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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Surprising Moment of Silence

Last week while I was preaching a mission at our Franciscan parish in Calicoon, NY. the pastor, Fr. Ignatius Smith, OFM., invited me to take a ride with him while he went to hear the confessions of some nuns. I wasn't too enthused about the ride at first but I asked him about the nuns, who were they? what kind of community did they have?, etc. and he informed me that they were a community of hermits. This got my attention and off we went.

It was a cloudy autumn day and the fall colors were just past peak in the hills of the region. The sisters lived on a large tract of land on a mountain top. While I didn't get to meet any of the sisters I spent some time in their chapel, took a walk on their expansive property and read a booklet describing their life and history. while founded in 1950 their life taps into the ancient monastic and eremitic traditions of the Church. They support themselves through religious art, works that are beautiful and also expensive.

I commented to several people about my visit and found that while many were interested there were several comments which in effect said," Why would someone waste their life away like that?" My response to that is that while it is not a life to which I feel called I am delighted that there are people whose calling is to pray for the rest of us and who remind us by the life they live that there is something more to life than the war, violence and greed that so easily dominate our lives. Also these contemplatives (women as well as men) and all cloistered religious remind us that there is to be a contemplative dimension to all of our lives.

Several readers of this blog have been wrestling with issues of God language both from a gender point of view and also with issues of blending ancient images and metaphors with modern science. Contemplative prayer (represented by disciplines such as centering prayer) calls us to allow ourselves to simply be, to rest in the presence of God, beyond images and metaphors. For us Franciscans such prayer leads us to a deeper involvement in the world. For our sisters and brothers living in cloisters and hermitages it leads them apart to lift up themselves and the world in prayer. Though this group does not have a website there a many references to them on Google, especially if you click on the followwing: http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=Monks+and+monastic+sisters+of+Bethlehem&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=abPhSuX7HNDj8AayqJTuAQ&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CCcQqwQwAw#

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