Friendship presupposes both equality and complementarity. It feeds on this diversity which enables each of the friends to give something to the other. Likewise in the common life this exchange of different charisms can nourish mutual love.
There are, however, many differences between people - the character of each, his experience before he came to the monastery. The monks come from different backgrounds. Perhaps one was a student, another a worker, another in the army. One may be from the city, another from the countryside. At the time of St. Benedict there were free men and slaves.
What matters is that the monastery be truly ecumenical; it does not obliterate differences but leads them to convergence in Christ. In this connection St. Benedict reminds us that we all serve the same master and the one Lord (RB 61:10). In fact these differences provide grounds for sharing and for mutual respect, which cannot but be for the strengthening of the community.
The Cistercian Alternative
Andre Louf, OCSO