Conversatio Morum

Icon of St Benedict

Conversatio morum is a Latin phrase often translated ‘conversion of life’ or ‘reformation of life’.

It is one of the three vows made by the Benedictine monk – the others being obedience and stability.

Obedience is the first virtue of Christ. It is listening in love to someone else so that what they want seems to you more important than your own will – as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Stability is a promise to persevere in this particular community – it is a promise of loyalty. ‘Conversatio morum’ is often left untranslated since it is hard to find English words that are adequate. It is a vow to a continual change of heart, a daily reshaping of the mind and heart according to God’s plan for us “. (Ampleforth Abbey)

Oblates of St Benedict make the three promises as part of their self-offering to God, and strive, throughout their lives, to make it a part of their daily pilgrimage. Dom Laurence Freeman OSB writes:

“CONVERSION: Dramatic experiences of conversion may have their value but their meaning is in opening a new phase of life. This vow is a commitment to be always a pilgrim, living an ongoing conversion of one’s way of life by an ever-fuller harmony with the principles of peace, tolerance, selflessness and generosity and the courage to say the truth about injustice.” (Monastics in the World)

As an oblate I try to follow this path – and my choice of the title of this site reflects that. How effective my pilgrim efforts may be is another question!

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  1. Hans said

    Dear Colin,

    You couldn’t have found a better title for your blog than ‘Conversatio morum’. The great Benedictine dictum of daily conversion or change of heart centred in the most earthy and simple acts of daily life constitutes, in my humble opinion, the very heart of the spiritual life. As a Camaldolese Bededictine oblate my journey is deeply rooted in the Benedtictine spirit of simplicity, stabiltity, conversion, obedience, poverty, solitude and contemplation and an urge to see justice and peace happen in the world.

    I think the monastic call is undrgoing a profoud change in this time. The traditional pattern of an enclosed monastery with celibate monks and nuns seems, in the west at least, to attract fewer and fewer and people. Yet the monastic call is still strong in many people. Some would argue that the spiritual thirst is more widespread than earlier. Monasticism is changing and the monastery without walls seems to be a new prophetic pattern arising in the midst of our materialistic society. Perhaps the new reform in the monastic movement will be a further acceptance and incorporation of the married monk/nun or the munk or nun who lives in a commited sexual relationship. Many monastics are realising that the monastic call to solitude and prayer can be fully lived and realised in a sexual partnership.

    Indeed both of us are part of this movement – a movement of being a monk in the world. We are, I believe, responding to the what Bruno Barnhardt calls the ‘arhetypal monk within’ – the call to live ever more closer to God in simplicity and prayer. So many people are now exploring this ancient monastic path of contemlation and seeking to live it in daily life. The monastery is indeed moving or exploding out of the confinement of the closure and hopefully we will both in our own humble ways contribute to this movement of bringing the monastic wisdom into our daily lives and then into the lives of other ordinary people.

    In the midst of your illness I hope you are finding small moments when the stillness from the ‘one without a second’ embraces you and calms and assures you of the deep divine presence.

    Pax Christi,

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  3. […] “It is a vow to a continual change of heart, a daily reshaping of the mind and heart according to God’s plan for us” (source). […]

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