Alan Rabjohns reviews the recent DVD [see advert on p.29] on the religious life
Thank you. That must be the first response to this DVD: thank you to RooT and to the communities involved for the vision that led to its production. Thank you to the thought and prayer that went into putting it together, for it is an excellent production. It is certainly needed, for many know little or nothing about the religious life, especially as part of the Anglican Church.
Search for simplicity
Monks and Nuns in the Church of England is the title of the admirable short introduction by Bishop Lindsay Urwin.
In it, we are told of the existence and importance of religious in our Church and reminded that they have something to teach us all about what it is to be a Christian, especially in the search for simplicity. With the contrast between what we want and what we need, we are led to see the religious as those who find contentment and serenity without much ‘stuff’, something we should all be seeking.
Responding to the Call gives us an insight into the many and varied people who are called, and also the multitude of ways in which the call may be heard. One describes how the beginning awareness of the call made her feel she was going mad. Fr Brian cswg tells of being in a parish play as a friar, and someone saying he could be Friar Brian, an innocent remark that led to much thinking and eventually the beginning of his own monastic journey.
All Things in Common gives us a brief history of the beginnings of the religious life, flowing from the vision of the Apostles united in the breaking of bread and the prayers related in Acts, through the calls of pioneers of this life like St Anthony, St Benedict, St Francis and St Clare.
Growing in the Life moves us on from there to see how in these various communities and settings the same things are worked out through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Through obedience we are changed from the rough pebble into the smooth, as the waters of God bring us to a singleness of purpose. Chastity is not just about not marrying or having children, but a diversion of the energies so that we are led to purity of heart. And poverty is not living in penury but in simplicity and complete dependence.
All are called
In Life in Community, we are treated to ten-minute snapshots of life in each of the communities featured. We see them praying the offices, celebrating the
Eucharist, at prayer in the Cell or before the Blessed Sacrament. We see cooking, printing, candle making, gardening. Above all, we hear the confidence of men and women saying that God still wants people to respond to this call and that there is a future for the religious life in our Communion. Various community members speak of how the problems and divisions in the Church affect them, and how they are seeking within the patterns of the religious life to find ways of dealing with them, not least the finding of the true nature of the vocation of men and women and their complementary role in God’s creation.
The final section, Sharing in the Life: Something for Everyone, takes us away from the religious themselves to hear what others think of their place and value in the Christian life. Again, it is remarkable what a variety of people have this contact with the Communities. One thing I found personally helpful was the description of the relationship of oblates or associates to the communities: if the members were brothers and sisters, perhaps we are to be seen as cousins.
The Christian life is one. Those called as monks and nuns do not do something different nor extra. They do what all of us are called to do but in a different way. This DVD should be shown widely; talked about and prayed about and then perhaps more will see what Bishop Lindsay says so eloquently, “The Lord has a need’. That need is for men and women to offer themselves for this life. ‘So why not you?’