Abbot Basil, OSB provided the homily at the evening Eucharist on the Feast of Saint Benedict. He mentioned Esther de Waal's early influence on him. He said something about her speaking at St. Paul's, Seattle some years ago. He had read "Seeking God" in the 1990s.
de Waal wrote "Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict" in 1984. That was a year after the Order of the Ascension started. We picked up on her book rather quickly. It influenced the phrasing of the Promise we take and parts of our Rule. A few years later, 1989, she wrote "Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality." I only recently have been looking at that book on my Kindle. The quote below is from the preface to a later edition.
It is very fascinating to see how, in the ten years since this book was first written, increasing numbers of lay people like myself are turning to the monastic tradition. Here they find support on their Christian journey which they often fail to find in the institutional church, where parish and diocesan life can be extremely busy, and seemingly lacking in any sort of contemplative focus. [Esther de Waal in "Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality" 1997 edition]
I heard echos of this in Basil's sermon. It was part of a recent conversation with friends a few weeks ago and in messages from two relatively new Christians at St. Paul's since then.
It's at the heart of what we have given ourselves to in the Order of the Ascension -- to influence parishes to reduce the busy work and institutional obsession and focus on the primary ministry of the baptized and grounding women and men in the threefold Benedictine pattern - mass, daily office, reflectiveness.
Is it really necessary for those in the parish of Apostolic faith and practice, and those progressing toward that, to go outside the parish for food? When that happens our parishes lose something of the grounding these people can provide for parish life. I believe it’s also related to an increased likelihood of parish conflict, a tendency toward superficial and sentimental religion, the overburdening of the clergy, and a weakening of the dynamic their presence offers in drawing others more deeply into the Christian life.
It’s a twofold action.
1. Reduce the busyness of parish life. Some have started with Sunday morning. How to make the Eucharist and the time around the Eucharist an experience of calmness and lightness instead of rushing and anxiety.
2. Focus attention of the daily life of the baptized (in family, with friends, in workplace and civic life) and grounding women and men in the threefold Benedictine pattern - mass, Office, reflectiveness (Lectio, contemplation, personal devotions connecting prayer with daily life, long walks, whatever works!). Some have started by looking at the message the parish web site sends – is the impression given that the ministry of the laity is primarily about the internal life of the parish, its committees and projects and programs? Is there much on the site that points people to, and resources them for, a more grounded and stable life of prayer?