The monastic movement knew that, like any school, it had to have a curriculum. If it was to be a School of Love, that curriculum would be (yes, you guessed it) love. A two-volume textbook would be at the core: Volume 1–The Love of God, and Volume 2–The Love of Neighbor.
In obedience to Jesus’ words, monasticism believed that all the Law and the prophets hung on the two great commandments. And it reflected Paul’s conviction that when you stack up faith, hope, and love–the greatest of the three is love. From this conviction, the School of Love expounded the fruit of the Spirit as the inner and outer essence of the Christian life–the life of the believer in character and conduct–the manifestation of personal and social holiness.
When this love was present, its chief evidence was humility, because love never exalts itself above another. This love created a community where the members were servants of one another for Jesus Christ’s sake.
And so, the atmosphere of the School of Love was (and continues to this day to be that of) hospitality. Monastic evangelism was rooted in welcome and acceptance–another reflection of the Spirit of Jesus, who always welcomed the stranger and said, “Come to me, all of you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Over and over again, I have experienced my time in monasteries (and a few convents) this way. The curriculum is in place, and school is always in session. I have always left these Schools of Love refreshed and desiring to be more loving myself. I always leave praying that the Church might catch the vision of the monastery and become more fully a School of Love–where all are welcomed, where the two great commandments define the community, and where the fruit of the Spirit is offered to all.