Last summer I asked a Trappist monk about their keeping of the Benedictine Rule. “We think of ourselves as reformed Benedictines,” he told me, with a more strict keeping of the Rule. The only exception, he noted, was the presence of kids in the monastery. Benedict uses chapter 59 for instructions on the handling of youth who are offered to a monastery. In Benedict’s times and in the middle ages young children were placed in monasteries. Often they came from noble families where an extra son offered challenges when families were concerned with inheritances. The extra kid was often shipped off to the monastery to get him or her out of the picture.
These days this doesn’t happen, though, and anyone who enters a monastic community does so as an adult. One monk said to me, though, “I often think it would be good for us if some snotty-nosed kids were running around here.” He wasn’t saying it would be good to go back to a society that got rid of extra kids by dumping them off in the monastery; he was saying young peoples' presence would bring a unique blessing to their community life. I’ve wondered about that, what a monastery would be like if it included kids. I know from my own experience in churches that kids are a gift. I’ve been in churches with and without the presence of children, and I will always choose the one with kids, even with the unique challenges they bring. One child in my church, last Sunday, gave me the gift of a dandelion picked from the yard. I’ll take that dandelion over any $100 flower arrangement because I know that dandelion comes with the innocence and honest affection a child brings. I know my church is a better place because of the kids who are there. It’s a good thing that we live in a time when kids aren’t just dumped off at a monastery, but I definitely get it when the monk said it would be a better place with some kids running around there.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict