Community, Solitude, and Witness: The Threefold Good

Fr. Robert Hale, Oblate Director at New Camaldoli writes of the Threefold Good of the Camaldolese Benedictine charism. This is a big reason I became a Camaldolese Oblate. -rby+

The Camaldolese and Universal “Threefold Good.”
Fr. Robert, 3/12/18

We Camaldolese have as our “characteristic element” the threefold good, according to our Constitutions.  We believe that the “threefold good” is most important for every Christian, possibly every human being, and is rooted evidently in the life of Jesus.

The phrase comes from our most ancient source, the “Life of the Five Brothers,” written by St. Bruno-Boniface of Querfurt at the very beginning of the eleventh century.   The text speaks twice of the  “threefold good” of community, solitude, and “evangelization, tied back then to martyrdom.  Each Camaldolese community today is to live all three in some way or other, and also each individual Camaldolese monk and nun.  And so, we believe, every Christian, every human being, in order to fully live.

How, and in what balance the three are lived, that differs from individual to individual, and from community to community. The first two of the goods are fairly easy to grasp in our life here at New Camaldoli.  Regarding community, we live community moments every day here, especially with Eucharist,  then the Divine Office, then lunch  in common; work is also sometimes in common, and monthly recreation.  And regarding solitude, we spend good chunks of time in the solitude of our individual cells, or cottages, in prayer, spiritual reading, etc.  And mission, some of our monks go out, more or less frequently, to offer retreats and conferences.  But the third good can also be lived with people coming here to us, especially through our retreat and guest ministry. Or indeed, in these times, through the social media ministry of a few of our monks, posting on our websites, etc.  There is no longer martyrdom involved in the third good, unless it be the ‘white martyrdom” of fully self giving love, and in all three of the goods.

Of course the highest and ultimate example of the living of the threefold good is Christ himself.  He experienced and lived community, that of the holy family, from the beginning of his life.  Then he went on to form his adult community of apostles and disciples, including the supportive faithful women.  But before even his public ministry, he withdrew into the desert
for forty days of rigorous solitude, and he regularly thereafter withdrew into solitude.  But he even more regularly moved out of his supportive community and solitude, into mission, to evangelize, announce the kingdom, teach and heal.  And so he ministered to a tax collector, to the scribes and Pharisees, even to the Sadducees, to the Roman centurion and the Roman royal official.  He was cruelly tortured and executed because of his evangelization, and so is our first Martyr.

We all need a “threefold good” of community, solitude, and mission, and lived in a way that each can nourish and express the other two.  Our threefold good will be different from that of Jesus.  Our community will not be that of the holy family, or the original apostles and disciples.  Our solitude will not, for most of us, be lived in the holy land desert and isolated places, and our evangelization might not involve healing people or being martyred, in the “martyrdom of blood.”  But we can experience something of the “white martyrdom” of total self giving in love in all we do.