I was quite surprised to read that the vow of stability was an important rule for the Benedictine way of life. The vow of stability meant that the monk promised to remain as part of one particular religious community for life and that he would work out his spiritual life in that group of monks. Different from this was the monk who moved from place to place in an effort to find the perfect fit, a place that satisfied his tastes and personality.
St. Benedict felt that it was most important to find God where you are, that God is everywhere, and what we perceive to be obstacles to spiritual growth are, in reality, the means of spiritual growth. Bloom where you are planted.
In contrast to the value of stability, is the current way of living that many of us have adopted. How many of us become dissatisfied with a spouse, job, town, or school and so we just move on? It was not uncommon in previous generations for people to be born in the house they would live in most of their lives and then die there. Certainly, people lived their whole lives in the village they were born into.
Now, it seems that everyone is on the move all of the time. Who expects to live in the same house for many years? Who expects to work for the same company their whole career? While most of us intend to have the same spouse for life, more than 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce.
Father Longenecker in Saint Benedict for Busy Parents writes, “Our society is built on a kind of restlessness and search for more, more, more. Stability says, ‘Stop. Look. Listen. Salvation is at hand. Find happiness here or find it nowhere.’” Something is lost when we just move on when things get difficult. It is rare that people grow when they cope with current difficulties by avoiding them. Alcoholics often take a “geographic cure” by moving to a new place, only to discover that they’ve taken their problems with them.
Stability requires that we stay put, work out our difficulties here, make commitments to a community, job, relationships, church, and spouse. Instead of running away from our problems we solve them. Sometimes that means I have to change, become a better person, learn patience, learn and form better habits, become a more loving person. While starting over in a new place can be appealing, starting over right where you are has the potential for unimaginable growth. Sometimes we just need to be stable.
“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”