Tradition always gives us new things to discover. Recently, our Monastic Institute hosted a really astonishing and encouraging event, mainly organized by the Worldwide Community of Christian Meditation. More than 40 people from several continents (China, Argentina, Australia included) came to St. Anselm not only to deepen the theology of meditation, but also to practice it. So, this seminar was divided into lectures (followed by discussion groups) and meditation sessions (one held during the Mass).
The most valuable thing is always personal experience that sometimes can be shared, but usually only partially. The content of the conference seems more evident, and it has really outlined a huge space of importance of meditation. Just these few questions among the many that were asked let us reflect: is meditation an opportunity to overcome the crisis of the prayers in such a secularized world? Can we still learn from the monks of the third or fourth century? Can ascetic practices help us nowadays? Can meditation develop our imagination and/or creativity? Must prayer always be a pleasant experience?
If we assume that those who are honestly seeking the meaning of life must somehow reflect on prayer, these questions are very contemporary and universal. Our problems with prayer often mirror those in our lives. However we must remember that a lot of things about prayer were discovered many centuries ago – and they can be found just in the writings of the Christian tradition. So it is alright that the reflections on meditation very often refer to ancient texts, not usually known to those who follow the “traditional trails” of devotion.
The fathers from the desert, St. Benedict, Giovanni Cassiano, author of the Cloud of Unknowing, Augustine Baker, Henry le Saux, Thomas Merton and John Main are the protagonists of the battle for a deeper and more honest prayer. It seems that lack of knowledge leads many people to try to fill their existential and spiritual desires looking for the answers elsewhere, often in exotic cultures and traditions, while our spirituality tradition of prayer remains unknown and neglected.
It is very significant that many experts and professionals derive their strength from meditation. The leader of the Worldwide Community of Christian Meditation, the Olivetan monk Father Laurence Freeman OSB, is often invited to speak to entrepreneurs and managers of great companies. Once, after having listened to him talking about meditation, someone asked him to talk even about management of administrative and economical affairs.
The participants included people of various ages, some already with a long meditative experience. They divide their life into the one they had before meditation, and the one after. It is interesting and significant to share this experience with everyone. Meditation is a very simple and effective medicine for the many who suffer all around the world.
Bernard Sawicki osb
Coordinator of the Monastic Institute in Sant’Anselmo
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo