When I first began my blog over a year ago, I shared with a friend that I was tempted to call it “The Benedictine Franciscan Methodist.” He said it would be too much. He was probably right. Yet throughout my journey of faith, I have sensed a deep appreciation for the way of Christ expressed in various ways through denominations and orders, including that of Saint Francis and Saint Benedict, along with the fathers of my tradition, John and Charles Wesley.
I have been drawn to the Franciscan way of joy, simplicity, and peace. The person Saint Francis of Assisi was introduced to me in college. Since that time, I have always been intrigued by Francis and his little way. Those who follow Francis live a life of simplicity that leads to great joy and peace.
When I was still in college preparing for graduation and entering seminary, a clergy friend shared that he occasionally goes to a monastery for prayer and renewal. Monasticism was brand new to me. I had never been to a monastery before, let alone going on retreat at one. I decided to pack my bags and check out Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey in southern Indiana, which is a Benedictine monastery in the Roman Catholic tradition. It was a powerful experience. I found myself lost in the silence and prayer. It was ironic, also a great blessing, that I met a Franciscan Friar who was on retreat at Saint Meinrad’s that same week. Brother William and I spent much time together during my first monastery visit which brought together two beautiful traditions in the Benedictine and Franciscan ways.
It would be a few years before I would rekindle my interest in monasticism after stumbling upon Saint Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, MI. Saint Gregory’s is a small Benedictine monastery in the Episcopal tradition. While I was familiar with and had a relationship with the Episcopal Church, I didn’t know there were monks and nuns in this tradition. This small abbey has been a home away from home since I began full time pastoral ministry. In many ways, it has been and continues to be a place I go to hide away with God. It’s my place where I enter my room, close the door, and pray to my Father in secret, even though my family and friends know where I am retreating.
While I’m drawn to the way of Saint Francis, I’m also drawn to the silence, daily rhythm of prayer, and emphasis on community in the way of Saint Benedict. I have been going to Saint Gregory’s for around 6 years now, along with various visits to other monasteries, and every time I retreat there, I find myself quickly slipping back into the rhythm of prayer and silence. It’s a beautiful thing to order one’s day and time with prayer.
In the silence, I hear God more clearly in prayer, quiet, and reading. It’s amazing how many pages I flip through not just due to the quiet, but thanks to the focus that retreating affords me.
The Benedictine motto is “Seek God.” We are to seek God in the monastery, in the church, in the world, and in our day to day activity. The monastery gives me the opportunity to practice for the rest of the week. I practice the disciplines of prayer, silence, and reading, in a way that leads me into the world in peace.
I’m pleased to say that yes, I am a “Franciscan Methodist,” but I’m also a “Benedictine Methodist” following the way of Francis, Benedict, and Wesley, because I see beauty and God in all three.