25 September 2010

A Snapshot of Daily Life at Stillsong Hermitage?

[[Hi Sister, Just stumbled across your blog. Could you describe your daily life? And maybe write a little about what it means to be a Camaldolese Benedictine??]]

Dear Father,
thanks for the questions. Some of what you ask about in the first question is already on the blog under horarium, for instance, but I can say more about that. My days are somewhat variable, but the most central and stable time (if it is possible to qualify things that way) is from 4:00am until about 1:00pm. Except for the time before bed this is really the heart of my day.

I rise at 4:00 most days, pray Vigils and spend an hour in quiet prayer/meditation. Following that I pray lauds and then do some writing. That could be journaling, it could be blogging or articles, etc. About 8:00am I get ready for Mass at the parish. Sometimes I have rides, sometimes not so this changes the timetable. 8:30-9:15 is Mass (or, if I need to stay in for some reason, a Communion service at the hermitage) and most days that is followed by a return to the hermitage. The period from 9:30 to 12:30pm is used for lectio divina although occasionally I will have a spiritual direction client during part of this period. Then I pray a short Office or alternative and have dinner, and the first part of my day is finished!

The afternoons are the most variable part of my day. After dinner I have free time and usually rest. That may mean a nap, a walk or just reading something recreational. It depends on several different things, but mainly on how well I slept the night before! At 3:00pm I begin a period where I run shorter errands a couple of times a week (groceries, drug store, doctor's appointments), but if those are done the period from @3:00 to 6:00 is a work period. I may write, study, do chores around the hermitage, see clients, etc.

At 6:00pm I sing Vespers and have supper. From 7:00pm to 9:00pm is another period for prayer and work. The work done is not set simply because it depends on what I need to do still, and whether I have clients. Usually though (when there are no clients) there will be a briefer period of quiet prayer (@1/2 hr) following whatever activity I do and some journaling again. Compline is at @9:00pm and bed follows @9:30pm. (If I can move some of this to the afternoon and get to Compline at 8:00 and bed at 8:30 I try to do that.)

Wednesday evenings are different during the school year because I have orchestra rehearsals from @ 7:30-10:00 pm then. That means I am away from the hermitage from @7:00 to 10:20 pm or so. Compline tends to be at 10:45 pm those nights and Thursday rising is also correspondingly later. Sundays differ too. Rising and what follows is the same as usual but I go to Mass at 9:30 and usually spend some time with a Sister friend for coffee, or have coffee and doughnuts at the parish and catch up on news or touch base with people I haven't seen --- sometimes for several weeks. The schedule is about the same as the daily schedule after that. Saturday morning is the same from 4:00- 8:00 am as most other days but after that (9:00-12:00)  may include breakfast and chamber music with friends from the orchestra. Afternoons tend to be the same as other days. Occasionally (not often enough, but maybe once every 8-12 months!) I will join in a "game night" with some friends from the parish (I am a bit too shy for charades, but Mexican Train dominoes, as well as "Sez you" are favorites). Rising on Sundays is correspondingly later on those weekends!

As you can see from this rundown, my life is essentially contemplative and given over to solitary life. However, it is not without qualitatively significant parish involvement, friendships, ministry, etc.

Your second question is more difficult although it also is the spirit and flesh to these "horarial" bones. Eremitical life is motivated by love and the Camaldolese "privilege of love" (koinonia) works itself out in what is called the threefold good: solitude, community, and evangelization. Camaldolese spirituality is a dynamic reality involved in the dialectical push and pull between these three goods. For me this means that everything I do is really communal at its heart for even I am communal at the core of my being: solitude is communal in the sense that it involves being with God, but also being closer to and united with/to all that is grounded in him. Contemplative life tends to spill over into some ministry besides that of prayer and the very work of solitude and eremitical contemplative life involves for me at least, a very limited call to minister in my parish and diocese. Concretely this means some (relatively little) adult faith formation (theology), writing reflections for Mass readings (these are then available for those attending daily Mass), leading an occasional Communion service in the absence of a priest or deacon, and being available for some spiritual direction. (You can probably see the accent on Evangelization here too.)

Eremitical life for the diocesan hermit is lived in the heart of the Church and more specifically, in the heart of the parish and diocese. In part because of Camaldolese Benedictinism I have a strong sense that my solitude is supported by and supports the parish faith community. More, I have a sense that this is part of the very charism of the diocesan hermit. I could not live this life without them and they find my life an important presence even (and in some ways, especially) in my solitude. For me Camaldolese Benedictinism is the best model available for living out this vocation. The Carthusian model could leave me out of touch with the parish (and vice versa), the Franciscan could have me swallowed up in active ministry, and so forth. For that matter, it becomes a wonderful paradigm for parish life as well and so parishioners begin to try to take on or are more open to experiencing the dynamic of solitude-community-evangelization themselves. It is not a matter of either/or here but of negotiating the dialogue which goes on between these dimensions of a healthy Christian spirituality. Still, the bottom line for me is Camaldolese Bendictinism provides a spirituality which is uniquely suited to solitary eremitical life within the context of a parish.