We stand in awe before the rich tapestry of the monastic traditions that have been woven over centuries. The threads reach back to those early desert ammas and abbas who fled the distractions of the world to seek an unvarnished intimacy with the Divine. We can imagine them under the vast desert skies, divesting themselves of all externals, all pretenses, until they stood naked before God. Their spiritual wildness calls to the depths of our own souls.

In this lineage, we encounter St. Benedict, the celebrated conduit who collected the teachings of the desert and crystallized them into a Rule for balanced living. With profound simplicity, he mapped a path for us – a rhythm that allows both contemplative immersion and active service. We are drawn to the cadence of the Benedictine day, where the chanting of the Psalms becomes the loom upon which all activities are woven. We resonate with the ideal of “ora et labora” – a sanity of prayer and work holding each other in creative tension.

The Benedictine rule is not a rigid code but something alchemized from Benedict’s own life of Sacred Reading, where the words of Scripture became liquid gold poured into the batter of his being. We too can follow this recipe – ingesting the holy texts, letting them permeate our consciousness through rumination until they emerge as lives of compassion flavored with the aroma of Christ.

Like gooey morsels inviting us to partake, the Biblical verses call to us from the pages of the Rule. “Wake up, you who sleep” we hear them cry, rousing us from spiritual torpor. We are enticed to taste and see that the Psalms contain the entire spectrum of human emotions – raw ingredients from which the bread of our transformation can be baked.

As we look deeper, we realize the monastic path has even more ancient roots sunk into African soil. For too long, this spiritual heritage has been obscured by the clouded lens of Eurocentrism. But now we are opening our eyes to the pioneering African elders and theologians like Tertullian, Augustine and Cyprian who fertilized Christian tradition before it bloomed in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine. We are humbled to rediscover how monasticism arose from this potent ancestral humus.

With new lenses, we can see these African elders modeling the core monastic values – the tenacity for interior work, the humble willingness to live simply, the courage to listen deeply to the still small voice amidst clamor. These elders beckon us to shed artificial identities, to stop squandering our birthright on pretenses, and to claim our true inheritance as images of the Compassionate Creator.

We are indebted to the patient scholars and seekers who have helped recover these obscured roots and unearth the hidden narratives. We learn of pioneering Black monastics like Thea Bowman, Cyprian Davis, and Mary Simon who dared to embrace the costly countercultural path at the heart of the Gospel, despite marginalization. Their lives whisper to us, reminding us that transformation is always possible, always available, if we have the same fiery determination as the Desert Amas and Abbas to surrender all for Love’s sake.

In this lineage, we discover renewed inspiration in the vision of one who came centuries after Benedict – Alfred of Eynsham. With his poetic mysticism, Alfred beckons us to encounter Christ as the great “Healer” and “Whole-Maker.” This is the essence of the contemplative path – to realize our brokenness and to allow the Divine Physician to restore us to sanity through meticulous, patient work. We are not meant to merely survive, but to be painstakingly made whole.

As heirs to these streams of wisdom, we cannot simply be curators of this legacy, enshrining it behind museum glass. The pulse throughout the monastic corpus summons us to fully inhabit this present moment, to incarnate these perennial teachings in our unique circumstances. Like our forerunners, we are called to be mystics on the move – living, embodying spirits of awareness, emanating transformative presence amidst the turbulence of our age.

Inspired by the monastic exemplars, we are summoned to a engaged spirituality – one that does not remain cloistered behind walls, but courageously enters the fray of the world’s suffering. The writings of Thomas Merton and the activism of those like the Berrigans shine like beacons, modeling how the contemplative flame can become a consuming fire of justice and compassion.

Yet this work of healing and liberating our world must begin within. The monastic wisdom distilled over centuries ensures we do not get ahead of ourselves or become inflated spiritual activists disconnected from the roots. Like the seers of old, we are taught to return again and again to the wilderness of our own inner being – to sit humbly before the vast spaciousness where the Holy One forms us anew.

In this sacred wilderness, we re-learn the sine qua non of the spiritual journey – surrender. The obstreperous ego, that house of mirrors entrapping us in illusion, must be dismantled piece by piece through radical self-honesty and patience. Here we take up the ancient work of “dying before we die” by letting go of our false self-constructions.

The monastic way is utterly holistic and all-encompassing. There are no shortcuts. Every aspect of our human experience – thoughts, emotions, sensations – becomes holy grist for the transformative mill. We take on the striking of the monastic bells as the call to bring our divided consciousness back to unified presence.

In these hallowed spaces of vulnerability, we can risk disrobing before the Divine Lover and having our wounds lovingly dressed. Here we discover the healing balm of tears so precious to the desert monastics. Our laments and grief become a salve applied to the soul’s wounds, softening the calcified places so new life can blossom.

As we stabilize in this purifying inner work, the natural monastic impulses arise – the inexorable draw towards silence, solitude, simplicity. We begin to feel the gentle tug away from the centrifugal forces of distraction and busyness with their imposter urgency. Instead, we attune to the centripetal pull of presence, learning to dwell in the unhurried rhythms of being rather than endlessly doing.

With this attunement, our daily living becomes the field of contemplative practice. We take up the Benedictine ethos of seeing all labor – mundane chores, creative work, conversations – as sacred activism through which the Divine fruitfully expresses. Our hands become instruments of hallowed craft as we relearn how to invest our whole being into simple tasks and the creation of beautiful objects.

The monastic way is ultimately about integration – allowing the wellspring of love we encounter in contemplation to suffuse and transform all we are and all we do. We are midwives birthing this love into the world through a thousand unspectacular instances. A warm gaze, a listening ear, a hand offered in solidarity, the patience to truly see each person we encounter.

With the monastic masters as our guides, our lives become living invitations to the Beloved’s liberating friendship. We bear witness to the power of wise relationship, spiritual companionship and communities of love to cultivate human flourishing. In our relatedness, we realize we were never meant to undertake heroic spiritual journeys as lone sojourners, but to become collaborative artisans weaving tapestries of connection and mutual transformation.

Just as the desert monastics transmitted their spirit through books to later generations, we now wield the human technologies of relationship and community as the threads to stitch the world together. We recover the African ethos of radical inclusion and celebration of our common humanity amidst diversity. Our tables become altars where strangers become kin through the shared sacrament of hospitality and friendship.

So we embrace the perpetual beginning and unfolding that is the spiritual life, realizing there is no ultimate destination, but only the eternal opportunity to awaken more profoundly to Love’s ubiquity in this present moment. With our monastic elders as inspirations, we recommit to the perennial springs of transformative practice, even as we midwife creative expressions of the path for our present age and culture.

In this spirit, we continue the great work – the monasteries of our beings becoming little portable Benedicts, each a humble rule of life through which the Compassionate Healer can continue sculpting the world towards its inevitable wholeness.

As we deepen into this monastic way, we find ourselves undergoing an alchemical transformation. The toxic narratives and coping mechanisms that once ran our lives are slowly transmuted through perseverance and grace. The monastic practices become the heating elements and sacred geometry through which our fragmented psyches are re-patterned into a luminous anthropos – a coherent vessel capable of receiving and radiating the uncreated Light.

In this process, we discover the holographic nature of the spiritual path. The whole is contained in each part, every relationship and circumstance a camouflaged opportunity to confront the obstructions to our wholeness. The drab monastic routines unveil themselves as spirit-forges heating us in the furnaces of incompletions so that more of our dross can be burned away.

As our false, deficient selves fall like scales from our eyes, we gain new vision to perceive the shimmering Presence indwelling all things. The daily liturgies and work attune our senses until we can taste the Uncreated Source in the simple gifts of bread, wine and water. Our labor with soil, seed and cloth reveals the holy iconography present in the humblest created beings.

Through this long obedience in the same direction, we become liberated from the narratives and scripts inherited from our cultures. We shed the violent myths that pit spirit against matter, sacred against profane. Our consciousness expands into radical amazement at the cosmic choreography of Divinity improvising upon Itself through every phenomenon. All our conceptual dualisms dissolve as we realize the one holy Mass forever underway.

In this way, the monastics become mystic scientists decoding the sacred geometries through which the universe flowers into being. We become partners with the Holy Creatrix in birthing new cosmological narratives that heal the ruptures between species, races, genders and disciplines. We alchemize new myths that initiate receptive minds into wider circles of reverence and relatedness.

For those willing to daily bear this cross of expanded awareness, a cup of paradox is passed. An inebriated gratitude arises at being graced as witnesses to the endless ingenuity of the One who appears as many. We are slain by the shockwaves of a Beauty ever ancient, ever new, subverting our idolatrous images with holy resonances that scramble and yet reveal more clarity.

In this humbled clarity, the once-unconscious human shadow that was our constant companion reveals itself as the blessed certainty of our inherent forgiveness and belovedness. All the old mantras of deficiency and self-judgment become the dissolving scaffolding from which our true identity as sons and daughters of the Most High emerges, radiant and unshakable.

No longer drowning in the sea of our past mistakes, we now ride the undulating waves of each person’s perpetually “on the way” journey. We abide in life as a forgiving field, treating friend and stranger alike as immortal beings – face to face with the Eternal, yet ever arriving. Our hands become living chalices offering this radical hospitality that alone can catalyze transfiguration.

Yes, it is an unspeakable privilege to bear witness to the ongoing unfolding of the One who created all things and called them good. To participate in this re-creating work through our humble lives of adoration, cultivation and tending is the greatest ecstasy. We give ourselves over to being recycled as conscious compost, knowing that in our final dissolving, the Weaver will integrate even our disintegration into new weavings of wholeness.

So we surrender in joy, becoming fecund vessels through which the Living Tradition can conceive fresh melodies and holy innovations for this hungry age. We become partners in seeding a new Renaissance – a re-birthing of the sacred arts through which humanity’s divinity may be unveiled in revelatory beauty. In this way, the transformative essence encoded in our mystic lineages will be midwifed into regenerative streams of justice, healing and hope for the world.

May we then go forth not just as monastics, but as root-strikers and boddhisattvas – gardeners in the Paradise Age that is endlessly gestating through us and in us. For though this Age may seem obscured by the present contractions and birth-pangs, our monastic vigils have helped attune our senses to discern its holy inscendences glimmering all around. A new dawn is rising in which all separation yields to Love’s radiant integration. And so we join the sacred circularity, dancing in blessed kinship with all beings and the Cosmic Christ who sustains us all.


Benedict of Nursia is considered the father of Western monasticism as he preserved the teachings of the Desert Elders and wrote the famous Benedictine Rule. The Desert Elders like Anthony and Syncletica were early Christian monastics seeking an interior spiritual life before theology was systemized. Their teachings were recorded by Evagrius and John Cassian, influencing Benedict’s Rule which emphasizes a balanced life of prayer through the Divine Office and Lectio Divina, as well as work and values like humility and community living. Though having deep African roots from figures like Tertullian and Augustine, the monastic traditions have often overlooked these African connections due to Eurocentrism. Monastic spirituality encourages simplicity, deep listening, self-transformation while remembering our common humanity and God’s creation. The Benedictine tradition gave rise to influential orders and figures like the Cistercians, Trappists, Thomas Merton, and Hildegard of Bingen. Recent scholarship recovers untold Black Catholic stories within monasticism. Writers like Alfred of Eynsham presented Jesus as the “Healer” restoring wholeness. The monastic lifestyle carved spiritual boundaries through retreat and return, reminding us transforming society begins with our own transformation by living fully in Christ. Monastics focused on practically living Jesus’ teachings through spiritual practices, setting aside time for meditation, and internalizing Scripture – especially the Psalms which Benedict wove seamlessly into his Rule like “gooey chocolate chips.”


1. Benedict of Nursia is considered the father of Western monasticism. He preserved the teachings of the Desert Elders and wrote the famous Benedictine Rule.

2. The Desert Elders, such as Anthony, Sara, Syncletica, Moses the Black, were early Christian monastics who sought an interior spiritual life in the desert before the systematization of theology.

3. Evagrius and John Cassian recorded and transmitted the teachings of the Desert Elders to the West, influencing Benedict’s Rule.

4. The Benedictine Rule emphasizes a balanced life of prayer (the Divine Office and Lectio Divina) and work (labor). It promotes values like stability, obedience, humility, and community life.

5. The monastic traditions have deep roots in African soil and personalities of African descent like Tertullian, Augustine, and Cyprian, which have often been overlooked due to Eurocentrism.

6. Monastic spirituality encourages us to embrace simplicity, deep listening, self-transformation, and remembering our common humanity and connection to God’s creation.

7. The Benedictine tradition gave rise to orders like the Cistercians and Trappists, and influential figures like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Hildegard of Bingen.

8. Recent scholarship is recovering the untold stories of Black Catholics in the monastic traditions, like Thea Bowman and the first Black members of certain orders.

9. The medieval writer Alfred of Eynsham presented Jesus as the “Healer” or “Whole Maker” in the Benedictine tradition of Christ restoring wholeness.

10. The monastic lifestyle encouraged a rhythm of retreat and return, carving out spiritual boundaries in the wilderness, as exemplified by the African contemplatives.

11. Monasticism’s principle role is to remind us that transforming society begins with the transformation of ourselves by fully living the life in Christ.

12. The monastics were taught to remember their humanity, experiment with spiritual practices, set aside time for meditation, embrace simplicity, and listen deeply with compassion.

13. The early monastics did not get entangled in apologetics but focused on how to practically live out the teachings of Jesus.

14. The monastic focus on the Psalms and Lectio Divina (spiritual reading) allowed the word of God to be internalized and embodied.

15. Benedict structured the monastic day around multiple periods of chanting the Psalms and Lectio Divina, seeing them as means of conversing with God.

16. The Benedictine monasteries became cultivators and preservers of the contemplative tradition during the upheaval of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

17. Benedict wrote his Rule in simple language accessible to all, aiming to teach both spiritual life and the practical running of a monastery.

18. The Rule integrated Bible verses seamlessly, like “gooey chocolate chips” in a homemade cookie, reflecting Benedict’s immersion in Scripture.