Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The First Stone (Into the Desert for Lent); or, "Minnesota Nice"

Sister Edith who teaches Sociology at the College of St Scholastica in Duluth and blogs at Monastic Musings always has great posts. And for some reason, I have ignored her during this Lent. I shouldn't have. And if you haven't kept your Lenten resolution, why not try reading some of Sr. Edith's "Desert Meditations." They are short and will be good for your soul.

Sr. Edith has come up with at least 29 really great posts on the theme of "Into the Desert", using some of the stories told by the Desert Fathers of the early Church. Now I was born in Duluth, and I don't recall any deserts there when I was a youth. I guess Sister is speaking in metaphors.

And one of the great metaphors that we all understand here is "Minnesota Nice."

In Minnesota, we have an aversion to saying anything even vaguely critical or confrontational to each other. This tendency is so strong it has a name: Minnesota nice.

It is a terrible affliction. It stymies us from solving problems because no one wants to be the first one to say something. We suffer in bad relationships that might improve, if only the other person knew that he or she was causing us misery. We don't have patience, merely stifled irritation.

Minnesota nice also robs us of the benefit of Christian community: being reminded of our call to holiness, especially when we are falling down on the job.

The desert monks did not suffer from Minnesota nice. In fact, they specialized in one-liners and gestures that would puncture someone's holiness bubble in an instant. They did not accuse and blame: they simply tried, in every situation, to act as Christ would act, or to follow Scripture's guidance.

Thus are born some of the simplest of the stories, ones which puncture our own holiness bubbles simply by reading them.

One of the brethren had sinned, and the priest told him to leave the community.

So then Abbot Bessarion got up and walked out with him, saying: "I too am a sinner."

Read all of Sister Edith's "Into the Desert" posts here.

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