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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Present Moment

I fully admit I struggle hard to live in the present. Life is busy, and I'm always rushing on to the next task, and even at leisure my mind jumps around in consideration of what I'll be doing when not resting or playing. When I'm working on writing one paper for school, I can't help but think about the work I'm not doing in that moment on another paper. At work when I run to the chapel for a few moments to pray morning prayer, I find that I rush through the prayers. It never fails that I get there and remember that I have to finish this or that task, call this person, write a letter to that person, or start on the work required for an upcoming event. With apologies to Our Lord I leave the chapel and haven't even a single line from a psalm, or an antiphon to ponder for I can't seem to take the time to allow even HIM to speak to me!

Such is life. I know I haven't described anything unusual; we all experience this. (Well, most of us. I realize there are a few of you who have managed to master these tendencies!)

One of the things I admit I loved about my convent/monastery visits last summer was the ability to freely embrace the present moment. When I was in the chapel praying, there wasn't anything else I needed to be doing. When I was in the bakery doing dishes, I was not expected at any other task. There wasn't anyone I needed to call, and as I was there on a retreat, no one needed to call me.

As spiritually difficult as that retreat was, it was also very freeing in that I could finally be open to the spiritual difficulties! So much is lost when we're so busy and distracted that we can't take the time to have an intense relationship with God!

I'm a very time-oriented person, which is typical of most Americans. Our lives are run by the hours on the clock, which decentralizes the focus that should be upon God's will for us in each and every moment. In the convent, of course, their schedule is also very time-oriented, but within that time there was also an intensity of focus on the spiritual life that places God at the center. Although the Sisters did go from task to task, there was an orderliness to it that does not exist in most of our lives. 

I can't say I became fully accustomed to their schedule in only the seven days of my stay, and in fact, to my surprise I was exhausted at the end of that week! It wasn't that the labor was difficult; it is rather that I was living more intensely and more truly than in my so-called "real life". 

There is great beauty in religious life. There is order which doesn't detract from God, but places Him at the center. One learns to surrender one's own will, not to the hours on the clock, but the needs of others. When I had to leave prayer to go to the bakery, I wasn't doing this for myself, but to serve others who needed my assistance. That was God's will for me in that moment. The silence maintained throughout the day kept prayer at the forefront, and I knew that later, I would be returning to the chapel again to be in Our Lord's Presence. 

Perhaps it is not possible to fully translate such a way of life into the insanity of the world for most of us, but we can work on keeping the spirit of prayer, we can work on maintaining greater interior silence and constantly try to turn our interior focus to God no matter what we are doing. God is always in the present moment, even when we're busy and distracted.

I'm so thankful for what I learned on my discernment retreats last summer; they carried lessons I had read about, but couldn't practice as they can only be internalized through experience. When I become too distracted to pray, I admit a part of me longs to be back in that chapel without all the craziness of my life, but it is here that I recognize I am missing the point yet again. If God wanted me there, I would be there. For now, it is quite clear that He wants me right here, right where I am; He is right here, too. He knew these words before I wrote them, and He knows my deepest longings even though I can't yet understand them myself.

In all things, God's will be done.

"Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you. Alleluia!"
~ Antiphon 1 from the Office of Readings


Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Beautiful meditation.
You are right about the "intensity" of the common life; whether in a monastery or in an apostolic community.
I wonder sometimes why we are so tired around here! Thanks for confirming that it IS hard work to be so concentrated (I feel guilty about this time and again...what are we doing wrong? Nothing; we're doing it "right", I guess!).
God' call is irrevocable; it is just the matter of finding where He wants us so that we can be fruitful for His Church.

Adoro said...

Nazareth Priest ~ LOL...thanks! Glad I! It actually was pointed out to me why I was so tired at the end of that week. And of course, the stress of discernment itself, well, that's really hard work.