What can a Benedictine monk tell us about living in community. A lot, it turns out. Rev. Roman Paur, OSB, St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN, was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of five retirement communities residents’ council members on April 19. All are managed by Erickson Living. As the host Residents’ Council President, I developed the program including the selection of the keynote speaker.
The world is full of connections and serendipity. Others will say, it was the spirit moving. Rev. Paur is a long-time friend of Charlestown residents, Mark and Millie Issacs. Dan and I first met Paur in 2013 on one of his visits to see his friends. Since Dan graduated from St. John’s University, the Issacs invited us to join them for dinner on one of Rev. Paur’s visits. Last fall on one of his visits, I mentioned that I was looking for ideas on a keynote to talk about my theme of “Living in Community.” Rev. Paur raised his hand and said, “I can do that!”
It may seem odd to talk about the 6th Century when talking about community but Rev. Paur did just that with the title, Community Living: Lessons from the Sixth Century Benedictine Tradition. I was a little nervous when he started talking about the Goths, Visigoths, Huns, and the fall of the Roman Empire. We wouldn’t have wanted to live in the 4th, 5th, or 6th century he went on. He talked about St. Benedict’s need to get away from it all and become a hermit, but the groupies kept following him. I was thinking, okay where is he going with this. It clicked when he said, “Benedict wanted to develop a community of civility.” Just last year, Past President, Phyl Lansing has the Council read Choosing Civility: the Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni. I wrote about the book two years ago.
Paur used the Socratic method to pull out concepts of community, encouraging us to define what it meant and the necessary elements or “rules.” We got most of concepts right with his gentle and encouraging prodding. I was taking notes as he walked us through Benedict’s Rules for Community Living. The theme of listening and hospitality came through over and over.
- Conflict comes from our heels. We “dig in our heels.”
- Listening is necessary for negotiating.
- Forgiveness is not a natural process, it requires love.
- Are we better because of one another? Are you better because of me?
- Are we building each other up through encouragement?
- How can we work together?
- We need to be open to discovery.
- The door to hospitality is through our ears.
- The best venue for learning is through welcome.
- We need to learn “not needing to be right.”
- If there is only one thing to learn today, it is lateral accountability [collective responsibility].
He told the story of visiting Ireland and seeing cows munching grass in the ruins of a sanctuary of a cathedral. “…in the sanctuary of a cathedral,” he exclaimed. What does it really matter when in the end, there will be cows munching grass in the ruins. One of the final slides listed the Eight Gifts of the Heart.
The Eight Gifts of the Heart
What a Healthy Community Feels Like
- Being safe
- Being heard
- Being affirmed
- Being included
- Being useful
- Being praised
- Being forgiven
- Being remembered
Rev. Roman Paur, OBS