05 September 2018

What Would You Have Done IF. . .?????

[[Dear Sister, thank you for your post on the work you undertook 2 years ago or so. I wondered what you would have done had you discerned eremitical solitude was not something you were still called to?  Probably that is difficult to answer but was this something you thought about?]]

Great question! And yes, it is certainly a difficult one to answer because I would only be considering what might have been. What I did think about was not so much what would change as what would remain the same. After all, certain truths, certain personal gifts, skills, inclinations, and obligations would remain whether I remained a hermit or not. I would still be a theologian, still be pastoral assistant at my parish; I would still be involved in the lives of clients as spiritual director, still be committed to writing about c 603, c 604 (perhaps), still be a writer and musician, and so forth. If I were ever to leave my vows/eremitical life, I would no longer be publicly vowed but I would remain bound by the evangelical counsels probably by private vows. My commitment to a life of prayer, to the work I have undertaken with the assistance of my director would remain -- and substantial parts of these would remain entirely unchanged.

However, some things might change, especially in terms of ministry. For instance, I would like to do more pastoral ministry in my parish --- though my not doing so is not solely a matter of being constrained by eremitical solitude. Still, this would be the first thing I would consider. Something that could dovetail with this is teaching. Again,  to some degree I am allowed to do this even as a hermit but to a much more limited degree than I would if I left eremitical life. Unfortunately, there are other significant constraints on my life --- chronic illness with a medically and surgically intractable seizure disorder and chronic pain (complex regional pain syndrome) --- and these would still need to be dealt with as they are today. I have no doubt, however, that folks would help me in negotiating a wider world in terms of new or expanded work if that were to open up to me. It would be a learning situation for sure but what I know is, whatever I determined to undertake, I would not be doing it alone any more than I live eremitical life entirely alone.

So, my basic answer is my life would look a lot like it does today; it would involve the same gifts and activities with some broadening and expansion of things I have done (or considered doing) in the past.  One thing I would definitely be doing, however, if I ceased to be a hermit, is spending more time with friends --- and whether I did these things with them or alone I would be seeing more movies, going to more museums, lectures, and concerts, and just getting out and about more (maybe on my new electric bike (!!!) but also on our local/regional transit system).

A note on the picture above: during our first year of work together, as part of a response to that same work I recovered some "lost gifts" and means of expression. One of these was drawing. Thus, I drew a picture of myself coloring/drawing because I saw myself (through the grace of God) slowly creating an entire universe "page by page" (not to mention tapping into the deepest places within myself in the process). It was a picture in which the individual pages often looked little different from one another and which took shape bit by bit; it was huger than I could ever capture on paper of course, but so we continued, step by step.

I called this drawing "Trust the Process" because it is what my director said to encourage me (and perhaps refrained from saying to me!) more times than either of us could have counted whenever I was really frightened by the work or my intellect demanded immediate explanations only my heart could (in time) understand or explain; I also called it this because as a result of "trusting the process" we were seeing healing occurring week by week,  month by month, and "page by page" --- as I filled journals, sketch pads, composition books, notebooks, coloring books, blog posts, and emails, with the fruit of the work, prayer, etc.  (An earlier version is included just above here.) And with each drawing, each piece of writing, etc., my deepest self became more accessible to me; it grew more and more to be the single Self answering God's call to wholeness andholiness. The realm of freedom represented for me by eremitical solitude is infinitely vast --- as vast as the scope of God's own Sacred heart. But so is the realm of personal existence and freedom God offers to me no matter my vocation. Thus, were I ever to leave eremitical life I have the sense I would continue journeying within this same vastness, no matter what I undertook within or apart from the hermitage.