On faith: A place apart
By: Fr. Michael Lyons, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
This retreat center is a discovery worth making once you find it! Located overlooking Wilson Lake, some twenty-five miles east of Finland, the center was recently opened primarily as a summer residence for the Franciscan Brothers of Peace from St. Paul. Thankfully, the facility also includes a few hermitages for use solely by diocesan priests where we can spend a day or two in meditative prayer for our own benefit and that of the communities we serve.
It’s hard to open a newspaper or popular magazine these days – particularly health supplements – without reading about the benefits of meditation. These articles usually expound the virtues of practices derived from Eastern religions and philosophies. But there is also a growing movement of lay and religious people seeking inspiration from the Christian monastic traditions. It’s a trend that is already enriching the Church in various ways.
Loosely defined as the “new monasticism” it includes people of all ages who are drawn to the rhythms of monastic life and seek inspiration from Christian prayer and scriptures to live more fulfilled lives of benefit to their families, organizations and communities. These modern monastics don’t aspire to live in monasteries but instead lead ordinary lives and mark their days with pauses for prayer and reflection. They wish to integrate the traditional monastic rhythms of time for work, time for rest, time for study and reflection, for contemporary use.
In his Monastic Rhythms for Contemporary Living, Ian Adams, an Anglican priest who lives in South Devon England, suggests three paths in the traditional monastic life which people can follow in their everyday lives. The first path or starting point, he calls “the cave”: a place of stillness, prayer and simplicity. The second, “the refectory”, is the point of reconnection with community, work colleagues and neighbors. The third, “the road”, is an engagement with the wider world.
Adams says there’s a deep stream of possibility in the monastic way that can help us in the 21st century to find new ways to live in balance with ourselves and our fellow human beings, in harmony with the planet and at ease with mystery. This last one is a much needed antidote to the dominance of technology and the need to be in control of every input and outcome.
Adams also suggests that, not only does each path have the potential to bring about change in us for good in an age of “dislocation, upheaval and uncertainty,” but each may also shape an emerging Christianity in the 21st century. For those who are not satisfied with what traditional religious practice has to offer, he adds the monastic tradition creates opportunities for them to ask questions, come to their own conclusions and experience deeper insights into their spiritual journey in this world.
There is, I believe, a potential upside in this trend in light of the drift from religious practice everywhere. The Church has much to offer – our rich tradition of sacred scripture, the daily recitation of the Hours, slow meditative reading and re-reading of scripture, not to mention the experience of community that shared prayer provides. In this regard, I find technology helpful. I pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily either on my IPad or IPhone. For joining your inner life with life in the workplace, mobile devices are, I believe, proving increasingly useful.
While I’m looking forward to Wilson Lake, solitary hikes along the North Shore always work. During those I experience the poet’s words: “Tranquility walks with me and no care. Oh, the quiet ecstasy, like a prayer.” I praise the Lord!