Monk in the World Podcast (Sabbath) ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Button_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]

St. Julian and the Cat

Stone by stone the wall grew
until her cell was sealed,
light blocked except for
three small windows –
one for sacrament
another, food and waste
a third to give guidance.

Each day brought dozens to her
praying for their sick and dead,
night became time of solace
and silence, she could not
sleep long in the damp,
pulled wool close around her
as she sighed into the dark,
relief at quiet moments.

Then came mewing,
leaping, pouncing, the cat
left there to catch rats,
at first annoyed at disruption
she soon found wisdom
in his aim and purpose,
grace in his hours of stillness,
how she too was there to hunt
the holy, and rest into being.

Morning prayers became
a mix of chants and purrs
as warm fur nestles into her lap.

Visitors arrive again
to her window, she gives
her most sage advice:

allow yourself to be comforted,
do not be afraid of the night,
and pursue what you long for
with a love that is fierce.

—Christine Valters Paintner, The Wisdom of Wild Grace

Dearest monks and artists,

This week we share Day 5 Morning and Evening Prayer for the Monk in the World Prayer Cycle on the theme of Sabbath. Pray with us and be invited into God’s generous gift of rest. Whether you take a Sabbath hour or day or a sabbatical time, this commitment to stopping and being for a while is a vital source of renewal so we can continue offering our work to the world from a place of surplus and wellspring.

This past year plus has been a time of pandemic and compassionate retreat. Like many of you, I have found incredible solace and wisdom from Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English anchorite who lived during the time of the plague.

As an anchorite she chose to be sealed into a small stone cell on the side of a church in Norwich and be a presence of prayer and compassion to the community. She had long hours in solitude, but also had a window into the church so she could participate in the daily prayers and sacraments, and she also had a window to the outside where pilgrims and seekers could come to ask her wisdom and guidance. She was part hermit and part spiritual director.

These past many months of retreating at home have given me a gift, even in the midst of so much loss and sorrow. I have always loved being at home, but also love to travel, and could often find my attention drifting off to future journeys, instead of presence to the moment (I am very future-oriented anyway, which is why being a monk is such good practice for me!) With the prospect of travel removed for the unknown future, I found myself savoring the quiet, ordinary rhythms of home in new ways. I grew to cherish my sweet dog Sourney and my beloved husband John even more than I already did, as companions in my anchorhold. I started buying more plants to feel myself surrounded by growing things and the act of nurturing them into greater life and greenness. Even our simple meal preparations became more nourishing as the options of eating out were eliminated.

I have also loved teaching online and having connections to this global community of monks on a regular basis. I feel like Julian showing up at her cell window when I open up my Zoom portal to offer some teaching and presence.

This is the gift of the monastic way: a heightened cherishing of the ordinary. St. Benedict wrote in his Rule for communities that the kitchen utensils were just as sacred as the vessels of the altar.

I am thrilled to be offering a Zoom mini-retreat on Thursday, May 13th for the Feast of Julian of Norwich. I will be co-leading with author Mary Sharratt who has written a wonderful book titled Revelations which is about the friendship between Julian and Margery Kempe, a very different kind of mystic and pilgrim in the world. Join us as we explore these two mystical women and their pathways into presence to the holy in our midst.

With great and growing love,

Christine

PS – I was interviewed for Spirit Mornings Catholic Radio on my newest book Sacred Time. You can listen here >>

Image credit: © Marcy Hall at Rabbit Room Arts (prints available here)

You might also enjoy