Welcome fellow seekers and pilgrims...

Like the pilgrams that sought out the early desert Abbas and Ammas for a "word" my hope and prayer is that a word can be found by you at this site as you journey on your path seeking God . It will not be one from my lips as all I have been capable of saying is that I honestly don't believe that I have any words of wisdom to pass on and maybe there are way too many "words" being expressed out there already. But I am being once again nagged terribly by that inner voice within my heart of hearts and so I must write. May the spoken words of my mouth, the thoughts of my heart, win favor in your sight, O Lord, my rescuer, my rock! (Psalm 19:15)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Feast of St. Clare of Assissi

  Tomorrow is my namesake day. I am named for St. Clare of Assisi and for the first Abbess following her as abbess of their monastery Abbess Benedicta. I would like to share with you some of the life of Clare as a Poor Clare nun and also a reflection I wrote while writing the icon of her.
   In the year 1212, Clare di Favarone with her sister Agnes were escorted by Francis di Barnardone, the little poor man of Assisi, from the Benedictine Monastery of Sant' Angelo de Panzo to the sanctuary of San Damiano.   It was here in the monastery at San Damiano as the first Abbess and founder of the Poor Clare's, the Second Order of the Franciscan family,that Clare would be a guiding light and a blessing to all who came seeking to follow Christ.
   While the Franciscan and Benedictine Orders have different charisms, Francis had been wise in placing Clare within a Benedictine house.  His goal: that she might become acquainted with the Rule of St. Benedict regarding guiding a community and experiencing the monastic rhythm of blending work and prayer, of community life where all had a voice from the youngest to the oldest and of stability that was promoted within the monastery walls themselves.  To these aims Clare gave her spirit, strength and love of Christ.
   In taking Clare's name as mine, may I also receive her blessing in following Christ, by following the Rule of St. Benedict as as a solemn vowed solitary of the Community of Solitude,Camaldolese.


   St. Clare had come from from a wealthy and devout family, was well educated and sought by the young men of her time for marriage. Her beauty was well known and her graciousness admired.
   Clare's journey began at the age of sixteen with receiving receiving a rough brown habit on the night of Palm Sunday in the year 1212 that began the Second Order of Franciscans known as the Poor Ladies later known as the Poor Clares.  For the next forty-two years, enclosed in her convent in San Damiano she lived out her vows in literal poverty and prayer, sleeping on a straw mattress, fasting three times a week, never eating meat, doing penance and praying the divine offices.  Clare was known for her compassion and wisdom, as well as, being a healer and spiritual counselor.  Clare was chronically ill herself, yet she healed others of sickness and depression by signing them with the cross.  Everything Clare did was prayer.  She took no vacations, made no pilgrimages.  She lived in obscurity and ordinariness.
  What can we learn from St. Clare, a cloistered Poor Lady of the 13th century? While some of us do live in monasteries or hermitages, not all are called to such a life.  Many of us are committed to families and occupations or ministries that require us to "go forth" into the active world of business, school, carpooling, soccer games and little league.  But each of us need and can create a space, an enclosure of our heart, "a cell" where we can meet and allow God to monopolize our attention even if for only a few minutes each day.
   What will our "cell" be like?  An area in our home set aside with candles, incense, icons and music, the outdoors with sun or moon and the voices of nature?  Two essentials that this space will need to share are being focused on God and interior silence.  We are not always able to control the world around us but we can choose to turn off our self talk within ourselves.  Everything should speak to us of God's presence.
      Can we immolate Clare's willingness to accept enclosure out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ, to be willing to welcome temporary 'enclosure' in creating space to be with God in solitude and attentiveness, what we Benedictines refer to as with intentionality?  Are we serious about improving our prayer life in order to create and be faithful to that space of our choosing?
   Imagine you are at San Damiano; your space of enclosure has become the little cell of Clare's. It is early morning, birds are singing announcing that the sun has risen, and darkness has been lifted from the valley. Within the monastery all is quiet. It is a sacred time. You feel at one with all you see and hear around you.  You look around the cell, you see the straw mattress, a wash basin, a crucifix. This place, this cell like the cloister at San Damiano becomes a tabernacle in which Jesus makes himself at home. It has become a "thin space" where heaven and earth meet.  Take time to listen to what the Lord is is saying to you in your heart.
  Free me from my restless activity, my attention to the clock,my habit of bobbing along on the open sea of busyness when you have called me to be still.  When I meditate on how you consented to the enclosure of your mother's womb, of the crucifixion, in the bread of the Eucharist, my heart is moved to seek enclosure with you.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Recognising His Voice

"God is always at home. It is we who have gone out for a walk."
-Meister Eckhart-

Remember the movie Dead Poet Society, when a student in assembly pretended he was answering a ringing telephone and was God calling. Wouldn't our relationship be so much easier if we could just snap open our cell phone and call him or text a few lines while waiting in line at Starbucks for a expresso to fortify ourselves as we dash from task to task. Wouldn't it be easier if God would just call us?  Yet, of  the many calls we get from friends who need a consoling ear to hear their current problems, family members who need something picked up from the cleaners or the market, the kids needing everything including rides to the mall or games, and even the wrong numbers awakening us in the night or the calls we missed. None are like the call received from that student. Have we, you and I missed His call? Perhaps we just haven't recognised His voice.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Art of Listening

              Listen carefully, my child, to the instructions of the teacher, and incline the ear of your heart. -Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue

  Yes, Listening is an art. The ability to truly listen to someone else is an art. One which each of us is called to cultivate.  The carthusians tell us that the preparation for listening to God is listening to others. One carthusian shares  how their rule insists on the quality of welcome they are to offer their brothers when they have an occasion to converse or relate to them: " we must know how to listen to them and understand them with both heart and mind; we are to go beyond mere appearances, and not allow ourselves to be troubled by the different ways they may have of approaching the same questions...welcoming our neighbor in this way will train our hearts to become silent, in order to be ready to receive the secret of the Other. For, in whatever circumstances, our main concern must be not just to receive some message or other, but, through the message, to discover the depths of the heart of the one who is speaking to us. If we are not able to do this with the brothers we can see, how will we be able to do it with God whom we cannot see?" A Carthuscian
   Listening is relational. We form a relationship with the person we converse with.  We open ourselves to someone else allowing the tone and agenda to be set by the other. Listening takes place within the silence which is what occurs if we are truly listening and not multitasking in our heads but truly hearing the one speaking. I had an opportunity to meet a professor on retreat while I was at convocation at the New Camaldoli Hermitage last month. While we we conversing she spoke of one of the reasons she came to the Hermitage for her retreat. One of the courses she would again be teaching, in a matter of a few weeks, was one of writing. One of the difficulties she was concerned with, plaguing her students, was their inability to focus. Because of their several years of multitasking it now leaves them unable to focus and settle into a singular issue. She is hoping that the practice of meditation could be of benefit for them. Do we not see this same problem  in our relationship with God. If our mind is scattered on multiple things we have to do or consider how can we hear our Lords voice.
   Lord, help me to put aside my own agenda when I speak with others.  Help me to truly hear their concerns.  Help me to open my heart to them and in so doing to open myself to you, seeking your will for me. Amen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So How Do We Know What We Really Need?

   O.K.  You say to yourself (as I continue to tell myself  because it is a reoccurring theme in my discernment process) it's time to simplify and what do I really need in my life to be able to listen and be at peace.     Columba Stewart OSB has some thoughts that might help in getting on the right track. He has brought forward a very good thought to consider in the quest to simplify ones life. The question to consider is as follows:
   "Does 'need' mean bare necessity, or what is needed for me to grow and to flourish?...For us to discern genuine need and avoid misuse of things or of people, we have to learn how to confront our desires, which are many and often quite subtle, and then to surrender those which prevent us from loving God and neighbor.  Desire in itself is good: it makes us get up and set about the search for God, fueling the ascetical work of learning how to love.  But we have an incredible knack for desiring the wrong things, or getting hung up in little desires while the great ones go unsatisfied.  Confronting all of our desires, small and great, sick and healthy, is the only way to know what our needs truly are. Only then can  our cravings become the basis of compassion toward ourselves and others."
   I try to remember this as I travel on my faith journey. The journey is far easier to travel without alot of excess baggage, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Way of Simplicity

When we realize that the world is spinning too fast and what we have hasn't really satisfied that hollowness within and no matter of how much we try to fill it the emptiness remains, it's time to simplify. In this case less is greater than more and that includes the little things.
Let me share some wise words that were given to John Cassian centuries ago by the desert father Abba Moses. They are as valid today as then.
"We see many who have given up very great wealth not only in terms of money but in land as well - and still they get very upset over a knife, a scraper, a needle, a pan. If they had kept their gaze unwaveringly on the goal of purity of heart they would never have got wrapped up in such trifling things and indeed would reject them in the same way that they have rejected lands and wealth. There are some people who guard a book so jealously that they can hardly bear to have anyone else touch it. Far from leading them to the prize of love and gentleness, this sort of thing becomes for them an occasion for impatience, even sometimes to the point of death. Out of love for Christ they have given away all their great possessions, and yet they cling to their old passion for things that have no importance, and even give way to anger because of such things ... One does not become perfect just by stripping naked, by being poor and despising honours, unless ... love  ... is there, a love which is found only in the pure of heart."
The foundation of all our actions or attempts at action is love, a sharing of the love God has for each of us with one another.  This love becomes both unifying and simplifying  filling the emptiness within us in a never ending stream that is poured out upon all we meet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Did I Say Ordinary in Suburbia?

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will recount all your wonders. I will rejoice in you and be glad, and sing psalms to your name, O Most High. (psalm 9:1-3).
This morning I awoke at sunrise to a symphony of the Lord's creation. Birds chirping,the call of a visiting little dog needing out of his carrier, desiring to go outside, the mewing of Miss Me Me wanting her blinds opened to her window perch so that she too could enjoy the birds. The air had a hint of moisture in it producing the fragrance of moist dirt, as if it had rained. The neighboring roosters and goats added their voices... Yep, that's another thing about this high desert surburbia it's on the rural side and livestock is allowed. So it's not unusual to see horses, free-range chickens, ducks, goats, sheep or other creatures in your neighbors yard. Not to forget the wild critters who also roam the area: feral cats, foxes, bobcats,rabbits,quail, roadrunners and we can't leave out the scorpions, spiders, lizards and of course the Mohave Green. Whats a Mohave Green you ask? It's a very deadly kind of rattle snake. All God's creatures great or small.
I wanted to share this thought by another monk living in community. It's a good thought for all of us religious or layperson. "...An authentic contemplative life does not consist in withdrawing from reality to live in an artificial or purely spiritual world. It consists in withdrawing to the center, to the heart of all reality. A healthy community life helps us to evaluate with serenity the varied information that we receive, the different events through which we live."

Armand Veilleux OCSO

Monday, May 31, 2010

Living The Ordinary In Ordinary Time

So this is the rest of the story. You may be wondering what a solitary is doing in suburbia. The desert and even the high desert sounds about right for a solitary (which is a female hermit) but the burbs? It's really a very unique situation here. The hermitage is a house on approximately a half acre of land completely fenced for privacy within a mixed neighborhood of single family homes and apartment multiplexes. But,if you walk three streets over you're right back in the middle of the desert with many dirt roads that may not be wise to enter(Meth labs abound in the Marianna's)
The hermitage is well designed to house two hermits without being disturbed by one another and yet I'm sure the Lord's smiles,knowing this hermitage sits between two apartment complexes. I believe we are being given the opportunity to be creative in each of our approaches to silence, solitude and aloneness. So what do solitaries do. We live ordinary lives just as our neighbors do with a few exceptions. What I see and hear has been and continues to be stress-filled. So much of this stress is self inflicted. So much is being packed into each day that there are no periods of rest, people drown themselves in noise from the time they rise until the time they go to bed from radios, tv's, cars, motorcycles, arguments, crying children, barking dogs, believing they are able to multitask effectively. What actually happens is that stress levels increase, patience diminishes, anger heightens and becomes explosive. That's when our job begins remember I mentioned a few exceptions. Perhaps the Lord has placed us here to be examples, to help others slow down and to listen in order that they too can hear and know the peace of our Lord. We are also here to pray for all who are in pain mentally, physically and spiritually and for those who cannot or will not pray. The Lord knew what he was doing when he sent us to suburbia. It's where we're needed.