Trappist Monks

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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The two videos we viewed in class were both examples of types of prayer. Although the methods were complete opposites, the underlying meaning, which is to reach God and pray, is the same. The first movie exemplified active prayer in its example of Dr. Martin Luther King and the members of the town where he was recruiting supporters. On the other hand, the documentary about the Trappist monks portrayed contemplative prayer, in that the monks reside in the monastery and lead a very regimented life. I agree with different aspects of each but not entirely of either method of prayer.

In my mind, active prayer is more useful, because it is actually taking a stand against certain issues. While silent prayer is necessary, I believe that in a way, the Trappist monks are being selfish. People like Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero, who actually went out to achieve social justice are actually putting their beliefs into action, whereas the Trappist monks may pray for social justice but they are not doing anything to attain it.

It frustrates me that these people are so concerned about the poor and those that are suffering but all they do is sit in the monastery and pray. Why can't they go out and do something about it? I know that I may sound somewhat ridiculous criticizing some of the world's most religious people but I just don't understand that lifestyle. Why would anyone in his or her right mind choose to live in a secluded monastery and basically just eat, pray, and work? How can they just sit around and do nothing about the issues they are concerned about? Active people such as Martin Luther King make much more sense to me then the Trappist monks, but all facts considered, I still deeply respect each lifestyle because in all honesty I don't think that I would have the courage to carry out either way of life.

I believe the ideal prayer life would be a combination of both active and contemplative prayer. Each person should have both a private spiritual life as well as an active prayer life. In my opinion, it is very important to have an individual relationship with God for those intentions that one prefers to keep secret. However, I am also a firm believer of service and putting words into action. If everyone had intentions but never did anything to take a stand, then social justice would never take place and instead it would just be one of those things that everyone talked about but never did anything about. Thus, I believe that every person should have both a private prayer life and one of service, or an active spiritual life.