A Lutheran in a monastery?
Sam Rahberg has embraced Benedictine spirituality
Becoming involved with a Roman Catholic order did not have the effect one might expect on a lifelong Lutheran.
Sam Rahberg is the associate director of the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul and an oblate at the monastery — and a parishioner at Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill. He describes himself as thoroughly Lutheran and does not see any conflict between his Lutheran faith and his Benedictine spirituality.
Puzzled Lutherans will ask the obvious question: What’s an oblate? Simply put, it’s someone connected to a monastery who has decided to live his or her life in the context of the Rule of Saint Benedict. However, oblates do not make a profession to the life of a permanent monastic.
Rahberg explained that Benedict’s “school” of spirituality is based upon three principles: find God in the ordinary; practice moderation; and seek the common good.
For Rahberg this means responding to his call as a husband and father, and exploring his spirituality within a monastic order.
“It is a matter of calling,” Rahberg said. “Being a monk means having a different kind of relationship. As a baptized Christian I am free to explore and apply the wisdom of a monastic tradition within my life outside of the monastery.”
According to Passages, St. Paul’s Monastery’s newsletter, the vocation of being an oblate began in the fourth century with Frances of Rome (1384-1440). Frances was a married woman with three children.
Rahberg first became involved with Benedict after reading Christian classics, where he became familiar with Benedict’s Rule. Then, during his college years at Saint John’s University, Rahberg had the opportunity to interact with a Ben-edictine community.
While this Lutheran’s spirituality is informed by Saint Benedict’s rules, Martin Luther informs his theology. For Rahberg there is no conflict.
“My experience has been that if you go out looking for differences you will probably be able to find something. I don’t go looking for the contradictions; I try to live with them.”
Rahberg explained that Benedict’s motto, “Treat each person as Christ,” lines up very well with Luther’s view of vocation. Luther said there is no hierarchy of function in the church; every person has an important role.
The parallel — Luther’s concept of vocation, and Benedict’s view of treating people with respect because Christ dwells in them — is apparent to Rahberg. These views have an immediate impact on his spiritual life.
“It is a lifelong journey. We are not waiting on anything; we are walking as redeemed children.” This oblate sees his view of freedom rooted in Luther’s view of justification by faith.
Rahberg is quick to point out that being an oblate is in no way an attempt to “get another faith.” He explained being Benedictine calls him to recognize what is right before him.
He used the analogy of Christ as a gentle wind. “Often I am going through my day, caught up with my task list. I bury my head against the wind and continue walking. Then all of a sudden I feel the breeze and then I am not the center of the universe anymore.”
These ideas all fuel Rahberg’s passion. When speaking of the necessity of allowing each person to experience a relationship with God, his conviction shines through.
As his hands softly fall together he says, with strength behind each syllable, as if he has repeated the expression numerous times, “The Gospel must be accessible. Every person has the right to receive the Gospel. It is not just for an elect few.”
Currently St. John’s monastery is home base to 58 nuns. About 35 of them live in the monastery. The others may work in other parts of the Twin Cities, so they either live alone or with another nun closer to their place of employment.
What about becoming an oblate? Rahberg said if anyone were interested, they should read about oblates and monasteries, but also attend a retreat. For more information, visit the Bene-dictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery’s Web site at www.stpaulsmonastery.org, or call 651-777-7251.
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Cosgrove, a student at Grand View College, Des Moines, Iowa, is a summer intern at Metro Lutheran.