It can be argued that monks are only serving themselves and helping themselves become closer to God. Some people argue that their prayers are the “gas” of the church, but what does that actually mean?
The monks have given up their entire lives for the Church. They pray every single day for all of the faithful. Perhaps the more selfish choice is to live in a society that allows us to obtain any material object that we desire.
They can never again, in most orders, own their own clothing, eat out at restaurants, visit family members at their homes for the holidays, or sit at a bar with friends and watch football.
It cannot be argued that they are only serving themselves. Period. They are serving the Church every hour of their lives. They have forfeited temporal pleasures that we all take for granted.
Their prayers are combined with their daily self-mortification, which only serves to strengthen their pleas to our Lord. They choose to undergo countless discomforts so that they can serve God and also pray without ceasing for the Church that Christ instituted on earth.
As I previously stated, there is not a single argument that could be made to support that monks are selfish.
Jesus gave some answer to this issue during the discussion in His frends’ home. Martha was indignant and resentful that Mary was simply giving Jesus her whole attention and her company. Luke 10:38-42
I once wrote this ‘prayer’ on the matter:
Prayer as an act of charity
Jesus, those who devote much effort to prayer may be labelled by some as ‘lazy’, ‘selfish’, and ‘impractical’. That is how Your friend Martha regarded her sister Mary. Yet, both sisters loved You dearly. Martha was a virtuous, practical woman who understood that charity requires us to serve others. Her valued guest required food and hospitality. This could not be achieved if everyone sat idle. Martha prepared your meal, but Mary remained idly with you. To Martha she appeared to be failing You.
You kindly defended Mary because of the love she offered to You, love that You often were denied by others. While Mary was offering love and attention to a fellow human, she was also giving her love to God, for You are fully human, but also fully divine. Within one act, Mary of Bethany fulfilled Your two commandments of love.
Those who ask for prayer are seeking genuine charity of remembrance, time and effort. Their need is sometimes desperate, and while in crisis, they may be unable to sustain faith or to pray. They find reassurance in our promise to pray for their intentions! They receive our promise as an act of love.
The understanding that prayer is genuine charity, does not absolve anyone of responsibility to give practical aid to others. As Saint James wrote, love does not say, “eat well and keep warm” and then walk away. Even in our poverty, we may give something. Please help us to be generous, in the act of love that is prayer for others, and in our practical charity.
Dear Jesus, friend of both Mary and Martha, and beneficiary of the acts of kindness and love of each, please grant us to emulate both Your dear friends in our lives. August 2001
I knew a Benedictine monk years ago. He was a noble soul, and he would tell me that monks keep the vigil for the world. They pray the seven liturgical hours (Matins, Prime, Terce, Nones, Sext, Vespers and Compline) and they WORK in between those hours (his community were coffee growers). They are *not *selfish.
If they serve the Church by helping the local Bishop by serving as pastors in local parishes and serving actively in good works such as teaching, medical care, soup kitchens, etc, fine. But if they are going to lock themselves in their monasteries, then as far as I’m concerned they need to be self sufficient.
This is a good article from the online Catholic Encyclopedia. newadvent.org/cathen/12748b.htm It’s a summary of religious orders. I’m learning something from it myself.
Some people who argue that are overly pragmatistic. They doubt the power of Prayer, which will out do even the most eloquent works…
I looked this up because I always understood that there were essentially two types of orders, mendicants (like the Franciscans, Dominicans, et. al.) that primarily rely on donations from others, and “working” orders (the Benedictines, Trappists, et. al.) and after perusing this article I realize this is an oversimplification.
When you say “It can be argued that monks are only serving themselves and helping themselves become closer to God,” I’m not sure you understand what you say. *Daily *immersion in prayer doesn’t work like that. Prayer is *never *a selfish act. The act itself is transformative, so it’s weird if someone decided that they would pray to God and “keep all of their prayers for themselves, ha ha!” Being in spiritual communion with God would make that impossible.
Trishie, as usual you have eloquently offered your very accurate insight. I feel blessed by the exposure to you and your prayers. Thank you.
I can hardly understand how someone would think wanting to be closer to God is selfish. But monks, nuns, monastics in general, are the GAS of the Church! Not only that, but the gas of the GOOD in the world!
good thing it is none of your concern
I think the only ones arguing that they are selfish are people like Richard Dawkins (here: youtube.com/watch?v=3w71PAo8zT4). Of course, Dawkins also has called for the arrest of Pope Benedict and also believes in a fairy tale called Darwinian Evolution :D, so I would take what he says with a grain of salt.
Dawkins has his head screwed on wrong. He wouldn’t last five minutes in a debate against william lane craig. Then I could argue, lets arrest all atheists because atheism was the driving force behind the regimes that killed million and million of innocent people.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to arrest any atheists (Perhaps Dawkins cause he is polluting the air with his false garbage), Im just making a counter arguement.