Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Cloistered Lightship

We who live for God in the world can find much to identify with by having a look at lightships.  These are vessels responsible for carrying light where a lighthouse cannot go. 

Lighthouses must be built on land. Their job is to keep a ship on course and to warn of treacherous obstacles.  Yet there are hidden dangers out IN the waters.  To mark these hazards is the lightship's job.

A lightship is, in effect, a floating lighthouse. It goes out into the waters and stands anchored in the midst of the waves, regardless of the relentless, unpredictable nature of storms and surging seas.

A monastery could be compared to a lighthouse standing on a hill; it is a beacon sending out its rays. But those whose call is to live in the midst of the world can be compared to lightships sent out on mission.  We do not have to look far to see darkness, rising tides of sin and secularism, waves of materialism, winds of confusion threatening the world in which we live.  We all have our roles to play in the midst of it, in just the spots where we've been placed.  We have much light to carry, for the storms surge all around and all we have to do is pick up a newspaper to see the truth of this.

We who feel drawn to live in the world while keeping cloister in our hearts have received much light from the warm glow of monastic life.  Ours is the call to live fully for God in the midst of a world that will often question why anyone would want to live this way.  Ours is the call to receive the warm glow of the "monastic fire" (the fire of life lived totally for God) and then to carry that fire into the very environments in which we have been placed - into our families, neighborhoods, work situations.  We have before us the call and the challenge to bring the light and love of Christ into the "sea" of the world, and to hold that light aloft amidst storms and surges.

We must hold the light aloft when the waves of circumstance grow so tall that they seem likely to overwhelm us, when we feel in panic at the swells all around.  We must hold the light aloft in polluted waters, waters filled with the grime of sin and unholy compromise. Ours is the task of standing firm, anchored deep in Christ in the midst of the world.

It is hard to remain firmly anchored in times of storm.  Imagine how it must feel to be on a small ship in powerfully surging seas, when thunder rolls and weighted black clouds seem to come down and envelop the earth.  We do not see land then, nor do we have much hope of it.  We can feel isolated.  We can feel as if we've become one with the clouds, the storms, the sea.

It is our challenge to remember that we are not the sea, nor are we of it.  We are merely in the midst of it.  We are not the fear, the illness, the confusion that surrounds us; we are not the evil that encircles.  We are vessels in which the Light of Christ dwells.

What do we do when storms surround us, leaving us tossed about and frantic?

What do we do when the seas around are calm, and we're tempted to forget all about the light, and we find ourselves drowning in a sea of complacency about things of God?

The answers are there; help is available.  God does not commission His lightships without thoroughly equipping us.  He has provided training manuals:  we've been given Scripture so we can stay on course and in good working order.  We have also been given a marvelous gift in this time in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The One Who has placed us in the seas has given us a wealth of navigational aids.

Most of all, we are kept from floundering by staying in continual contact with the One Who equips and commissions us.  Prayer is our "ship to shore radio," so so speak. Through it, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

His is the Light we carry.  He is the reason we serve.

"Your light must shine before men, so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father."  (Matthew 5:16)