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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
           Wednesday, April 23 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterShould children be happy, or molded into shape? 3

Watching military heroes like the recently rocovered seven prisoners of war in Iraq, in juxtaposition with this series on which approach works best in molding children into mature and independent adults, got me to thinking on what we've always been told about the training of soldiers. Never having been in the military, I know only the scare stories my dad used to tell and the accounts from older brothers (each of whom served in three separate branches), and probably most forcefully, the movies. Basic training has always been presented as breaking down the recruit to the depths of despair, then reconstructing and remolding him (or these days, her) into an obedient and functioning vital member of a working military unit.

I've also been reading dozens of books each year for several years running now on the monastic calling and life, especially in Orthodoxy and particularly in Russia. The strong tradition in that milieu is like the military basic training in only one or two respects. Where the military training is extremely physical, stretching and pounding the muscles till they ache, the physical aspect of the monastic novices' training consists primarily in rigorous fasting and relative sleeplessness. And in the Orthodox monastery there are hours of prayers done standing, and in some cases these are accompanied by hundreds of prostrations that resemble basic training pushups not only in appearance but probably in the conditioning of the muscles involved. But even more important than the physical training for monastics is the training in obedience. It is considered absolutely necessary for the novice to be under obedience to a superior or elder monastic, doing no act independently, without first getting a blessing for it. This is comparable, though in the details of course much different, to the obedience training recruits in marine or infantry units undergo, with their endless "Sir, yes Sirs!"

Both kinds of "basic training"—the obedience to ridiculous and immature orders or the pounding of my body—horrified me as a youth, and I never did know which one (when I was considering a military future, the monastic life not even on my radar scope)...which one I found more distasteful.

I was a clever lad and was able to avoid all the dangers my dad warned me about. But many of my later adult friends have military backgrounds and most of them are among the most admirable of my acquaintances, and as I read the training to holiness that the monastics undergo and how it builds their spirits, I often wonder if I'm not poorer for having managed to miss either kind of rigorous training.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 Variation on a theme

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

— Sent by Judy Rose

Thought for today

The person who is troubled by conscience is like a person who constantly has winter in his soul and waves breaking upon it one after the other. Sleep to such a person is not sweet but filled with fear and terror. There is no pleasrue in his eating nor in his conversation with friends, and these cannot change and relieve this person from such a struggle.

— St. John Chrysostom, 347 - 407
Quoted in Daily Vitamins for Spiritual Growth, Anthony M. Coniaris

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