One of the most prevalent needs in the human condition is that of intimacy. Intimate relationships allow us to be vulnerable and share things that are deeply personal and guarded. If these are not handled with great care and compassion, we can experience deep shame and humiliation.
In our national civic discourse, we see devastating examples of a lack of empathy and compassion for each other. Our government leaders use bully tactics to berate, infantilize, and minimize those with whom they disagree. The cultural equating of intimacy with sex has resulted in people allowing themselves to be vulnerable without the requisite building of trust and emotional connection. Our inherent yearning for true intimacy, coupled with our experience of shame at the hands of those who have betrayed our own sense of what is good and true, can leave us mired in fear. As a result, we engage others with unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings that lead to disillusionment and the eventual disintegration of relationship. Lack of intimacy is often a contributing factor in addiction, depression, and bodily illness.
We Brothers understand that the need for intimacy is incarnational. Even though we have taken a vow of celibacy, we recognize our own need for intimacy. Our Rule of Life says, “Our human vocation to live in communion and mutuality is rooted in our creation in God’s image and likeness. The very being of God is community; the Father, Son, and Spirit are One in reciprocal self-giving and love.” We seek intimacy with God in prayer with the sober recognition that Jesus often engages us in the faces of those around us. “We are given to one another by Christ.” Monks are not immune to the complexities of human relationships. As we are each a wonderful mystery, diverse in body, mind, and spirit, we too can fall prey to isolating loneliness if we are not honest with each other about our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
In “Renewing Our Foundations,” we have been exploring our willingness to be vulnerable with each other as a means of deepening our intimacy with God who yearns for union with his creation. Both the older and younger generations are opening their hands in order to give and receive the gifts of experience, vision, courage, and hope as we live into our vocational call to share the Gospel. Along with laughter, we have shed some tears as some of our conversations have highlighted areas in our life in deep need of healing. While some of our conversations have been difficult, they have deepened our love for one another. As our Rule of Life says: “In an alienating world, where so many are frustrated and wounded in their quest for intimacy, we can bear a life-giving testimony to the graces of friendship as men who know by experience its demands, its limitations, and its rewards.”