Obsculta! Wise Elders and the Desert Tradition

The Goal of Mentoring

Mentoring is generative; we pass on an abundant life to those younger who will themselves carry the tradition forward. With mentoring, the disciple is immersed in the tradition at the intellectual and affective levels. The tradition is passed on: heart, mind and soul. Mentoring seeks to bring together doxy and praxis: to learn the ways of the tradition, to understand the tradition and to mature in practice of the tradition. We do not mentor for theory only.

The desert and monastic tradition is a culture, a way of life, and an attitude of mind and heart and gut. As the seeker is immersed into this new culture, she/he then must "go apart" to explore what is happening, what is being learned and evoked as a result of this journey. Then seeker and elder sit together to explore the dynamics of what is happening. This slow-drip method of exploration and discernment moves the tradition into the very cells of our being.

Ultimately the goal of mentoring the desert and monastic tradition is to cultivate a deeply listening heart: Benedict's listening with the ear of our hearts. We seek to learn the fine art of listening from the very depths of our being. Elders try to help us see more clearly all the varied stumbling blocks we place in the path of deep listening. We seek to learn the music of silence and the beauty of solitude. In that place of silence and solitude, we deepen in self-awareness and self-knowledge, coming to know self-before-God. This is a silence into listening.

Today we see younger generation hungering for the tradition (be this Christian, Catholic, Benedictine, monastic, whatever) and yet redefining it to their own understanding and aspirations. They appropriate and make the tradition their own, imbuing it with their own meaning. Our challenge is to faithfully present and immerse them in the monastic way, and then engaging them in conversation around this process of appropriation. Elders must challenge and explore: is the appropriation true to the tradition? Is it sufficiently prophetic to their own generation/cohorts? To what degree are they/we pasteurizing and sanitizing the tradition--a basic human tendency. We must ultimately let go and enter the creative chaos.

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© 2003 by The American Benedictine Academy / www.osb.org/aba/