The Domestic Monastery

As a father I can say some pretty weird things to my boys.

The other day I was was goofing around in the house, being loud and annoying. You know, acting like a Dad.

The boys laughed and Aidan, in mock irritation, said "Dad, please stop. You're being annoying."

And then I quipped, "Boys, the crucible of your irritation is the arena of your moral perfection."

That is what passes for fatherly advice in our house. The crucible of your irritation is the arena of your moral perfection.

I went on to explain to the boys.

Prior to the Protestant Reformation the monastery was the place where you went if you wanted to pursue a life of holiness. The religious vocation within the monastery was the "arena of moral perfection."

But with the rise of the Protestantism a shift occurred. The focus of religious life moved from the monastic to the domestic sphere, marriage and family life became the arena of moral perfection.

In short, in Protestantism the domestic life is a monastic calling. Domestic life is the place where we pursue and struggle toward holiness. Domestic life is the arena of moral perfection. 

It is in domestic life where you learn to serve and obey. It is in domestic life where you learn discipline and self-mortification. Because it's not always about you in a family or a marriage. Sometimes you have to sit through your sister's piano concert. Sometimes it's your turn to wash the dishes. Sometimes you have to care for the sick, wait your turn, and share your things.

It's in domestic life where we struggle toward the Fruit of the Spirits. Patience, gentleness and self-control. Love, peace and fidelity.

We struggle toward these virtues, as monks do in a monastery, in the daily grid where very different personalities come together to do the work of making a life together. We get angry with each other. We forget each other. We make mistakes. And, yes, we get irritated with each other. Especially when your Dad is being annoying.

These are emotional, interpersonal crucibles where we are morally tested. Here, in the mundane domestic flare-ups, is where the furnace of purification burns. In the midst of the tedium, irritation, and hurt feelings we are being salted with fire.

Family life is the crucible that becomes the arena of our moral perfection.

Welcome to the domestic monastery.

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