An extract from a book by Brother Benet Tvedten, The View From A Monastery:
"REGARDLESS OF WHAT kind of monastery a person enters today -- one like ours or one like ours used to be -- there are matters that need clarification from the beginnng. He should be told: If you don't like people, you'll become even more annoyed by them in the monastery. You will not only have to work with people you may find disagreeable, you will have to live with them too. You cannot walk away from them at the end of the workday.
"If you've heard that monks are saints, you've been told a lie. Like everyone else, we're sinners. You may even be scandalized by some of the things that happen in the monastery.
"If you are running away from yourself, you won't escape here."
BORROWED TVEDTEN'S BOOK just before my Krabi trip last month. Had intended to read it there. Ended up reading most of it while in Singapore.
Enjoyed it quite a lot. As Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk put it, "Brother Benet Tvedten is a born storyteller.... In his hands, these monks come to life, with all their trust and distrust, peevishness and kindness, good humor and the lack of it, vividly and often lovingly depicted."
Providentially, around the same time, i had also been reading The Lessons of St Francis by John Michael Talbot (JMT).
JMT explained the monastic life beautifully [paraphrased], "People join communities and attend med school for the same reasons. They're committed to learning something that can only be gained by the right kind of training. That applies to medical specialists like surgery as well as to spiritual values like poverty and humility.
"Everyone who comes to our hermitage has rejected consumerism for the Gospel values of poverty and simplicity. They've turned their backs on sexual promiscuity to observe chastity or celibacy. They've traded in their individualism for humility and obedience. That's the easy part.
"The big challenges here are [in the little things:] when someone else is doing his laundry on your designated laundry day. Or when the brother who had kitchen duty didn't show up. Or when the bed we think of as "my" bed is given to a sick brother who needs rest...."
Finally, in the words of Rev. Dieleman (which i'd discovered through an online search), "... developing spiritual fruit requires being around people. Let me further say I don't mean people you have chosen as your friends. You see, you pick your friends because you like them and they like you; they are attractive to you; it is easy or easier to be good, gentle, and patient with them. Rarely does such company cultivate spiritual fruit. Instead, God wants us to develop spiritual fruit within the context of family and church -- two institutions where we can't be selective about our associates. We have no choice about who our parents or brothers or sisters will be; yet we are expected to love them. Neither can we choose who will or will not be in the family of God; any who confess Jesus as Lord we must be patient with and kind towards."
(See also Saints & Sinners All II.)