31 December 2015

On Living a Non Eremitical Life of Quiet Centered on God

[[Dear Sister Laurel, I stumbled on to this website while doing research on how to live a more peaceful life that's closer to God. Most of my life I've tried to be social but to no avail, it never happened. I believe now that God knew deep down what I wanted, which was to live a quiet life involving solitude with nature and the eagerness to study. I love your blogs. Do you yourself spend a great deal of time in peaceful solitude? Do you limit your time with people? I'm just curious how is your day structured... I'm married and work so I can't live a hermit lifestyle but I want to incorporate the lifestyle as much as possible to get the most out of my days...... Thank you for your time........]]

Many thanks for your note. While hermits, myself included, live lives which are separated from what is often called "the world", a separation which precludes a lot of contact with people, it is not the case that we do so because we are unable to be social or dislike people, for instance. I suppose most hermits are introverts --- meaning we get our energy from activities and time spent by ourselves and tend to have our energy depleted by time with others. In other words we are not "party animals" and do not get our energy from lots of time with others; however, this is not necessarily the same thing as not being particularly social. I have a good friend that jokes that I am an introvert, but a social introvert while she is less social. Perhaps you are an introvert and perhaps you are alluding to something more than this.

Only you can determine whether what you are describing is normal introversion or something more than that which needs, at least to some extent, to be corrected, modified or healed. I would encourage you to pray about it and talk to someone who understands the need for solitude in any life but who also understands our need for others and loving others. Introverts or no we are all communal beings. The ability to balance these two dimensions of our lives takes some work! I think that will be especially true for you precisely because you are married and work full time outside a hermitage.

Marriage is your vocation so building in appropriate time for study, prayer, etc. will be challenging and require your wife's cooperation and your own sensitivity to the needs of your family life. That said, I think your desire for a relatively quiet life in touch with nature and with sufficient room for study sounds pretty normal to me --- especially if you do justice to your marriage in the process. If you have a genuine need for solitude and study and a sincere desire to put God first then my own sense is these will in no way conflict with your marriage but instead will assist you to live it more fully and profoundly. Again, however, your wife will need to be open to what you intend and, just as importantly, what you intend will need to open you to your wife's own needs (and those of your family) as well. Remember that the things you find you need in your life may well be the very things others in your own life also need. That is especially true of some silence, solitude (which, counterintuitive as this may seem, may be shared with another person), time in nature, and putting God at the center of our lives.

My own Schedule, etc:

My own day usually begins at 4:00 am and from then until 8:00 am is spent in prayer and then some writing. Some weekdays I then go to Mass and most days that is followed by time doing lectio (a form of prayerful or sacred reading) and Scripture. This period ends with lunch and is the heart of my day no matter what else the day holds. Following lunch I tend to see clients (Mondays and Fridays), run errands, or do other work. This is the most variable part of my day. I finish this part of my day with Vespers and some quiet prayer, then supper. The evening usually involves more writing, study and some work. My day ends with Compline.

Weekends are a bit different. Saturday mornings are the same until 9:00 am and then I often play quartets or quintets with friends until noon. (We meet together for breakfast and then play music together.) The rest of the day is the same as other days. Sundays also begin the same way other days do, though sometimes rising is at 5:00 since Mass is also later (I generally go to 9:30 Mass). After that I usually have coffee with a Sister friend and then bring Communion to folks. The rest of the day is structured around prayer, reading, rest and recreation, and necessary chores. In all of these things, whether my day includes lots of activity, other people or not, the time from 4:00 am until 8:00 am is something I try to maintain as absolutely foundational. I think many folks could build this kind of period into their day and find it not only does not conflict with the rest of their day but may even enhance it. Perhaps some version of this would work for you.

I hope this is helpful.