A Benedictine Catholic in Appalachia

A Benedictine Catholic in Appalachia might be a better title for this blog (too lazy to start another blog), both for the commitment to place, in various senses, that comes from the Benedictine monastic tradition and for the affinity to our current Pope Benedict XVI.

As MaryAlice and I were jeeping from Rose Hill, Virginia up Falling Water Gap over the Cumberland Mountain range and down into Harlan County, Kentucky, I was reminded of how rooted I am in Appalachia.

By the way, Google and Yahoo maps (look at the Yahoo hybrid close up) give pretty much the same route, but they differ as to how long one stays on 693 before the right turn onto 797. In either case, if one misses that turn one can continue to the top and then turn right and go 3+ miles to the crow’s foot and then connect back to 797. Or, as we did, turn left and go 3+ miles to the rock cliffs overlooking the Powell valley. At any rate, whichever route, something like a Jeep is needed..very much so at places.

on road above Rose Hill, VA

on road above Rose Hill, VA

The Presbyterian minister and author Eugene Peterson has this great phrase “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” .. that’s what we’re about, isn’t it? The road to Mary Alice may be rough and rocky with mud holes and much bouncing on boulders; however, there is great and rare beauty along the way.

Michigan Turk's Cap lily above Mary Alice, Kentucky

Michigan Turk's Cap lily above Mary Alice, Kentucky

There is much to be said for being a benedictine Catholic in this southwest Virginia region of Appalachia, from the New River Valley out to the Cumberland Gap.

“By their monastic profession, Benedictines make three promises: stability, fidelity to the monastic way of life, and obedience. Though promises of poverty and chastity are implied in the Benedictine way, stability, fidelity, and obedience receive primary attention in the Rule — perhaps because of their close relationship with community life.

Stability means that the monastic pledges lifelong commitment to a particular community. To limit oneself voluntarily to one place with one group of people for the rest of one’s life makes a powerful statement. Contentment and fulfillment do not exist in constant change; true happiness cannot necessarily be found anywhere other than in this place and this time. For Benedictines, stability proclaims rootedness, at-homeness, that this place and this monastic family will endure.

Likewise, by fidelity to the monastic way, Benedictines promise to allow themselves to be shaped and molded by the community — to pray at the sound of the bell when it would be so much more convenient to continue working, to forswear pet projects for the sake of community needs, to be open to change, to listen to others, and not to run away when things seem frustrating or boring or hopeless.” – from a page on the Rule of St Benedict by Sister Jane Michele McClure, OSB.

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