It is a very healthy exercise for monks and nuns (all monastics) to occasionally ask, "Why am I here?" The TIME MAGAZINE article (Nov. 20, 2006) previously commented upon prompted me to ask the question of myself yet again. If what I am about is not reflected in this article, how would I express my raison d'etre, my reason for being? Then I picked up a Cistercian Publication from its Monastic Wisdom Series entitled THE SECRET OF THE HEART: SPIRITUAL BEING by Sr. Jean-Marie Howe, OCSO (2005) In a retreat presented to Cistercian monks, she spoke of the divergent world view reflected in a life vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience as lived in monastic community within the reality of our times. I present them with slight revision.
Community challenging individualism
Simplicity challenging consumerism
Vigilance challenging distractions which high-jack attention
Obedience (inter-dependence) challenging independence
Self-sacrifice challenging narcissism
Asceticism challenging hedonism
Institutional membership challenging personal charisma
These are the ways in which contemplative monastics take a counter-cultural stance at the margins of our society. But all religious, by virtue of their vows, reflect this stance by living faithful lives in contrast to surrounding culture.