“Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry.” Benedict says if one wants to join the monastery, he doesn’t get his membership card on the first day. Benedict even recommends, in chapter 58, leaving the prospective monk knocking at the door for four or five days. Benedict tells his monks to receive guests like they’re welcoming Jesus, but if someone want to join up permanently, don’t make it easy.
I'm learning to play the drums. I thought about it for years, and finally, last May, the key turned in my heart and I went into a music shop and signed up for lessons. I bought a used drum set on the cheap, and I'm slowly banging my way into drum skills. It’s difficult, though. I tell people it’s harder than it looks. Every new thing I learn starts as a slow mess and only with time does it start to sound like music.
I like it though--strangely--because it’s hard. There are times I wish we lived in The Matrix and could just download skills and information into our brains, but for now it only comes with the work of practice. Because learning takes hours on the drum kit messing up and messing up before it becomes music, I value it more. I wanted something in my life that wasn’t instant gratification; I wanted the treasure that took years to find.
Benedict understands the life he is prescribing is like that. I had one monk tell me he fails at the monastic life every day, but every new day he keeps trying. Life by the rule isn’t easy, and it’s not for the person who wanders in off the street and impulsively decides to try being a monk. It’s only for the person who persists, who keeps knocking until they open the door to him. A person must really want that life and be persistent about it before the door opens.
Most things of value in life are this way. Relationships aren’t easy; they take the hard work of love, communication, and forgiveness to maintain. Rarely does a skill of value come naturally; it takes effort and years to learn to do something well. The life of faith is this way, too. Jesus called it a narrow door we make every effort to enter through instead of easily following the broad path. The things we value most require dedication and forethought before beginning. For monks following Jesus in the way of Benedict’s Rule, they’ll find great value in that path, but they must pursue it with persistence. They are not to begin with an easy entrance.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict