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 waves, regardless of the relentless, unpredictable nature of storms and surging seas.
A monastery can be compared to a lighthouse standing on a hill. It is a beacon sending out prayer and witness.
We who live for God in the midst of the world are like 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 as God calls His people to do, 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 glow of God's revealed truth 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 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 confusion 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 lies, the confusion that surround 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.
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.
Painting: Carl Locher, The lightship at Skagen Reef , in US public domain due to age
Drawing of Sevenstones Lightship in US public domain due to age
"Ambrose" lightship photo: public domain via Wikimedia