Smokers have a unique community that non-smokers don’t have. They often congregate at a common spot outside or a designated smoking area. Kind of like an exclusive society that exists no matter where you go. At a coffee shop you may chat with the barista, then go to your preferred spot, and keep to yourself. Smokers tend to start up conversations with whoever joins their circle. However, this is all mere observation. As it happens I unknowingly found myself in a place were smokers must frequent outside one of the buildings at Mount Angel Abby. The covered area with a bench beside a container to discard cigarette butts should have told me this. There I met a man taking a smoke break before going to his car. We quickly started up a conversation and he told me that he had just met with one of the monks. My first thought was that he must be a Catholic involved in some heretical Catholic ritual, confession or what ever they do. Oddly, though, I discovered that he was not Catholic. He actually regularly attends some functions at my church. He knew several of the monks and was here meeting with one of them to talk about live and to receive spiritual guidance. As we continued to talk I actually became slightly jealous. What would my professors at my Baptist College think of one of their ministry students being jealous of the Roman Catholics?
All of us need someone to listen. So few people who are good at listening, which is more then sitting and keeping your mouth shut. There really aren’t any people at my church or many evangelical churches that fill the role spiritual mentors. Most pastors are too busy with church business, preparing sermons, and meeting with committees or staff. Furthermore being a pastor doesn’t mean they are even gifted in this area. I don’t blame them, the ability to counsel and to mentor is not something that everyone has or has the proper training for. Some people in the body must have it though. I also admit that there doesn’t seem to be much of a demand for it either. Relational support and a thirst for deeper knowledge of faith are often given to the responsibility of small groups.
Towards the end of finishing his cigarette the man offered to put me in touch with a few of the monks. It was tempting having just left the community of a Christian college where I had at least had easy asses to other people interested in discussion. The man also talked about some of the things he had learned lately. They were a little different from what I had been exposed to in my narrow slice of Christianity, but good. Chatting about spirituality with a monk whose whole day revolves around experiencing and studying God looked appealing. I thanked the man and said no. I didn’t tell him, but I hesitated because I feared being in the mentee role with someone whose views differ from mine more then I am comfortable with. We continued to chat as he finished the last bit of his smoke. With a last drag the man dropped his cigarette in the container, shook my hand, and headed to his car. The smell from the container finally bothered me enough to leave and I left for my car with something to think about.