Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A lovely essay

A friend sent to this to me and I'm going to re-post it in entirety since I have no idea where she got it but it does list the author.  I'm still chewing on this because it's that good:)

"...The lesson was rather that there was

something wonderfully right about what his mother had been doing all
these years as she lived the interrupted life amid the noise and
incessant demands of small children. He had been in a monastery, but so
had she.

What is a monastery? A monastery is not so much a place set apart for
monks and nuns as it is a place set apart (period). It is also a place
to learn the value of powerlessness and a place to learn that
time is not ours, but God's.

Our home and our duties can, just like a monastery, teach us those
things. John of the Cross once described the inner essence of
monasticism in these words: "But they, O my God and my life, will see
and experience Your mild touch, who withdraw from the world and become
mild, bringing the mild into harmony with the mild, thus enabling
themselves to experience and enjoy You." What John suggests here is
that two elements make for a monastery - withdrawal from
the world and bringing oneself into harmony with the mild.

Although he was speaking about the vocation of monastic monks and nuns,
who physically withdraw from the world, the principle is equally valid
for those of us who cannot go off to monasteries and become monks and
nuns. Certain vocations offer the same kind of opportunity for
contemplation. They, too, provide a desert for
For example, the mother who stays home with small children experiences a
very real withdrawal from the world. Her existence is definitely
monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from the centers of
power and social importance. And she feels it.

Moreover, her sustained contact with young children (the mildest of the
mild) gives her a privileged opportunity to be in harmony with the mild
- that is, to attune herself to the powerless rather than to the

Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her with what St.
Bernard, one of the great architects of Monasticism, called the
"monastic bell." All monasteries have a bell. Bernard, in writing his
rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell
rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to
the particular activity (Prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the
bell was summoning them. He was adamant that they respond immediately,
stating that if they were writing a letter they were to stop in
mid-sentence when the bell rang. The idea in his mind was that when the
bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond
immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time, it's God's
time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to
stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's

Hence, a mother rearing children, perhaps in a more privileged way even
than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will,
to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while rearing children, her
time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place,
and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding
something. She hears the monastic bell many times during the day and
she has to drop things in mid-sentence and respond, not because she wants to,
but because it's time for that activity and time isn't her time, but God's time.

The rest of us experience the monastic bell each morning when our alarm clock rings and
we get out of bed and ready ourselves for the day, not because we want
to, but because it's time. The principles of monasticism are
time-tested, saint-sanctioned, and altogether trustworthy.

But there are different kinds of monasteries,
different ways of putting ourselves into harmony with the mild, and
different kinds of monastic bells. Response to duty can be monastic
prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and working without status
and power can constitute a withdrawal into a monastery where God can
meet us. The domestic can be the monastic."

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, in the Seattle, WA, The Catholic

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