Every Man a Monk
The young curé of Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest (1937) ruminates about monks (Carthusian and Trappist):
What miracle enables these semi-lunatics, these prisoners of their own dreams, these sleepwalkers, apparently to enter more deeply each day into the pain of others? An odd sort of dream, an unusual opiate which, far from turning him back into himself and isolating him from his fellows, unites the individual with mankind in the spirit of universal charity!
The cloister has always separated us from such men (and women), but once upon a time, their presence was nonetheless powerful.
Writing of medieval monasticism, historian Friedrich Heer insists the monk’s pursuit of perfection was influential at all levels of society: “This is something of far-reaching political and social importance. . . .All the hopes, prayers and demands the medieval Christian set on the monks and the monasteries were centered on one expectation: that they would achieve the complete sanctity of a perfect Christian life.”
Of course, perfection is not given to any man. But an aspiration to perfection – to the highest possible standards in every aspect of life – is possible.