I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from Anneclaire LeRoyer (you can read the call for submissions here). She has been involved in the Abbey for several years and even joined us for our Vienna pilgrimage last year. Read on for Anneclaire’s wisdom:
A Monk and Artist in the World
I am an aspiring monk and artist and I am on the best possible of adventures. There’s always room to grow! I am blessed to be part of Abbey of the Arts. For several years now I have gratefully drunk in the teachings offered here and have felt lifted up in my essential being.
Thomas Keating writes in Open Mind, Open Heart “The fathers of the Church had a fondness for this particular verse: ‘O that his left hand were under my head and that his right hand embraced me’ (Song of Solomon 2:6). According to their interpretation … with the left he humbles and corrects us; with the right He lifts us up and consoles us… If you want to be fully embraced by the Lord, you have to accept both arms. When … struggles are persecuting you, you should think that God is hugging you extra tightly. Trials are an expression of His Love …”
I experienced both physical and verbal abuse as a child and left home in my teens with no job skills and no social communication skills – we didn’t communicate in our home – everything was swept under the rug. I had so much repressed inside.
But a constant in my life is my search to deepen my relationship with God, to discover whom I really am and what I am called to do.
I now live back in Quebec, a poor province with few job opportunities especially if you are not fluently French speaking, which I am not. I am here because I cared for my parents during their end of life journeys, leaving my job with good salary, security, benefits, pension, etc., etc. That job that meant nothing to me. It was the request of my Mother to come home, and it is sure, there was much unfinished in our relationship.
Fortunately in my years in Toronto I had gone through much healing, because it took everything I had to journey for years with my parents through dementia. Of course, I did not do this alone, they were eventually placed, and other caregivers helped me. But I felt the rest of my family, while being happy my parents were not abandoned, did not really understand.
As things became more difficult and draining, there were several things that supported me. The digital journal I worked in each morning has included material from Christine’s courses and other inspirational gleanings: quotes, poems, images, music, as well as my own efforts. When I look back at the time around my mother’s death, the beauty of the entries startles me. My mother became more and more pure love, and I felt so at peace being with her. My relationship with my father healed. We became friends. It was an hours’ walk to my parents’ residence along the Lake, and I walked whenever I could. My photography was always a joy although finally there was no time for that. And contemplative prayer continued its process of healing and teaching me.
My appreciation for nature, love of photography, enjoyment writing poetry, artistic inclinations, and monk aspirations certainly received strong support when I discovered Christine and “Abbey of the Arts.”
I lost my Mom November 2011, and my Dad, January last year.
Today I start the day at 3:30 a.m. lighting a candle and saying a prayer for that day. It usually includes my parents! I begin my journal, but stop at 4:20 a.m. to say Vigils (the time the Cistercian monks in Rougemount, Quebec, chant them — I go on retreat there), and later read Lauds, Vespers and Compline. Brother David Steindl-Rast in The Music of Silence opens my eyes to the richness and deeply life-giving quality of the Monastic Hours — and of nature as well! Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, and spiritual reading are also part of my practice.
When weather permits, I like to be out an hour before sunrise walking along the confluence of two rivers — the St. Lawrence and Ottawa — also known as Lac St-Louis at its widest point, and spend several hours photographing. I am out at a magic time of day, open and observant, and get my exercise as well.
If you are new to the Abbey of the Arts, I am glad you have found your way here. There is much to nourish your deepest self in terms of the wonderful material offered, but also this is a genuinely supporting community. Something that is rare and precious in my experience. Welcome!
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, grew up in Toronto, and moved to Montreal in 1967. Had applied to McGill University’s Music Department, but instead left home and returned to the Toronto area. While by day I worked to survive in office jobs, I was a seeker in the evenings. I took and taught Taoist T’ai Chi for 17 years, finally at Toronto’s Metro Central YMCA, and was part of the Gurdjieff “Work” under Louise Welch in New York. I returned home twenty years later, graduated with honors in a graphic design program, but gradually cared for my parents more and more. Now that my parents are in far better hands than mine, the aspiring monk, artist and musician within have opportunities to emerge.
Click here to read all the guest posts in the Monk in the World series>>
Anneclaire, thank you for sharing your story. And you have me me a wee bit homesick. I moved from Baie d’Urfe six years ago to South Carolina, and while I embrace the change of every move, Lac St. Louis has such aching beauty in every season. I never tired of it. Thank you for those photos.
Yes, I am lucky to live here! I gradually awaken to the fact that I do not need to travel the world to receive great photographic images. That capacity is within me, and there is beauty and inspiration all around me. Christine’s writings are a great help with that journey.
Anneclaire, what a beautiful sharing of your journey! Thank you for allowing us into your healing moments…and the image of the two arms of God. It reminds me of a song by David Kaufman….You cannot go below my resting arms!.
The photographs are simply breath-taking! One could sit in meditation with them all day! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, Barbara! I found the lyrics for David Kauffman’s song. They really strike home. It has been with me for some time now that the things we cling to may well destroy us. My parent’s journey is a strong lesson to me. There are many things I cling to and ask God’s help to let go of!
Anneclaire, thank you so much for sharing your story. You are a gifted writer and photographer and I am deeply inspired by your ability to live by the hours. Thank you, sister, for being such a gracious mentor….
Ann, you are an inspiration to me! I am grateful you are one of my ‘sisters.’
Thank you for sharing your story. Your writing and photography touched my heart.
Thank you, Priscilla!
Thank you for sharing more of your story here, Anneclaire. I admire the way you live out this monk/artist journey. The photographs are stunning!
Thank you, Stacy!
Anneclaire, thank you for this story of love and healing.
Thank you, Rosemary!
Thank you so much for your story, Anneclaire. Our stories are so powerful. My mother passed away last year with advanced dementia, and like you, the pure unconditional love I experienced with her was an incredibly holy gift. So many blessings.
Mary, your words bring me close to tears as I remember that time. Yes, an incredible holy gift with many blessings, and still so painful. I keep reminding myself that our physical life here is only a heartbeat in our Life, we only see such a small part of the whole picture. I do trust that “All will be well” in His love.
Anneclaire, your story is so tender and moving ~ a reflection of your beautiful heart. Thank you for this gift that flows from the gift of who you are.
Amber thank you for your loving heart that always helps me feel welcome and supported!
Anneclaire; so beautiful, thanks so much for your story. It is encouragement to me and I love the image of accepting both arms of God.
Jennifer, I really enjoyed your post as well! You have so much energy and enthusiasm, and so much to juggle! You are in inspiration!
Anneclaire I loved hearing the story of your spiritual journey and your inner work of healing. Blessings as you continue along the path! xox
Thank you for your response, Edith and your blessings! :-)