Saturday, August 13, 2011

Experiencing the Religious Life

For more than ten years Buddhists in Korea have conducted temple-stay programs, providing an opportunity for both Koreans and foreigners to experience  the life of a Buddhist monk or nun  by living like they do for a few days.

One write-up on the temple-stay program quoted a monk, "Everyone has  the potential to be enlightened, but they have to overcome the greedy mind, the angry mind and the foolish mind." To quiet this 3-fold mind, time is spent in chanting, partaking in the tea ceremony and monastic formal meals, doing 108 prostrations, and practicing zen meditation. The experience is not easily forgotten.

Catholicism  has been influenced  by the success of these programs and now has similar programs in  many of their convents and monasteries, which will acquaint the young people during their vacation time on what the life of a Catholic religious is like. These programs did not start with the temple-stay programs but were given impetus by what they were able to achieve.

The Benedictines have had programs for all ages for a long time, and during student  vacation time, programs are aimed at the young men to help them experience the life of a Benedictine religious.  They live, eat, pray and work with the monks, reflect on their life, and work at developing a mature spiritual life. It gives them an opportunity to find vitality in the life of the spirit. Other Religious orders--Augustinian, Salesian, Jesuit, Dominican, and many others--have their own programs to introduce their particular spirituality to those who are interested.

The number attending these programs and the number of different religious groups that have developed programs continue to increase each year.  Both the sisters and monks have programs that help give the young an idea of what the religious life is, but at the same time help  to see themselves  on a deeper level.

Similar to these programs, and a quick way to learn, are the immersion programs that are available today, such as the language immersion programs and, offered by Maryknoll, mission immersion programs for those wanting to learn about mission life. It is a way of activating more than the head in the process of learning. The popularity of these retreats is a good sign of the desire of our young people to deepen their spiritual life. Hopefully, it will continue to develop. 

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