The name “dean” comes from the Latin decanus, an ancient military term for a soldier who commanded a unit of ten men. In a very real sense, all Christians are milites Christi—soldiers of Christ. But monks and nuns are, in the words of a close friend of mine “the special forces.” We make certain sacrifices that others aren’t willing to make and we fight battles that others aren’t necessarily prepared to face. Therefor, this sort of military vocabulary is uniquely appropriate to our vocation; and since the stakes are so high, the officials and the chain of command must be very carefully determined.
Merit, wisdom, and knowledge are what count for most in the monastery. But these are good qualities to keep in mind whenever you are looking for spiritual advice. They are also very good qualities to keep in mind when you are choosing your friends. Sadly, though, what’s cool and what’s virtuous aren’t always the same thing. Rock stars and athletes may be admirable in many respects, but I am always astonished when they are called upon to speak about political or social causes. Just because some guy may be a good actor doesn’t mean he has any authority to make pronouncements on social issues. Nonetheless, we seem to give extraordinary weight to their opinions, even when they prove themselves utterly unworthy of our esteem.
Remember this when you need to make important decisions. Don’t let disk jockeys and television personalities form your conscience. Instead, seek out wise, knowledgeable people, and listen to them.