23 June 2014

On Blogging: How and When?

[[Dear Sister Laurel, I see you don't blog every day. How do you determine when you will blog? Is this part of your life as a hermit?]]

Great questions! Entirely new for me I think. You're right. I don't blog every day. I can't even say I blog every week. I admire folks that can and do but my mind and maybe my heart just don't work that way. What tends to happen instead is that things are going on around me in the parish, in the daily readings, in my prayer, in my thinking and study, and all of a sudden things come together for me in a new way. When that happens I tend to blog and sometimes produce a flurry of posts. In the last two months I had that happen twice.

The first time this happened was a result of thinking about the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Bridal imagery which is so central in the Scriptures to describe covenant life with God generally or the Christ Event more specifically. That resulted in posts linking these things (e.g., one on a Star Trek episode and the post-resurrection appearances, and related posts including a couple on how the Ascension celebrates the fact that God takes humanity and the gamut of human experience up into his own life and is not destroyed by this) as well as posts on consecrated virginity as eschatological secularity.

The second time was prompted by several emails I received questioning the need for canon 603 and/or focusing on the freedom of the hermit (or their bishops!). Those led to several posts (and a couple more long emails) on the normative and ecclesial nature of the canon 603 vocation. (This was complicated or made a bit more urgent by questions specifically raised for readers by the renewed public presence via blogs and video of those claiming to be Catholic Hermits but who are really not. Sometimes this is simply confusing; other times it is disedifying for folks. In any case it raises questions.)

Still, the work I did on the ecclesial and normative nature of canon 603 was a develop-ment and expansion of work I was doing as part of another writing project. In these cases what I do on the blog allows me to go further than I might have otherwise. The questions people ask, the things they find useful, the complaints they have about the constraints of canonical standing or whatever it is, etc, all assist me in moving ahead in work I do in the silence of solitude.

Similarly the occasional conversation I have with other Sisters or religious men and priests, written reflections I do on the readings for my parish, conversations with other diocesan hermits and parish and other friends, all help my thought and vision to move beyond what I see from the sometimes-limited vantage point of Stillsong Hermitage itself or the reading, study, and prayer I do there "in cell". On the whole, my blog serves three purposes I think: 1) it allows others a glimpse of what it means to be a diocesan hermit and how universal the various elements of my life are for ANY Christian, 2) it allows me to answer questions folks ask out of either curiosity or need, and 3) it serves as a kind of journal or workbook where I can explore ideas and discover new dimensions or angles I had not seen before. Here is where the questions and comments people email me become so very important.

Summary of How and When I blog

I also really do use a fountain pen!
So the basic response to your observation that I do not blog everyday and to your related question is that I will blog whenever 1) things in my mind (thought) and heart (prayer \ lectio) reach a kind of critical mass and explode in a flurry of posts or 2) things  reach a kind of plateau where I need not only the input of others but the stretching that comes from trying to share things.

Contemplative life is focused on God and this is especially so of eremitical contemplative life, but contemplatives need the challenge of others to test not only the spirits but our own ideas too; we also need the challenge and support of others, to guide us in maintaining a broader perspective, to prompt us not to stay too long in the doldrums of a discouragingly becalmed sea (or to, to switch metaphors, not to get stuck with our noses in our own navels!) and to encourage real creativity. The flip side of all that is, of course, that I blog when there is something real to share. While I don't talk about life in the hermitage or daily problems and concerns much, I think folks who read here do get a sense of the Gospel and theology that holds my life together and makes it a real joy. Similarly when I have friends visit as happened last month (Sister Susan, OSF), I think readers get a sense of the importance of relationships with others and why these are such a valued part of contemplative (even eremitical) life! Hopefully readers get a sense that in all of the ebbs and flows of writing in Notes From Stillsong, blogging points to a vital intellectual and spiritual life here --- a life whose various rhythms ---energy and enervation, insight and blindness, tedium and excitement, etc. --- are encompassed in the provident Love of God which they also know in their own lives.

Part of My Life as a Hermit?

When I began blogging I had no idea it would become a central piece of my life as a hermit nor that it would become a real source of inspiration, ministry, and even a kind of meditative practice which supports my contemplative prayer. I thought originally it could be helpful and interesting to some few others and wanted to provide a kind of anchoritic window into my own hermitage. But it has certainly grown into something more central and life giving than that. In some ways it reflects the growth of my own vocation (or my growth in this vocation), something that comes only over time and according to a day by day faithfulness. A blog starts out with a post or two --- along, perhaps, with an obscure sense of what it might one day become ---and in time it grows into something with a definite shape, rhythm, and (one hopes) value.

I do not worry when I do not blog for a while, of course --- my blog is not central in that way. Also folks seem perfectly happy allowing me to take time in solitude while things percolate or gestate or whatever the process involves. They always seem to come back and read whenever I blog again. There are a few stalwarts who ALWAYS ask good questions, and then there are always new folks like yourself who ask those questions I have never been asked before. You are all important to my life as a hermit, important to my creativity and obedience (hearkening) to the Spirit and I am grateful to you all and to this amazing medium!