I'm not sure how many of you have had the opportunity to visit an actual monastery, but if you ever have the opportunity, I highly encourage it. When I was growing up in northwest Indiana, we lived near a small Carmelite monastery (the same one my husband later proposed at!) and we visited it frequently when I was small. We had family roots there, back to my great-grandparents, who were the ones who planted to original trees on the property, as a service to the brothers and fathers.
But what's particularly appealing about this monastery is that it occupies a very small section of land (not more than a couple square city blocks, if even) and it's plopped down right in the middle of an ordinary, suburban neighborhood. I know of other monasteries that are far out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful landscape. In all honesty, were I called to a religious community, I would probably prefer one of those. But, as a lay person - I love the monasteries plopped into the middle of cities or neighborhoods. I love them for their accessibility.
A monastery is a refuge from the world, in the world. Taking your lunch break, a Sunday afternoon, or an early morning jaunt onto the grounds of a monastery is meant to refresh you. It's meant to be a place of peace and quiet. It's meant to be free from the hectic pace of the world.
That is exactly what our homes are supposed to be - a place of refuge in the midst of a chaotic world. The people who live in monasteries aren't perfect. The people who live in our homes aren't perfect. But, we're all striving for perfection, on some level. And each act of love in a family (or a monastery) gets its members closer to heaven. (Remember the Little Way?)
The Domestic Monastery image elevates the meaning of the family to its proper place. A family is supposed to image God's love. A family is supposed to be a little school of holiness. But a family is also made up of people who get impatient, frustrated, get angry, and are selfish. Yet, in an environment of love, the members of the family can have the freedom to work through their imperfections and be encouraged in their efforts. Yet, the love of a family is even deeper than the love of a monastic community. Often a family is made up of members related by flesh and blood, but even when that is not the case, the family is still intrinsically bonded in a way that amazes the outsider. A family is a place to love and be loved; to grow in holiness and be embraced when you have failed.
So, the domestic monastery image allows the family to view all that they do in the context of love - an ongoing reminder of why families matter, and are worth preserving (a fitting discussion as the synod on the family begins).
Why are you drawn to the domestic monastery image?
Don't forget that tomorrow is the official release date of the book!!
I am soooo excited!! You can pre-order the Kindle copy or...drumroll, please...purchase the paperback a day early!!! Check back the rest of this week for more info!