Today I began reading THE CLOISTER WALK by Kathleen Norris. Ms. Norris, a Benedictine Oblate (click here for details on oblates), chronicles her time in a Benedictine Abbey and her journey toward oblation. Although I've only just begun, this journal/meditation is a page-turner.
I was particularly shocked out of my reading by Ms. Norris' account of the monks collectively reading lectio continua; reading entire books of the Bible at once rather than the piecemeal chapter and verse we're used to; this preserves the continuity of the author and captures the poetic/oral tradition that animates the Benedictine charism.
The monks were listening to the Book of Jeremiah. The prophet states in chapter 2 verse 25, "Stop wearing out your shoes." Like being shocked by that cool sweet water from Smallwood Falls, I was awake. Ms Norris goes on to comment:
"This was something the crusty desert father might have said to a recalcitrant young monk who thought some other monastery might suit him better...In a society that has become alarmingly mobile, where retreats and spirituality workshops have become such a hot consumer item, one wonders if seeking the holy has become an end in itself." (pg 34)
I immediately thought of the off-ramps my own spiritual path has taken here and there over the years, but especially recently. What am I looking for...really...when I say I wish to understand God as others (non-Christians) understand God? I mean, I've been down this road before many times, but always feeling guilty, always haphazardly, without a map, without a home base, and without a good pair of shoes. As long as I can remember, I looked into alternate spiritualities like Buddhism, Judaism and (gasp!) Paganism, with the idea I was doing something wrong, something exotic, something dangerous. After scratching the surface (read a book or 2, haunt a few message boards) and finding real people, with real beliefs, real faith, and yes, real problems, I'd become disillusioned. Then I'd retreat to safe, Catholic Christianity until I felt like being "bad" again.
Seeking the holy has indeed become the end and thus far it's left me cold.
Perhaps if I truly engage these faiths and the people who practice them, I will do better. Perhaps seeking the holy needs to be the means rather than the end. Perhaps - without the inner pretense of being "exotic" - and from my own lens as a faithful Catholic, I can actually see something worth seeing and learn something worth learning. Ecumenism isn't be about ditching your date for the tantalizing girl and her man who just sauntered into the hall; you dance with the one who brung ya (and Christ Crucified certainly 'brung' me!). However, we certainly can all sit down at table between dances and talk about who we are and how we got here. As Brothers and Sisters.
Thank you Jeremiah!
Daily Mass Readings