Cenobites, Anchorites, Sarabites, and Gyrovagues

Saint Benedict (c.480-550 AD)

Recent news can be depressing.

Our Communities – hospitals, schools, shops and work-places each face a mountain of challenges. Also doctor’s surgeries, dental practices, care-homes, churches, sport, theatres, cinemas, restaurants…

Social problems are highlighted: increased mental ill-health, domestic abuse, unemployment, the need for debt-counselling, foodbanks….

Our Response? We continue to learn to value our communities.

Saint Benedict, the 6th Century monk, an expert at community building, describes 4 sorts of monks:

Cenobites are committed to community, sharing their possessions. ‘Cenobite’ means ‘common-life’. They are loyal and hardworking, using and developing their physical, spiritual and social skills together for the common good.

We need Cenobites to build the ‘new norm’, to be both active and humble in caring and providing for each other.

Anchorites are hermits, the most spiritual of monks. Needing no-one they are independent, developing their spirituality through isolation.

We need spiritual, as well as medical, educational, political, psychological ‘experts’. In isolation their expertise may be detached and distant.

Sarabites have no reference outside themselves. They choose what they like and make up their own rules. They don’t think of others, doing what they want, when they want, in the way they want to do it.

Society encourages us to be Sarabites; there are Sarabite tendencies in all of us. We can be so self-centred that we lose sight of the common good and community.

Gyrovagues were restless wanderers, moving from place to place, never content, always looking for something new or different. They stop with one group of monks, take what they can and move on.

We see gyrovagues in churches and in many communities. They move from group to group, relationship to relationship without making a commitment, always looking over the fence for greener grass.

I join with St Benedict in commending Cenobites to you.

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