The Call to be a Saint (a love note from your online Abbess)

Coole park 2Dearest monks and artists,

November is the month of remembrance of all the many saints of our lives.  It is a thin time in the Celtic imagination, when heaven and earth draw closer together. I spent the feasts of All Saints and All Souls at a small gathering at the monastery of  Clonmacnoise, once a great spiritual community and center of learning. During the Dark Ages, it was the Irish monks who brought inspiration and hope back to the continent of Europe. The question our gathering was exploring was whether this tradition of Celtic monasticism might today also offer light in our current Dark Ages and time when institutions are crumbling. From church systems to banking systems, the world is hungering for a new way of being.

It seemed so appropriate to spend these feast days remembering some of the great monastics in whose lineage I follow and I met some wondrous fellow monks in the world.  I felt inspired and renewed in my commitment.

Last year, when John and I embarked on our great life pilgrimage, it was much in the tradition of the great Irish monks who would set out on journeys steered only by wind and current and the Spirit, to bring them to the places of their resurrection.  We have not known the full vision we are moving toward, just glimmers, but as we contemplated in this gathering the way that Ireland really served as a spiritual center during these difficult times, I found myself seeing our own call to live here as part of the same movement, a return to the spiritual center.

We have been called to immerse ourselves here in the landscape and the elements, to be steeped in the ancient monastic wisdom which took its inspiration directly from my beloved desert mothers and fathers, and into an encounter with the God who is revealing something new right now.  And now I feel myself even more aligned with so many others who also share a similar vision, who are carrying this seed and spark forward in their own ways.

In the month of October, our theme at the Abbey was softening and yielding.  How are we called to release our own agendas and expectations and make room for the great unfolding? This practice of making space is an essential step toward receiving the gifts that are ours.

This month’s theme is drawing inspiration from the words of Thomas Merton.  For the passage, see the invitation into a practice of Community Lectio Divina.  Merton describes the animals, trees, rivers, and mountains as all saints of creation.  They are saints because they are who they were created to be.

Merton says that to be a saint means to be myself. This sounds so simple, and yet we know how challenging it is, how many obstacles we set before ourselves, how many layers of fear and resistance have built up over the years, how much my ego is attached to being viewed in a certain way, and what I am grasping onto.

As you sit with the Merton passage in prayer, I invite you to listen for this call to be fully yourself and how best to get out of your own way. Let the softening of this past month create a supple heart, ready to receive a new insight, a new vision. Listen for the wisdom that arises in the stillness and then share it with our community.

One possible way to pray during this month of remembrance is to call upon the Saints to support you, as well as the souls of your ancestors. Consider beginning each day with a few moments of silence inviting the presence of a favorite Saint or wise ancestor to simply be with you in the day ahead and to help reveal the places where you move away from your own sainthood.

Or you could practice an Ignatian Examen-inspired prayer of ending the day in reflection on the places where you embraced your truest, deepest self and the places where you put on masks.

To become a Saint doesn’t mean to be some contrived image of holiness, practicing your faith in ways that imitate others, but to find your own unique expression in the world. You are a revelation of the sacred, and there is only one revelation just like you.

With great and growing love,

Christine

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One Response

  1. Hello Christine,
    Thank you for the Merton quote. It confirms the knowing behind the book I’m laboring into the world. Titled, for the moment, “Animal Advent,” it’s a collection of 24 short (500-word) portraits of animals, or animal icons– windows (or doors on an Advent calendar) through which we can see an embodiment of how the healthy soul responds to the season of growing dark and cold. And there’s more than one response! There’s the turtle response, muskrat’s response, black bear and chickadee’s response … all of them amazing and ingenious, rather than frenzied and depressed. I’d be glad to send one or two to you, if you have room in your life.

    Thank you, too, not only for this site, but for your book “The Artist’s Rule.” For the second year in a row a group of women from our church is working through it, keeping weekly disciplines of lectio, walking, and creating. It has been transformative for all of us.

    Deep peace of the season,
    gayle

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