I finally got a chance to rent the video Into Great Silence. For those who have not heard of this film, it depicts life in a Trappist monastery as it is lived -- no explanations, no "voiceovers," etc. And, as the title suggests, most of the movie is silent. While it would seem tedious to watch a 3-hour movie in almost total silence, it actually allows the viewer to settle deep into the silence and start to get a taste of how beautiful it really is.
I can't say it's a great movie in a normal "great movie" sort of way -- great dialogue, fantastic plot, etc. -- but it has provided me with many things to think about:
1. All people are called to holiness. (Everybody now! Why did God make me? God made me to know, love, and serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next...) Some receive the vocation to live this out in a monastery surrounded by silence, and others are called to live it out amidst the chaos of normal family life. While I expect monks and sisters to pursue holiness in their vocation, I find myself often excusing my spiritual shortcomings because "I'm too busy/tired/surrounded by noise/etc..." What struck me during this movie is that God gave us all our vocations for the same reason, and I am to pursue holiness here and now just as much as I would if I were called to religious life.
2. Their lives are filled with the same sort of "drudgery" that mine is. In the movie we see these monks going about the normal work in a monastery -- cleaning the rooms, splitting firewood, sewing new robes, cooking, bookkeeping, caring for the animals, etc. What is different, however, is how they go about their tasks. Since they live their lives in mostly silence, they can focus on the task before them without the distraction of idle chatter, and can therefore find it easier to approach working on the task as a prayer to the Lord. It was amazing to watch how each monk did his work deliberately, taking special care to perform each task to the best of his ability. While I do not have the luxury of focusing on only ONE task in total silence, I *can* approach all that I do during the day as a prayer. I may not be given the opportunity to do each thing slowly and with great precision (are you kidding?), but I can keep in mind that I am called to bring my best to everything I must do.
How would that play out on a normal weekday? As I am folding laundry while Grace is crying, Marie is asking for juice (and not understanding the concept of "wait a minute") and Thomas is filling up any empty space with one story after another of how he is pretending to be Gollum... or Randall... or whoever, and the older kids are bringing in various requests of their own, HOW am I supposed to bring my best to that situation? I suppose that would mean that instead of getting frustrated and shouting, "I'm only one person here, people!", I could roll with it a bit better and see each child as an individual instead of lumped together in this big category I call "things that are trying to drive me insane at this moment." In other words, I could pause for a second and realize that even though it's all coming at me at once, that is GRACE who is needing her Mommy, and her needs are valid. MARIE is thirsty and needs to be attended to, and also needs to be helped along in the growing up department by being patiently taught to wait. THOMAS is a real person with real feelings who needs to be listened to, even though I may find his particular story tedious... and so on and so forth. I can't do all things and be all things to all people at once, but I can seek to give my best in each situation.
If I'm honest with myself, it's really not THAT difficult to meet the needs of my kids during the day. The most difficult part of it all is that it comes at a time that interferes with what *I* want at that moment -- such as being asked to read a story when I was going to have a cup of tea, or to tie someone's shoes when I wanted to read a bit of the newspaper. That's where the sacrifice comes in. I sincerely doubt that these monks get up in the morning thinking, "oh YES! I get to shovel out the barn today!" However, they set their minds to the task they are called to do -- whatever it is -- and pursue it well, regardless of how they feel about it.
3. I truly appreciate the simplicity of a monastery. There's not a lot of clutter to distract you. (I'm particularly sensitive to this one right now, as I'm in the middle of a huge "I-can't-take-the-size-of-my-house-anymore-'cause-there's-no-room-for-everything" mood.) I find clutter visually assaulting, and it does greatly impact the peace of a home.
Those are just a few of the thoughts swirling around in my mind while watching this movie. Let's see where God takes it from there...