Benedictine finds dialogue with Buddhists, Muslims help his prayer life
Father Skudlarek, a member of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., is secretary-general of the international Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, a project of Benedictine and Trappist monks and nuns that promotes dialogue with Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims in some version of monastic life.
He was in Rome Sept. 17-25 to lead a workshop for members of the Congress of Abbots of the Benedictine Confederation of Monastic Communities.
The monastic dialogue began in the 1970s, and Father Skudlarek began participating in the mid-1990s.
The Benedictine said his contact with Buddhists has led him, twice a day, to sit in silence like Buddhists do when they meditate.
“I don’t know if I can exactly describe what I’ve gotten from that, but I sense I’ve gotten something,” Father Skudlarek said.
“I think I’ve come to a much deeper understanding of prayer as simply pure receptivity,” he said. “I’m not there to tell God anything that God doesn’t already know. I’m simply there and I’m simply present.”
Father Skudlarek said he was also impressed by the committed celibacy of Buddhist monks, who don’t have the motivation of following Jesus’ example of total dedication to ministry.
In his more limited contact with Muslims, he has been struck by their dedication to praying five times a day.
Muslim prayer can seem very “formalistic” in its gestures and words, the Benedictine said, but he has come to recognize it as “a deeply spiritual path. It comes out of a sense of wanting to be totally faithful to God.”
Muslims at prayer express “an almost palpable reverence, an incredible reverence,” he said. “I look on my own prayer, and so much Christian prayer, and it seems sloppy by comparison. It just seems like it’s too informal.”
Exposure to Muslim prayer has increased his appreciation of the formal, communal prayers that mark his life as a Catholic monk, he said, teaching him to see them “not just as legalistic formalities, but as a way of heightening one’s sense of what one is doing.” [More]