Monasteries of the Heart

Profile: Irish, leader of Ora et Labora Monastery

1. What would you say was the key reason that lead you to offer an online monastery?
The truth: I was too proud to say no to Sr. Mary Lou when she asked me. I was totally caught off guard. Then I realized that is was a real opportunity to deepen my own prayer life, to get to know and share in a very special way with others. I would have to do extra reading and praying, but the payoff would far surpass the effort and time I would put into this – and it has.

2. What has been the biggest surprise in the experience for you?
How the movement attracted people from all over the world.

3. How far-flung is your monastery geographically?
Swaziland, Australia, Germany, Ireland, various states in the North, South, East and Western parts of the United States.

4. What would you say is the biggest gift of an online monastery?
People willing to share their experiences of prayer, spiritual growth, emotions with total strangers who are working to becoming an intentional virtual community. Idealistically, since I find Benedictine spirituality a combination of prayer, work, concern for the local and global community, recognition and appreciation of creation and all human beings – taken seriously, it could change the world.

5. What is the biggest challenge?
Some have shared that they don’t feel “competent” or that they don’t have anything worthwhile to share. That makes me very sad. The other challenge is people who don’t post. The rest of us don’t know if they are “around.” Even if they would post, “Hi, I’m still here” once a week – that would be helpful. Now, that could be my own issue of control. Ultimately, I wish everyone was comfortable enough to engage.

6. What would you suggest that others reflect on as they consider leading an online monastery?
Don’t let yourself think that you can’t do it. Are you searching for community? Do you want to know more about Benedictine spirituality? Can’t find what you are searching for? Start right here.
It is a remarkable opportunity for all types of growth. I’ve made some dear friends. Some of us plan to meet in Erie this summer, hopefully.

7. Has your community decided on a common Good Work?
This is a challenge because of the geographic boundaries (or non boundaries) of each monastery. It is also challenging because one would expect a local and a communal response to whatever common work the monastery chooses. We had a thread to discuss several different Good Work possibilities.
One of our members from Swaziland was sharing stories of her missionary work and relaying the horrors of human trafficking. Coincidentally it was around the same time as the Super Bowl and newspaper articles on the same issue. We still need to hear from a few more members, but the issue of trafficking could become our common good work.

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