different turn on our 12 Step journey. My recovery columns for 2014 will focus on the Principles behind the 12 Steps rather than the Steps themselves. This will add a new dimension to our recovery study and growth process.

Fourth Wednesday: Books Reviews 
As I have these last few years, each month I will continue to publish a Book Review.  Again the topics will focus on Humility, Christian mysticism or monastic spirituality.

During Lent 2013 I studied about St. Hildegard of Bingen. 
She was an incredible woman far ahead of her time. Among her many accomplishments, St. Hildegard is credited for composing the first Western opera. I’d like to share her beautiful music with you. If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE.  Enjoy…

PHOTO CREDIT: ryanking999 / 123RF Stock Photo