While our Sisters and Brothers in monasteries are chanting Vespers (usually between 4:30 and 6:00 pm), we who live 'in the world' may well be in the busiest time of our day. The world, at Vespers-time, is right in the middle of rush hour. It is when many are leaving work, pouring into roads and trains to make the journey home. Some of us are preparing an evening meal, knowing that growling tummies will not be soothed if we hide away in prayer corners to sing and chant praise.
So we do what must be done. Many times we're content to be exactly where we are. Sometimes, however, the grass can look greener inside the monastic fence, and I will admit that 'rush hour,' for me, is a time when my own grass can seem seriously withered. This is due in large part (for me) to a kind of physical and mental lagginess that tends to hit in late afternoon, and has for as long as I can remember. It's the time of day when I'm tired, draggy, and most likely to feel, well: grumbly.
Through the years, I've learned that I am not the only person to be washed out at that time. Yet this is when people have to get themselves home from work, food must be prepared, and children may need a bit of extra referee-ing.
When the body is exhausted and the mind is reeling from a day's work, even the humdrum tasks of late afternoon can seem immense. 'I remember reading,' said our friend Rose some time ago, 'that obedience to one's superior is more meritorious than all the self-imposed mortifications, fastings and prayers. Then I realized my superior is really my vocation as a wife and mother. Therefore, my duties and responsibilities of motherhood must come first. And, done with the right intentions (as St. Francis de Sales says, 'for the greater glory of God'), all my actions are lifted up in prayer.'
Those in a cloister come to Vespers out of obedience. They gather to pray when they feel like doing so, and when they do not.
When my day starts to bend toward evening, it is time for a particular kind of 'Vespers.' It's a time when I can offer my duties, my care for those around me, any rush-hour hassles I may face, and even my own dragginess, to God.
By being made into an offering, these can become my evening prayer.
'Some people might think it contradictory to speak of 'contemplative' in the same sentence as 'mother of a very large family.' But it is the contemplative spirit that has helped me survive the chaos that is natural when raising a number of children.... The cloister in my heart is a place of refuge. It is a place where I can retreat from the world no matter where I am; in the middle of a crowded mall, or in a busy grocery store, or in my own kitchen.' - Rose
Painting by Von Bornin
This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'