Mentoring and Monitoring Benedictine
Voices From The Monastery
Now let us return to some of the voices from a section called additional comments of respondents. These comments were sent via email on the chapters the respondents listed as most relevant.
- On the Prologue: "We listen to God in our individual lives (true for all, not just Benedictines or the like), but we also listen to our colleagues and especially to students: their presence says the most about what we do, and why we are doing all this--and here, I think, we find the value of tradition. We learn to take the long view. We learn that we are not just hired for a job, rather we have a profession, we have a purpose in life."
- "The Prologue is really a basis for the whole environment. . . .The Prologue establishes a listening stance--listening to God, listening to the leadership and listening to all parts of the college or university. At an annual meeting of the Benedictine presidents a couple of years ago, these leaders noted that no Benedictine college or university grew very large--they decided that the closeness of the community was an essential part of any Benedictine college."
- On chapter 2 "Qualities of the Abbot": "The qualities of the president are described in this chapter--balanced, understanding, listening, etc." (I'm reminded of the model of the university president as CEO . . . father-like?)
- On chapter 64 "The Election of an Abbot": "The abbot focuses the community on its common task; he galvanizes the troops and helps articulate a vision."
- "Without leadership there is no common direction; the group dissolves. It's like sheets flying in the wind. On campuses, people are involved in mentor-like activities, led by both administration as well as older students. A problem of university 'community' is the rapid turnover. As a result, it is hard for the constituents to do much long-term thinking."
- "This applies in a college and in a university, in appropriate ways to everyone in a position of responsibility: president, deans, faculty, advisors, coaches, students too. One must recognize individuals, their needs and strengths; one must not play favorites; there is a time to take it easy and a time to be firm (but not ruthless). Most of all, you do whatever you're doing not for your own benefit but for the group."
- On chapter 3 "Summoning the Brothers for Counsel": "This doesn't refer to a democracy in a monastery, nor need it so refer in a college. It's nice to have decision-making power spread around (subsidiary); but it's essential that everyone involved in a given matter be informed and have a chance to provide input by some means. On the other hand, if my input doesn't seem to have much effect, I can't threaten mutiny . . . ."
- Another comment: "Consensus-building is the essence of community . . . all strata of learners need to be represented, especially those disenfranchised." (This comment contrasted with my experience: How often do we include all students, even the ones with low GPA's or in "developmental classes," or those many students just struggling to get through? The scholarship winners are always consulted.)
- Another respondent on Chapter 3: "It is essential that the leaders of the college seek input from all constituents of the college community in planning the future of the institution and in establishing goals."
- On chapter 7 "Humility": "This chapter provides the innards of life together. It presupposes that people are willing to WORK toward becoming better people. The 12-step programs for addiction presuppose as much. . . . No problem is beyond the pale, even on a college campus. This WE can deal with anything, if there is goodwill and the desire to grow. It is also an antidote to the 'terminal uniqueness' of many in late adolescence--no, your issues are quite similar to those of many others before you! Are you willing to deal with them? If so, we'll work this out together. We're to develop together a learning culture."
- On chapter 31 "Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer": "The one controlling the funds is not controlling one's own funds and dispensing them but rather holding the common funds in trust and assuring that wise use is made of them." (Even in large universities with huge investment funds.)
- "A college needs to promote stewardship (in the generic sense, not in the sense of fund-raising). . . ."
- On chapter 36 "The Sick Brothers": "The provision of the Rule agrees with, and surely goes beyond, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students and staff with disabilities must not just be dealt with in a legally correct way, but must be enabled to feel a part of the community (which emphasizes that there must be a community!). This applies to classes, activities, etc. of course, but also and primarily to personal relations."
- On chapter 53 "The Reception of Guests": "Hospitality should be the hallmark of a Benedictine institution with everyone received as Christ--not just 'Hello, how are you?' but an acceptance of different ideas and different people."
- On chapter 61 "Reception of Visiting Monks": ". . . receiving strangers as Christ and allowing them to join, but if they don't fit in, they need to be dismissed rather than upset the whole campus. With activists, this is delicate because maybe we need to be made uncomfortable. Benedict would say they were sent for a purpose. He was firmer on dismissing the grumblers, not those pushing for needed change."
- On chapter 63 "Community Rank": "To 'pull rank' is to strike at the possibility of building community. Those who are secure in their desire to nurture and mentor others will not go down that path."
- On chapter 65 "The Prior of the Monastery": "This chapter in itself is not important except that it points out that no one is to set up a little fiefdom apart from the main thrust of the institution. It harkens back to chapter 1 'The Kinds of Monks' . . .to have people working at cross-purposes serves no one. The prior is one who serves. On campuses, students, staff and faculty all need to adopt the attitude of serving from their particular position. When they do this, good things happen--and distinctions get lost."
- On chapter 71 "Mutual Obedience": "Without it, it is hard to conceive of life together. While leadership is a key concept, the respect for persons that this chapter talks about provides the foundation for leadership to function. And it is 'mutual'--it runs in all directions. No military chain-of-command type hierarchy can create a brotherhood."
- On chapter 72 "The Good Zeal of Monks": "There is often much enthusiasm on college campuses, no end to energy. The problem is that much of it is misdirected. When motivation can be channeled . . . this serves to create an ambience which promotes 'learning'--not in some narrow book sense but in life skills that never go out of fashion."
- On chapter 31 "Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer" and chapter 32 "The Tools and Goods of the Monastery": "All call for a spirit of ownership: 'This is my school.' No one can be involved in every aspect of an institution, college or monastery, but everyone should feel a desire to be involved wherever they can contribute and a willingness to be 'stretched' by the needs of a situation or the call of a colleague. A college needs to model this for each generation of students.