MONASTERY OF ST. BENEDICT – EL ROSAL
El Rosal is situated in the province that surrounds the Capital of Colombia, Bogota, a metropolis of about 10 million inhabitants. The zone of El Rosal is about 20 km far from Bogota and is called “El bello Jardin de Rosas y Flores”, the beautiful Rose und Flower Garden. Many flowers are grown in this area.
Currently the community counts 12 members; 8 of them are permanent members who have taken final vows (5 priests and 3 brothers). In addition there are 4 members in formation, one novice and 3 postulants.
During the day the monks dedicate themselves to a variety of jobs within the precincts of the monastery. They do this out of a double motive, for earning their own living and for devoting their strength to God and for the benefit of the people they are staying with. They welcome people into their community who want to experience their hospitality or to recollect their spiritual strength in days of retreat or seek advice from a spiritual father. Frequently the priests administer the sacrament of reconciliation to people who want to overcome what had been wrong in their lives.
The community earns its living mainly through the work done in the workshops. For long the carpentry has produced any kind of liturgical and domestic furniture and earned quite some income for the community. Besides they run a small workshop for bookbinding and painting of icons. This workshop also produces sacred vessels for the liturgy.
For the body we care through baking full grain bread, making yoghurt, kefir and cheese. The young brothers, who are still under formation, take care of a vegetable garden.
We constantly feel the challenge how to give a sound and deeply biblical formation to the young who want to join our community. This formation has to prepare them for their live within the community, considering both their talents and the needs of the community, aiming at how areas of administration, the service needed by the people, and true spiritual life can be improved upon.
To meet these challenges we have been planning and talking about how we can enhance and double our efforts offering a true spiritual input to our guests and in retreat-courses, make them feel welcome and helped in their particular needs. At the same time we are concerned about the professional and human development of our apprentices in the workshops. They should be enabled to grow personally and make a living for themselves and for their families.
At the same time we are concerned how we can create and maintain a stable source of income for our own community that should also cover the service we offer to people.
Solitude along the Way
Because it is getting dark,
because it is late, my Lord,
because I fear
to go astray,
do not leave me so alone
and stay by my side
Let us face it: solitude has not had very good press even if in 1685 Henry Purcell immortalised it as being sublime company: Oh, Solitude, my sweetest choice! In our ears still resounds, and from time immemorial, the famous biblical admonition: It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18). And we human beings have always sensed that we are likely to be much better off in (preferably) good company than all alone. Besides biology has long ago made us aware that we are all the fruit of company.
On the other hand, especially in religious environments, the communitarian approach has been privileged over more eremitical choices, and in the history of the church it has not been rare a look of suspicion over all those who, for one reason or another, chose solitude. Fortunately enough, there have always been great solitaires of one kind or another in our midst and they have never fallen into oblivion. Think of Anthony the Great, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton and countless others. Not to speak of solitude in the history of Art, Literature and Music. If all these solitudes have been in vain, we may wonder at the fruits, historically speaking, of the busy and socially active crowds.
Like it or not, temporary or permanently according to one’s vocation, solitude is inseparable of the way, and even more of the spiritual way! And this is so because solitude is at the origin of the call…and of the departure. Something or someone summoned us. Something or someone set us on the way. I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness (Hos 2:14) What amounts to saying: I will bring her into solitude.
Indeed solitude seems to be particularly able to tune our ear and enhance our capacity to listen. It sheds light and provides discernment. It liberates from social tyranny and from worries about what people may say. It is good training for the unexpected and for the spiritual combat. Only solitude may keep at bay our ego full of self-indulgence, pride and vanity. Solitude, in short, strips us naked. Yet Solitude is not as lonely as one might think. She generally enjoys the good company of Silence and Simplicity. A trustworthy trinity!
Without this radical confrontation with ourselves and with mystery, we are not likely to make way on the spiritual journey. And if we do, it will surely be second-hand: the tale of others and the experience of others. Let us face it: it is so easy to delude ourselves! So easy, for instance, to pray to a complete stranger to whom, by force of tradition, we have grown into the habit of calling…God! Solitude is not up to these tricks. Job ‘got it’ just when he was brought into utter solitude and deprivation, when he realized he had never truly known -personally, not by hearsay- the One he had to measure himself against. And, ashamed, cried out: I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear (Job 42:5). Perhaps we too have heard of him only by the hearing of the ear. Thomas Merton was never complacent about it: Only those know Him who have themselves abandoned all falsity and all illusion and all pretense and all sham. Solitude serves to that end: to get rid of all these undesirable pretenders. To get to know that the Unintelligible -namely, the way of the cross (is there any other?)- cannot be journeyed with our heads, but only with our hearts. And that only in the wilderness will the heart let itself be purified by a mystery that at its best invites us once and again into trusting abandonment and self-emptying. Thus, solitude serves to know what solitude and desolation and impotence taste like. It serves to realise that without Him we can do nothing. Then, the mystics tell us, only when we are sheer loneliness, sheer emptiness, sheer receptivity, and only then, will we know -or, rather, will we experience- that on the journey we are on, no matter how troubling or terrifying it may turn out to be, we are never, and never will be, alone. Yet, stiff-necked people that we are, we find it hard to believe that He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Let us then say farewell with the words of a seasoned contemporary hermit: despite its ill reputation, solitude opens us to communion with God, with our deeper selves, with others, with the beautiful and with mystery.
God, Father of all that is good, rich in mercy and love. Look at this small part of your church, gathered in brotherhood and charity; bring to perfection what you have begun in us, that we may prefer nothing to you, our heavenly Father, and serve you faithfully in our brothers and sisters, in a spirit of love and with a humble heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen
Thank you for joining us “in Camino,” for being a part of our humble project, for your prayers, for your assistance and for your company.
With your support you will contribute with food bags, sanitary material, water supply, cleaning kits…
See you next week!