I got to know Mary first through her books and then later had the joy of meeting her in person at a Spiritual Directors International conference. She is an Episcopal priest and the author of several books on how Benedictine practice can be supportive of those living with illness. In her writing I discovered a wise companion and guide and a doorway into the gifts of balance monastic wisdom offers.
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“What is a monk in the world?”
Imagine this: a little round boat floating by a dock, gently rocking in the water. There are no oars, just a boat. Imagine getting in the boat, pushing off, and allowing the currents of the water to bear you forth. Imagine trusting those currents, knowing that they will take you to the place to which God is calling you.
For some twenty plus years, I have studied and prayed in ways informed by the Celtic tradition. In that way, men and women made pilgrimage by literally entrusting themselves to the currents of God’s love by getting in coracles (the round boats with no oars). They saw themselves as “peregrini pro Christi”, pilgrims for the love of Christ, who saw the very elements of the earth as messengers and guides of the Holy One.
Drawing from this tradition, I sense that one dimension of living as a monk in the world is allowing every single day to unfold as if it were a journey in a coracle. In our goal-oriented cultures, this practice may seem strange and even goofy. How could it be that holding the events of a day so lightly will serve to deepen compassion? How may we grow if we don’t make those daily lists of things to do, people to meet?
The Celtic monks remind me that each day is a little pilgrimage on the vast sea of God’s love and life. They invite a deeper trust, a deeper letting go, and a willingness to leave the oars behind.
—Mary C. Earle
I love Mary’s invitation to live in a less goal-oriented way and what I call living in a more organic way, tending to the unfolding of our own inner journey, following the threads as they emerge and call us forward.
You can find out more about Mary’s work at her website.
Mary is one of the guest teachers for Birthing the Holy–Advent 2011: Becoming a Monk in the World online retreat (November 27-December 24, 2011). Mary will be reflecting on week 2 and the theme of awakening. Register to join us for a time of deepened exploration of what it means to live contemplatively in the world.
As a Welsh learner I’ve been drawn toward Celtic languages and history in addition to my long-running fascination with Celtic spirituality. Thank you for this post!
I was only able to learn some words and phrases in Welsh; the pronunciation was more than I could handle. That said, I love to read the little bit of Welsh that I can (mainly in the Welsh Book of Common Prayer), and I share with you a deep love of that small country, so full of poetry and song.
Lovely to read your reflections as an Irish new monastic….maybe you would like to visit us some time Mary? Bernadette
That would be lovely! We shall see if the currents of divine love bring that about.
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