Thursday, January 31, 2013

The World and Your Everyday Life


'You must be holy in the way God asks you to be holy.
God does not want you to be a Trappist monk or a hermit.
He wills that you sanctify the world and your everyday life.'
                                                                                           St. Vincent Pallotti


Painting:  Edward Hopper, New York Restaurant, in US public domain

Click this line to leave comments in the Parlor  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Into the Heights


When I first began learning of St. Francis de Sales years ago, my impression was that here was a practical, logical, learned, wise, down-to-earth writer who could teach systematically of the faith.  I turned out to be right.

I also thought of Francis (not when I read his writings, but mostly from a painting I'd seen) as a bit on the dry side.  I couldn't imagine this saint having the rapturous experiences of, say, a Teresa of Avila or a John of the Cross.  Certainly, thought I, this was one who had not (while on earth) "soared into the heights."

I could not have been more wrong.

"When the ardor of holy love is intense," wrote this great saint,"it makes so many assaults upon the heart, wounds it so many times, causes such languors within it, melts it so constantly, and bears it off into so many raptures and ecstasies that by such means the soul is almost entirely taken up with God..... How sweet is the amorous arrow that wounds us with such an incurable wound..."  (St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Tan Books 1975 edition, Volume II, p. 41)

"I run, but ah, shall I never gain the prize towards which I rush, to be united heart to heart, spirit to spirit, to my God, my spouse and my life?" (Treatise on the Love of God, Volume I, p. 74)

"O God, as long as I see Your sweet face, which testifies to me that You are pleased with the song raised by my love, ah, how consoled am I!  Is any pleasure equal to the pleasure of truly pleasing our God?  But when You turn Your eyes away from me and I no longer perceive the sweet favor of Your complacence in my song, then, O true God, in what great torment is my soul!  But still it does not cease to love You faithfully and to sing continually its hymn of dilection... but it sings for the pure love of Your holy will." (Treatise on the Love of God, Volume I, p. 126)

"In heaven where we shall see God 'face to face,' we shall love Him heart to heart.  That is, just as all of us, each one in his measure, shall see His infinite beauty with a supremely clear sight, so too we shall be ravished with love of His infinite goodness with an extremely strong rapture.  We shall neither desire not be able to desire ever to make resistance to such rapture."  (Treatise on the Love of God, Volume II, p. 169)

"Lord, I am Yours, and I must belong to no one but You.  My soul is Yours, and must live only by You.  My will is Yours, and must love only for You.   I must love You as my first cause, since I am from You.  I must love You as my end and rest, since I am for You.  I must love You more than my own being, since my being subsists by You.  I must love You more than myself, since I am all Yours and all in You."  (Treatise on the Love of God, Volume II, p. 169)

St. Francis de Sales?  He was a practical, wise, learned bishop.  He was also a lawyer.  He wrote extensively, founded the Order of the Visitation, taught with great prudence and common sense, converted great numbers of people to the Catholic faith.  And he soared into the heights.

Caspar David Friedrich painting in public domain

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.  

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers network Linkup Blitz

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Singing Heart

'The human heart
is the true singer
of the canticle
of sacred love;
it is itself
both harp
and psaltery.'

 
         St. Francis de Sales,
           Treatise on the Love of God,
           Book 9, Chapter 9











 
Painting: Gerard van Honthorst, Kind David Playing the Harp

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Little Virtues

'Let us endeavor sincerely, humbly, and devoutly to acquire those little virtues which our Savior has set forth for our care and labor:  These are
patience,
meekness,
mortification of heart,
humility,
poverty,
chastity,
tenderness toward our neighbors,
bearing with their imperfections,
diligence
and holy fervor.'
                (St. Francis de Sales)


Painting:  Eugen von Blaas, A Helping Hand

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.    

Still Cloistered Here


“Always remember… to retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others.  This mental solitude cannot be violated by the many people who surround you since they are not standing around your heart but only around your body.  Your heart remains alone in the presence of God.” (St. Francis de Sales)   

Photo compliments of Linda M., New York

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.    

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Devout Life, Here

"Every vocation becomes more agreeable when united with devotion.   The care of the family is rendered more peaceable, the love of the husband and wife more sincere, the service of the prince more faithful, and every type of employment more pleasant and agreeable.  It is an error, or rather a heresy, to try to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes, or the home of married folk."  (St. Francis de Sales, , Introduction to the Devout Life, Image Books, Garden City NY, 1955, p. 40)

"Almost all those who have hitherto treated of devotion have had in view the instruction of persons wholly withdrawn from the world, or they have taught a kind of devotion that leads to this absolute retirement.  My intention is to instruct those who live in towns, in families, or at court.  By their condition they are obliged to lead, as to outward appearances, an ordinary life ... a vigorous and resolute soul may live in the world without being infected by any of its moods..."  (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Image Books, Garden City NY, 1955, pp. 29-30)

Wyzcolkowski painting in US public domain

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.

This Post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Profound Humility, Great Gentleness

St. Francis de Sales founded, with St. Jane de Chantal, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  It is an Order of which I'm quite fond, as I find many of its main charisms not only appealing, but quite practical for those whose vocations call us to live in the midst of the world.

One of the main charges Francis entrusted to his Visitation daughters is one I have embraced as a deeply cherished personal call.  I meditate upon it, ponder its "adjectives," pray for its virtues, and most of all:  try to put it into practice every day of my life.

Strive to live, said St. Francis de Sales...

"..in profound humility toward God and great gentleness toward the neighbor." 

As I come before the Blessed Sacrament, when I'm at Mass, as I pray at home:  may I practice profound humility.

As I tend to a little one, care for someone needing me, welcome a neighbor:  may I practice great gentleness.

Profound humility toward God.
Great gentleness toward the neighbor. 

For me, it is an in-a-nutshell phrase that pretty much covers it all.   

"Jesus said to them: 'you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole mind.... you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  (Matthew 22:37 and 39)

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Available Means

It is no secret that I greatly esteem St. Francis de Sales.  Discovering in the mid 1980s that this Doctor of the Church was patron of Catholic writers, I asked him to "pray for any writing I might ever do."  It was not long after that when I began journaling about what it could mean to live as a "cloistered heart."  


As time went on, I was amazed to learn how "cloistered heart" many of Francis de Sale's ideas actually were.  Because his feast day is coming soon, I'd like to look at some of his teachings.  My intention is not to focus here on Francis himself, but upon how his thoughts draw us to live for God, right here, right now... 400 years after his life on earth.

Writer Elisabeth Stopp described Francis' advice as having an atmosphere of "inspired common sense."  He taught devout persons living in the world to "go cheerfully about their daily tasks, to avoid haste and over-eagerness, never to try and force things, to be uncomplicated and unafraid, putting their whole trust in God and not in themselves.  They were to use all available means - their state in life, the difficulties of their temperament, everything great and small that happened to them - to one supreme end:  the love of God.  To further this end they were to use the ordinary channels of grace - the sacraments, prayer, the practice of virtues..."  (Stopp, St. Francis de Sales Selected Letters, Harper and Row, NY, 1960, pp. 33-34)

If I read ... really read... the above paragraph, I can find enough "inspired common sense" to last a lifetime.  May St. Francis de Sales pray for each one of us, that we may use all available means to direct us to the love of God.
_______________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:

  • What "available means" do I see in my life today?  
  • How am I using these means to lead me to the One Supreme End?  
  • How can I make better use of these available means?
"The means of attaining devotion vary according to the diversity of callings:  religious, widows, and married persons - all must seek this perfection, but not all by the same means."  (St. Francis de Sales)

"I know very well that there, on your sick bed, you cast your heart a thousand times a day into the hands of God, and that's enough."  (St. Francis de Sales)

Painting: Frederic Leighton, Music Lesson

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In the Light of God

In my monastic musings over the years, a few sentences have stood out from the rest.  As simple, and even obvious, as the following is, it has served as such a phrase.  I simply substitute my name for the words "the monk," and I am supplied with direction, meditation, a prayer of petition, frequent aspirations, and an examination of conscience to last the whole day through. 

Living for God does not have to be complicated.  It just has to be embraced. 


"The monk sees all things in the light of God."  

(I see all things in the light of God)  

(Help me see THIS in Your light, O God)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nothing Matters But This


"The Christian life is nothing else but Christ; the monastic life is nothing else but Christ.  The requirements for the Christian and for the monk are in substance the same; the difference lies only in the particular kind of stress that is given to them.  The Church exists so that souls should lead the life of Christ; the monastery exists for the same purpose.  Whether it is union with Him in the world or in the cloister, it is union that is the soul's purpose.  Nothing else matters but this. (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, the Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, 1957, p. 182))

"All who have put on Christ have heard the call to seek God.  The monk is one for whom this call has become so urgent that there can be no question of postponing his response to it; he must accept forthwith... in every Christian vocation lies the germ of a monastic vocation. (Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY 1950, from preface)
_______________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:

  • Do I ever feel an 'urgent' call to seek God?  How am I responding?
  • How can I nurture the germ of the monastic vocation in my own life?

"I have come to rate all as loss in light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:8)


Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Threshold of Your House


"The monk, like the seer of the Apocalypse, has seen a door opened in heaven... from now on, everything resolves itself into passing through that door, into plunging into the vision which it opens on to the invisible."  (Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY 1950, p. 68)

"It is the vocation of a monk to seek not the earthly but the heavenly Jerusalem."  (Walter Nigg, Warriors of God, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, p. 201)

"Here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come."  (Hebrews 13:14)

____________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:  

  • Has it ever seemed that a 'door opened into heaven' for me?  Have I ever had a sense (even if fleeting) of God's presence, reality, or love?  
  • Even if I'm not a monk or nun, am I called to seek the heavenly Jerusalem? How am I responding to this call?
"Eternal Father, open Your gates today to the most miserable of your children, but one who greatly longs to see You."  (Blessed Jeanne Jugan)

"My God, without ceasing, I will tread the threshold of Your house."  (St.Ephrem)

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

For SomeONE

"The love of God is the strongest driving force on earth," wrote Mother Mary Francis PCC.  "Thousands upon hundreds of thousands have given up their lives simply because they loved Him so much that breath and heartbeat slipped into the inconsequential by comparison."  (A Right to Be Merry.)

Those living behind cloister walls love God enough to give their lives for Him.  We who live in the world recognize this.  What we sometimes fail to recognize is the call we have to give our lives as well. 

"But," we may object. "I  can go where I want, when I want, go on vacation, have a spouse, buy what I want.  I don't live according to a particular 'rule of life.'"

Ah, but the thing is:  if I truly love God, and want to live fully for Him, I DO have a rule of life.  It is Scripture.  If I am Catholic, my rule of life is defined for me quite nicely in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Yes, I can do what I want.  But if I desire to love and please God, will this affect my wants?   Will it affect the choices I make?  Of course it will.

God loves me with an everlasting love, whether or not I live in a physical cloister.  The vocation He has given me is an invitation to love Him by offering my life to Him in a particular way.  I can choose to make every act of my day an act of love for God; I can serve Him by serving those around me.  I can do all things out of love for the One who first loved me, the One who loves me into loving. 

"Monastic life is nothing else, no more and no less, than a Christian life whose Christianity has penetrated very part of it."  (Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY 1950, p. 13)

"If he is a true monk, what he is seeking cannot be some THING.  It is some ONE."  (Bouyer, p. 7)

"The monk is the man for whom God is a Person:  a Person whom he can meet, whom he longs to meet.... Monastic life, without such an incentive, would be nothing more than a soulless code of behaviour."  (Bouyer, pp. 61-62) 
____________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:  

  • Do I feel I know God as a Person? How can I get to know Him better?
  • If I substitute my name for the words 'the monk' (or 'monastic') in the quotes above, do I find that these sentences can apply to me?
"Let Your voice sound in my ears, good Jesus, that I may learn how my heart, my mind, my soul can love You."  (St. Aelred of Rievaulx)

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.  

Text  not in quotes
    

Friday, January 11, 2013

But Why?

I want to live totally, not just mostly, for God.  I don't want to compromise this goal.  Monasticism represents totality:  that is its appeal for me.  It may be that I can "get to heaven" by going to church on Sundays, by not living in major sin, by pursuing everyday luxuries while having Christ in a corner of my life.  But that is not even close to enough for me.  I want to live for God rather than for myself.

But why?

Because I want to be in a personal, ongoing relationship with God.  I want to glorify Him with my thoughts and my actions and my very life.  I love Him.

But why?

For the answer to this, I look as always to Scripture and the teachings of the Church.



"We, for our part, love because He first loved us."  1 John 4:19

God’s "love for his people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.'"  Catechism of the Catholic Church #219

"Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you.  See, upon the palms of My hands I have written your name."  Isaiah 49:15-16)

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."  St. Augustine

"I have called you by name; you are Mine."  Isaiah 43:1

"God is love."  1 John 4:8

"I know you are unworthy, but rejoice all the more and take as many treasures from my Heart as you can carry, for then you will please Me more... Oh, how I love those souls who have complete confidence in Me.  I will do everything for them."  Jesus to St. Faustina

"Love Him totally Who gave Himself totally for your love."  St. Clare of Assisi
____________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:  

  • Do I believe God loves me, personally?  Do I ever feel unworthy of His love?
  • Can I talk with God about His love for me, and mine for Him?
  • If I meditate upon the above quotes, does anything happen?  Do I feel God  speaking to me through any of them?
"God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but have eternal life."  John 3:16

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In A World Unable to Bear It

If I am truly intent on living for God in the midst of the world, I can learn from the basic goals of monasticism.  The following quotes have struck me over the years, so I pass them along. 

As I look over these, do I find that any parts of them apply to my life in the world of today?

Monks, wrote Etienne Gilson, are those who "by preaching and by example, maintain the full spirit of the Gospel in a world unable to bear it."  (quoted in Cistercian Contemplatives, Monks of the Strict Observance, 1947, p. 5)

"Because spiritual perception is dulled by the pressures of the world, the world, with all its natural excellences as well as with all its false sanctions and ephemeral attractions, must give place to the spirit... the trouble with renouncing the world is that it comes back in another form.  You bar the window of your cell against it, and it comes up through the boards of the floor."  (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, the Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, 1957, p. 29)

"Always the monk has to remember that for him the world is as alien an element as the sea is to man.... he can comfort himself with the knowledge that for the sea to get the better of him, it has to be swallowed.  It is not strictly the extent to which a man is in the water that causes drowning; it is the extent to which the water is in him."  (Van Zeller, p. 35)

"We... afraid of being left behind in contemporary thought, assent too readily to the conclusions of a humanist and materialist society.. the movement of the world slides over our preference for spiritual things, and we wake up to find that we have accepted earthly things at the world's valuation.  It is only the wisdom of the spirit that can show up the more hidden errors contained in the world's propaganda, and to possess our share of this wisdom, we have to pray.  Prayer alone assures both the light to see and the strength to resist. (Van Zeller, p. 36)
 ______________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:  

  • Am I ever "afraid of being left behind in contemporary thought?"  
  • Do I sometimes struggle between the world's valuation of things and God's? 
  • What does Dom Hubert Van Zeller suggest I do about this? 
"The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men.  It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age."  (Titus 2:11-12)

 Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Unmasking Compromise


I once wrote that compromise does not fit well in a cloister.  I've been thinking of this lately, and of my own human tendency to try to make fit what, in reality, does not.

The truth is:  Compromise knocks daily at my enclosure door.  It makes sales pitches through the grille, and some are really quite enticing.  The "catalogs" Compromise opens to me do not display pages on which I find the words "Caution: Sin Zone Ahead."  Mostly they feature offers like "It Won't Hurt YOU to Watch This Mind-Warping Sitcom," "Let's Enjoy A Harmless Round of Gossip," and the ever popular "Don't be a Spoilsport - Just Go Along With the Crowd!!!"    

If I hope to live totally for God, I must battle the temptation to compromise.  God has given clear directives on how to live for Him, and frankly, most of what I encounter in the world right now is the exact opposite of these.  Every day, I must make my choices.  Every day, I must face down the grinning, smooth-talking, hand-offering, smartly-masked ogre of compromise, and I must take a stand.

It helps me to know that the battle is not a new one.  

"The earliest monasticism was directed to the tendency in the church to compromise with the world, to water down the strong wine of the Gospels to suit the vulgar taste...  Monasticism, in its development, was unmistakably on the defensive against a worldly church"  (Walter Nigg, Warriors of God, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, pp. 80-81)

"Mediocrity is the arch-enemy of  Christianity."  (Nigg, p. 47)

"The desert fathers fought the corrosion of mediocrity not in others, but in themselves, which is what made them saints and not simply critics of civilization and preachers of penitence."  (Nigg, p. 47)

Compromise does not fit well in a cloister.  If I hope to live "enclosed in the will of God," I must see through the masks, and boot compromise out the door. 

________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer and Reflection:  

  • Do the above quotes strike me in any way? 
  • If I look for compromise around me today, what masks do I catch it wearing?
  • Have I developed habits of compromise in my life?  Are there scriptures or prayers I can use to battle these?
"I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.  

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Link Up Blitz

Text not in quotes
    
 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Essence

Over twenty years ago, I was advised by Father Michael Scanlan TOR to study Orders of consecrated life.  This would help me discern, said Father, what the then-budding idea of the cloistered heart was and was not.

It wasn't long before I knew that the concept of the cloistered heart was nothing if not monastic.  That might seem obvious from the very phrase, but in the early years I wasn't so sure.  For one thing, I had to learn what monastic life, at its core, truly was.  I had to discover what one nun later described to me as the "essence of monasticism," so I might see what parts of it applied to life out here in the world.

Over these next weeks, I would like to share with you some basics of what I discovered.  There are elements of monasticism, and (mostly) reasons FOR monasticism, that can be fully, authentically, absolutely lived by those of us in the very midst of the world.  Have we looked at this sort of thing here before?  Of course.  But this is a blog, and people pop in and out of it.  And anyway:  by now you know I like "series!"

One point I'd like to make very plain is that the Cloistered Heart is not a watered down, wishy-washy version of monasticism.  May it never be so.

The Cloistered Heart is meant to be life lived totally, not mostly, for God.  It is life in the midst of the world within the revealed will of God.  It is an embrace of the Truth revealed in Scripture and Church teaching (as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) with no exceptions.  No ifs, no ands, no buts.

If this is the kind of life you strive for, and if you're encouraged by knowing there are others who are struggling to live this as well, then I invite you to stick with us.  Tomorrow I hope to look at one of the reasons for the earliest monasticism.  See you then?

"The monk sees all things in the light of God."  (Wilfrid Tunink OSB; Vision of Peace;  Farrar, Straus and Co, NY, 1963, p. 256)


    


Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.  

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Link Up Blitz 

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Life Begins When...

Over the next several weeks, I hope to look into the 'whys' and 'hows' of cloistered life.  Why is there such a thing as monasticism?  What is it for, what does it mean, what draws a person to it?  What can monasticism teach those of us who live in the midst of the world?

The monastic life starts not with an idea.  It starts with a Person.  It is only with Him at the center of our explorations that we can begin.... 

'Although God dwells in every soul which is in the state of grace, yet the intimacy between the soul and its Divine Guest may be very great or merely ordinary, or even less than that.  It is possible for two human beings to dwell under the same roof and not to be intimate; they may live thus and yet be almost strangers to one another.

'But it is possible for this state of things to change; it is possible for them to become friends, even intimate friends....


'A change comes in the soul when it begins to recognize Who it is that dwells in her.

'A new life of affection begins, a new life of real intimate friendship.  Intimate friends are characterized by mutual benevolence: each one makes the interest of the other the subject of his thoughts and of his plans.  The interest of the other becomes his own interest, and he pursues it with as much zeal as if it were his own personal interest... In such manner should we live in the intimacy of our Divine Guest..

'Some may think that such a life of union with God is only for saints, that a life of intimacy in which the soul constantly turns to God as to a loving and beloved guest, is not for the ordinary faithful.  This view is not correct.

'Intimacy with God is not for the saints only.  It is for all of us.'

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 61-64)

Painting:  Pilgrims of Emmaus, James Tissot, detail

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Open Door


This morning I received the following in an e-mail from one of our friends.  I found it so confirming of my own "in or out?" thoughts that I asked her permission to share it here:

"I had just finished the Office and Morning prayer when I decided to visit your website this morning.  There before me was the question: ' are you in or are you out?'  Words that struck a chord within.....

"You see, six years ago I went on a silent retreat, and as I sat on a mound of grass on the retreat house grounds I spotted a "door."  Jesus seemed to be beckoning me to look into that door. 

"Then, it was verse 7 of Revelation 3 that I prayed with.  But I realize now that Jesus has set forth a clear and concrete invitation today to me thru your web posting.  You weren't needlessly banging or clacking at keys, as I am 'not' doing now.  It is the Spirit and He is beckoning to all of us right now.......

"'Behold I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut!' 

"Oh praise God for these Words.  His Word.  And your simple invitation to us this morning, one that Jesus beckons us with......

"The door is open and nobody is able to shut it on us.  Oh let us enter into that door today, loudly singing His praises with Thanksgiving and Joy in this Season of His Birth.  For that Door leads to His Heart - a place that He calls all of us to now - where Love can be found, and we can be strengthened by it.  To bring it to this world in this year of 2013!

"The Spirit is ALIVE AND WORKING!!!!" - Anita

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
'The words of the holy One, the true One, 
Who has the key of David, Who opens and no one will shut,
Who shuts and no one opens.  I know your works. 
Behold I have set before you 
an open door, 
which no one is able to shut."  
                                          - Revelation 3:7-8

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In or Out?

"Are you in or are you out?"

It's a question that has rattled around in my mind for the last several days. I want to know God's will and do it and "live within" it and embrace it as my enclosure.  I've thought and talked and written for years about this very thing.   

Yet today I find myself face to face with one question. 

"Are you in or are you out?" 

I will admit that this is not what I expected to be writing when I came to this screen tonight.  I thought I'd be looking into a few specific reasons for monastic life, considering how these might be applied to our lives out in the world 

Even as I type this, I feel a bit of clarification (and you're getting this just as it comes to me, hot off still on the griddle, for better or for worse...), and I think the question may be for each of us.  In the next few (days?  weeks?) I hope to look past the externals of monasticism, exploring more deeply why monks and nuns give their lives utterly to God.  I hope to consider why and how we can give our lives to Him as well, in the midst of families and jobs and trials and distractions and mess-ups and failings.  The call to live for God - not just partly, but fully - is not just for those in monasteries, as we know.  It is a call for us.   It's a serious call, the most serious we will ever face, and the most beautifully profound.  I feel a burden of responsibility even writing of it.  I have no idea if the words I am clacking away on this keyboard tonight are even making sense.

Tomorrow, God willing, I will be back on this screen.  In the meantime, I only have to take a brief look around to see that the world is not all that understanding of those who want to live totally for Christ.  Living as the Church asks us to do, spending our lives "inside" the will of God?  That can be looked upon as a pretty crazy decision.  There really isn't much room for compromise.  

The will of God stands open to welcome me.  I can't spend my whole life just loitering in the doorway.   

Am I in?  Or out?