loren Eric Swanson: Montserrat Monastery

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Montserrat Monastery

I'm on my way home from four days of Campus Crusade's "Global City Movements" meetings at the beautiful Benedictine monastery in Montserrat, a short drive from Barcelona. For over a thousand years pilgrims have come to these mountains and stayed in the caves or the basilica, built in the 1500s. It is a place of extreme beauty and wonder. This was a very productive time hosted by Bob and Sandy Varney with participants from Europe, India, Africa and America--very good people...friends old and new. Bob put together a creative 3 days of interaction around the major questions around city and community transformation. It was very encouraging to hear of some incredibly innovative things these folks were doing. Mark Visvasum, from Chenai, India, for example has been working together with many of the 2,500 churches of Chenai. Although this city has seen tremendous growth of the church...with some estimates as high as 30% believers, the problems have grown ten-fold. Through Chenai Transformation Network (chennaictn@gmail.com)-- comprised of pastors, business leaders, parachurches and social service leaders, the churches identified over 45k people living on the streets of Chenai....sometimes for generations. The Catholic and Protestant churches of Chenai are adopting blocks of the city to care for these street dwellers--providing food and access to hospitals for medical care. They have identified 17k streets of Chenai and are talking of planting churches on every one of them.

Apart from the stimulating people and discussions, we shared all of our meals at set times, served by the monks of the monestary. This is not a public hotel but we stayed under a special arrangement, with each of us having a small, private room with a common bathroom down the hall. Each of us was given a napkin at our first meal with a numbered napkin ring, indicating that we were to use the same napkin for all 12 meals that we shared around the common table. The walking trails around the monastery were spectacular for nordic stick walking (yes I squeezed them into my suitcase). It's been a great time.

Part of the tension the church and CCC faces at this time is expressed by the painting that hangs in the dining hall (refectory) of Montserrat. A woman is in need of help...physical help. As one merciful fellow moves towards her, his companions stand at a distance and seem to be saying, "Let someone else help her--our focus is on the spiritual." It's always good to remember that the gospel is such good news that it is thick enough to encompass both words and works--compassionate deeds and passionate proclamation. Afterall we are not gnostics nor athiests, denying the physical or the spiritual.


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