Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Monastic Life

I know that the monastic life is a particular vocation. However, I also know that we are all called to contemplation of God's glory and love. I have become even more aware in the course of my pastoral ministry that if we don't learn the art of contemplation it is sure to cause us trouble in the future!

The memorial of St. Bernard has fallen on a Friday this year. Every Friday my pastoral staff and I visit the shut-ins of our parish. For many years, as I have made these visits, I have come to recognize that too many of our shut-ins have not been properly prepared for their later years. As a result, most of them are left sitting in their homes wishing that their legs worked better, or their eyesight was better, or their aches and pains were somehow lessened. I know that a number of them very faithfully pray their rosary each day, or several times a day, but most are still so very focussed on wanting things to be different than they are.

With the lessened concern with being at Mass on Sundays, a lack of concern with participating in Eucharistic adoration, and a lessened desire for daily Mass participation, I think that our future generations could be in even more trouble in this regard. I have come to recognize even more that if you haven't cultivated a sense of devotion and contemplation in your younger years, it isn't going to somehow naturally show up in your advanced years. Thus, how to cultivate this sense of contemplation NOW???

I think that two things need to happen here. First of all, our sense of urgency for participation in Sunday Mass needs to grow. It IS about being at Mass, come hell or high water, every Sunday and Holy Day. But even more, it is about actually participating in the Mass while you are there!

Here, I think, the argument in some circles about what the Second Vatican Council meant by active participation is a real stumbling block. Don't try and explain the arguments to me. I know them very well. The problem is that when our people are sitting there and not participating in and exterior way, they are not participating, in too many cases, in an interior way. Many have forgotten that we are soul AND body. Participation in the body is meant to excite participation in the soul. Participation in the soul shows itself, gives public witness, through participation in the body. So start participating people!

The second issue is our personal daily prayer. As I talk to confirmation candidates, even those who have been listening to me talk about the importance and form of daily prayer year after year, I find that we are firmly stuck in saying a couple of prayers before bed and maybe a prayer at mealtime. These prayers before bed consist mainly of thanking God for favors granted and asking for more.

Our daily prayer needs to be more than this! We need to become practiced in prayer being, first and foremost, praise of God. Thanksgiving is good and important, but we need to become much more aware of loving God for who He is and not as the great "gift-giver" in the sky. We need to cultivate a desire to just BE with God, as we would our best friend or lover.

I sometimes fear how we will fair in our pursuit of heaven. Given the choice, I think that too many of us are going to mistake what the devil offers for heaven. Why do I think this? I see far too many people, even my "good" parishioners, choosing the things of this world over the things of heaven. I have come to believe very firmly that if we are to enter the holy monastery of heaven we must become more aware of our shared contemplative vocation on earth.

The rhythm of life has taught me that we are ALL called to the contemplative life, even a kind of monastic life. If we don't respond to a call from God to enter the monastic life in youth, it will come upon us naturally enough in old age.

The memorial of St. Bernard reminds me that we have much to do in preparing ourselves for both old age AND for heaven. As always, I welcome any comments you might have, under the usual conditions. Blessings!

1 comment:

  1. Father, you've hit the nail on the head!
    As monastics, we, in our little "dovecot of our Lady," pray for those who do not, will not pray; are far from God; don't even think of Him.
    But the faithful, esp. our home bound and ill brothers and sisters, need to realize they have a very special opportunity to pray, love, adore and keep vigil with our Lord (esp. in the early hours of the morning, when pain and sleeplessness are such heavy crosses).
    Take out your rosary and pray! Unite yourselves to the Eucharistic Jesus in the nearest tabernacle; intercede for those family members and friends who have no time for Him.
    God wants your prayers and sufferings in order to "save souls".


Comments are most welcome! As always, be charitable and remember the 8th Commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor).