Life in the Monastery24 Mar 2015, by Augustinians in
Written by Fr. Julius Onuoha (O.S.A.)
At the mention of the word monastery, several funny images becloud the minds of many people. For some persons, it is the image of a very lonely and quiet place where people don’t even talk or laugh with each other.
For some other persons, it is a place where some serious-looking monks, who hardly smile, spend their whole time praying, meditating, and reading the bible. There are also those who see the monastery as a spiritual prison where people foolishly go just to escape from the challenge of life.
These images are indeed funny. Obviously, life in the monastery is more than what many people think it is. Life in the monastery is quite unique and prayer-oriented, but it is not as “transcendental” as many of us think. The monks are neither angels nor escapists; they are human beings. They are not lonely souls running away from the responsibilities of life; they are a community of brothers enjoying the gift of God’s friendship in each other in a very unique and special way;
They live a community life, a life where everyone is relevant, where everything is important and where every time is significant.
When you step into the monastery, particularly the Augustinian monastery in Jos, Nigeria, you immediately observe that life is organized and time is utilized. There is time for everything, there is God in everything, and there is God in everyone. When we say everything, we mean everything that is good; things like recreation, manual labor, a celebration of life (i.e., the birthday of the brothers and special feast days), funny jokes, interesting arguments characterized by agreements and disagreements, sporting activities and spiritual activities such as Mass, praying of the divine office, adoration, benediction, bible study, and faith sharing.
The monks don’t just pray; they also play; they don’t only read the bible, but they also eat good food, they joke and laugh. In brief, they are happy people. They are happy not because they do what they like but because they like what they do, not because they are “in the money” but because they are “in Christ.”
One word that truly captures the nature of life in the monastery is “beautiful.” It is beautiful not because the brothers in the monastery don’t experience challenges but simply because no one faces anything alone. Every moment and experience is shared. Good moments are shared; bad moments are shared as well as ugly moments. In fact, no one does anything alone; the brothers in the monastery eat together, work together, recreate together, pray together,
Joke together and even “cry” together. Everyone indeed is a gift to everyone.
Again when we say “everyone,” we mean everyone. The monastery is not an Igbo community; it is not a Yoruba community or even a Hausa community; it is a Christian community; a community of different tribes, colors, characters, faces, talents, gifts but with a single culture- the culture of love and togetherness. Some persons think that a monastery is a place where individual differences are overlooked, but that is not true. In the monastery, individual differences are appreciated and harnessed for the good and growth of everyone.
This brings us to the final point. Life in the monastery is prophetic. It is a speechless message to a loveless world;
A world where many are in the crowd yet lonely; where many find it very difficult to live together because of normal human differences in language, color, personalities, ideologies, and beliefs; a world of individualism, sectionalism, and tribalism. In the way the brothers in the monastery live, we see what life in heaven would look like and what life on earth should be like. In a very speechless way, the brothers in the monastery, through their way of life, are saying to the whole world- we can live together! We can grow together! We can enjoy this life together!