02 March 2017

What Am I Doing for Lent?

[[Hi Sister, I wondered what you are doing for Lent. Thank you.]]

Hi and thanks for the question. I seem to get this question most years and I am never really happy with my answer. That's because my choice during Lent is to do something which impacts on the whole of my life in solitude rather than doing one extra thing here or there; when I try to explain this it sounds complicated when it is really not. So, I am going to try again and point to a few things I am doing during Lent. I hope it is helpful.

First, I am continuing the inner work I began on June 1st. We have reached a new stage in this I think and it will require more writing, journaling, drawing, and other work on my part. In particular I want to work on a timeline of the work we have done over the past nine months which is sort of a special project. It will allow me to revisit areas of healing and growth, deepen these if necessary (places requiring healing often need to be revisited, sometimes many times) and generally integrate more fully the work we have done during this time. This is an intensification of work I do anyway but some parts of it will be new and Lent seems like a good time to be sure I am fully on track with this; in this way I think in the following months we may move forward even more fruitfully. This work will impact all other parts of my life (work, rest, prayer, parish life, other lifestyle issues) so this is the most far-reaching thing I will do this Lent.

Second, I am rewriting my Rule in part. I did a more significant rewrite several years ago but parts of it need to be revised and one critical section needs to be added. This means I will be spending more time studying, reflecting on, and praying about a couple of sections of the Rule, especially stricter separation from the world and on the nature and praxis of the hiddenness of the solitary eremitical vocation. Some minor work needs to be done on the section on the diocesan delegate and probably on a few other sections but those will not require the same kind of preparation or attention. This is an evolving vocation and I am growing in it as well. Rewriting sections is something which is natural every few years (5-10) or so but attention to my own growth is what drives such a project.

Third, I am spending a week with a Sister friend at her congregation's house in Tahoe next week. We have done this before and the time, though part of my friend's Spring break (she teaches math at Dominican University) usually serves much like a retreat. While there will be time for recreation in the afternoons, mornings tend to be spent together doing our own work and praying as we each need. (I haven't decided which project I will work on here; besides my Rule I will bring materials for two other projects, one for something I hope to offer my parish and one for dioceses on canon 603 and formation of hermit candidates. I also have some violin parts to learn --- glad I have an effective practice mute!! The house is not a large one!)

We each "fend for ourselves" for breakfast and lunch and though we are usually together, mornings and afternoons tend to have a more solitary flavor. Evenings begin with shared prayer, daily readings, and Communion and then centers around dinner in front of the fire talking. We tend to continue this until we crash. (We ordinarily have wine for dinner and my own tolerance is slight so I am apt to crash first!) Since I am not much of a cook and my friend is a fantastic one (she has a genuine "rep" in this!) she will do all the dinners this time (I may make soup one night) but she will also make me her sous chef and teach me (a little of) what I don't know! That's exciting and a little scary. I got a lot of flak from readers the last time I wrote about going on a similar trip ("What do you mean you're a hermit going on vacation --- and during Lent???!!!" " How dare you call yourself a hermit???!!!") so I hope that is not repeated! For me this week tends to be both retreat and vacation; it is one of shared solitude and it is extremely life-giving; it should help set the tone for the rest of Lent.

Fourth, I am continuing reading in a couple of areas. The first is on the gift of tears. The second is Andre Louf's book Tuning into Grace which is on continuing conversion. (Both of these are focused on metanoia and tie into the work I am doing with my director as well. The reading is meant to support this work and help extend it where that is possible.) The third is something I always reflect on during Lent, namely the Theology of the Cross. I am reading NT Wright's  book, The Day the revolution Began --- something I began a couple of months ago and got away from. The way the cross works generally and the way it works in my life specifically effects every part of my life.

In my original interview regarding admission to perpetual eremitical profession with Archbishop Vigneron, he asked me about my favorite Saint in a kind of ice-breaker question. (We had only met briefly at my parish when he made sure I was on his calendar.) I said Saint Paul was my favorite and then explained the place of his theology of the cross in my life; I also found myself babbling a bit and saying, "If I could spend the rest of my life coming to understand his theology of the cross I would be a happy camper!" Well, that has not changed over the last ten years; it has only become a clearer need and stronger desire. This too ties into the inner work I have been doing and may lead to some writing or drawing which illustrates this period of my life.

Mainly though, in all of this I am doing what I always do while paying special attention to how the inner work changes things. It is all about continuing to become the person God calls me to be and living my life with greater fullness and integrity. Lent seems to me to be a period where we focus even more specifically on conversion  (the change of our minds and hearts in ways which allow them to reflect the mind and heart of Christ) and responding to our vocations (responding to Christ's call) with new and renewed vision; we do this, I think, so we can celebrate the victory over sin and death achieved in Jesus' death and resurrection in greater depth and joy. We do this so we can live (fully embody or incarnate) the Gospel of God in Christ. That has been the purpose and thrust of the work I have undertaken these past nine months too so in some ways this Lent is the period where I focus on consolidating what has occurred there so that I can approach Easter and, like the whole of God's creation post-resurrection, I can truly be "in a place" I have never been before.