Hospitality

The chapter that I found most striking lately was the one on the reception of guests.

In this chapter, St. Benedict instructs us to welcome guests as Christ. He writes, “Christ is to be adored in them.” Many aspects of the Rule and Chittister’s commentary are very countercultural; this lesson on hospitality runs counter to the expectations of our society, and is a very necessary reminder for us today.

The ministry centre at Renison is one place where I see this virtue of hospitality lived out. When inviting a friend of mine who takes many classes at Renison I first had to convince him that he did not have to pay for the coffee, and that he would not be cheating the ministry centre because he is already a Christian and therefore cannot even be evangelized as payment for the hospitality. There are very few places, I think, where someone is welcome out of pure hospitality, not for any kind of exchange.

The most challenging part of the chapter for me is St. Benedicts admonition to be especially hospitable to the poor “because in them more particularly Christ is received”. I am not quite sure how to go about doing this, but I feel that I should begin. I welcome any suggestions for how we can be hospitable to the poor, both as individuals and as a community.

Philip

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Silence

Finally, I am caught up with the readings!!! And have a chance to write a reflection…

I want to focus on the reading for Nov. 20, “Silence after Compline”, and Chittister’s reflection on the value of silence. For many of us there is very little silence in our lives. Music or television fills the air with sound. Perhaps even more significantly, we post how we are doing all day long on Facebook or Twitter -and get ‘instant’ reaction and response. Or we don’t – and then we worry, or decide to come up with a new and more interesting status (and worry about whether this means we have an uninteresting life, or friends who do not really care, or…) It means there is very little chance for solitude. Very little opportunity to listen and learn to recognise our own voice, let alone the voice of G-d!

Joan Chittister says, “until we are able to have at least a little silence every day, both outside and in, both inside and out, we have no hope of coming to know either God or ourselves very well.” (p. 196) How much silence is in your day? I know there are days when I cannot have music or the radio on during my drive home, because there has been so little silence up till that point. I try and build in time for silence in my morning routine, but sometimes I am too tired to listen then. (Yes, you need to listen to silence…) And that’s why I value ‘Stop. Breathe. Listen.’ on Tuesday afternoons in the chapel, as well as trying to build silence into our Sunday worship.

Mind you, there are times when silence is too difficult, too painful. Times when our pain is almost too great to bear, and silence means there is no relief, means that it overwhelms us and makes it impossible to listen or even live. I think then it is worth remembering that there is a great difference between being silent on your own, and being silent as a group. My mother was Quaker when I was growing up, and there was a tremendous power in those Sunday Meetings, the entire group sitting in silence, listening for G-d, being attentive and present without words. There is something powerful on Sundays at St. Bede’s when we do group lectio, praying/reflecting in silence as a group. Or when we sit together in silence after communion each Sunday. Perhaps during those times when we are unable to enter into silence on our own, we need to find communities where we can be silent and listen together.

Shhhh…. Listen…Breathe…Know that G-d loves you and has a word (or more!) to say to you.

Megan+

thinking about how to make this work more effectively!

Sunday was our once-a-term potluck – and it emerged that many of us are behind in the readings. Now I know it doesn’t help that we are almost at the end of term (eek!) – but the perceptive comment was that without a regular gathering there is little accountability to ensure we read and reflect on the book. (Thanks for that insight, Pamela!)

So, as I continue to slowly get caught up with the readings, I wonder if I could get some of you to – gulp – volunteer to write a reflection from the readings between now and the end of December? At a minimum we need to have one reflection each week, so that means the weeks of Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16, Dec. 23, Dec. 30.

If you are moved to commit to write a reflection, please email me at mcolling@uwaterloo.ca or let me know in the comments section, Reflections can be brief, and they can also reflect on your experience of reading the book this fall, or on the book as a whole…

I will get a reflection of my own up later this week – but in the meantime, consider signing up to do the same – I only need 6 of you to make this work!!

Thanks.

Megan+

apologies!!

So, first life at the college got crazy – and then I went off to Edinburgh for 8 days and forgot to take the book with me – and now I have been back at Renison for a grand total of 2.5 days and it is already chaos! All of which is intended simply to try and explain why I haven’t blogged in a while. My apologies. I AM back reading the book, and have plans to get caught up this weekend and post by the end of Sunday…

But in the meantime, if anyone else has thoughts’comments they would like to share – please do!

Megan+

The rhythm of prayer – and of our life

The readings since last week have been on the specific requirements of prayer at different times of the day and at different times of the year. Joan Chittister notes that we no longer are constrained by the amount of daylight available for us as we determine the rhythm of daily life. We are not as aware of the need to adapt at different times – nor of the influence external events have on our prayer life or our daily activities.

So I wonder – what does influence the rhythm of life for us? For students and those of us who work on campus, there is certainly the impact of the academic year. There is still an impact from seasons – at least, those of us in a harsh climate change our daily activities depending on the season! When it is cold, we limit our time outdoors. When it is warm, we tend to drop out of other commitments in order to be outside…

And there are seasons in our life which impact the rhythms for a period of time – small children dictate that we live in a certain way (one in which sleep is essential albeit frequently interrupted!), illness of a family member or loved one brings particular demands.

What is currently forming the rhythm of YOUR life? What do you have control over – and what is beyond any personal influence? Is the daily rhythm of your life and prayer something you have fallen into, or is it a deliberate choice? Does it reflect the reality of your life and the season you are in? Are you trying to cling to an earlier rhythm and need to change? Is there room for rest as well as work?

Many questions as we move fully into fall and begin to see the days shorten and the darkness grow…

Megan+

Benedictine monks like St. Bede’s?!

Just a short note that I sure chuckled out loud this morning in the reading (p.111):

“Psalm 67 is said without a refrain and slightly protracted as on Sunday so that everyone can be present for Psalm 51…”

Hmmm… this sounds like St. Bede’s on Sunday morning where it is a good thing to chat a little as a group over announcements & prayer requests since that ensures more people are likely to have arrived for the actual start of our worship together!

I am amused that monks also might have been a little tardy as they gathered together to pray!

Megan+

Laughter and humility (or Megan’s defense!)

Some of you know that back when I was in seminary, I was told by a fellow student that I laughed too much to be able to do ministry. And most of you know that I do indeed laugh a great deal – and loudly! Many people say that they can hear me coming down the hall because of my laugh…

So you might imagine that it is with some consternation that I read yesterday, “The tenth step of humility is that we are not given to laughter” (p. 94). Oh dear – presumably I am not humble in any way then, or at least I have no outward sign of that.

Thank goodness for Joan Chittister’s reminder that humour and laughter are not the same thing. She writes, “Humour gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed and the sight to see the human under the pompous.”

I like to think that is what I am doing with my laughter. Back when the critique was made in seminary, my defense was “Laughter is what will allow me to keep doing ministry!” And I continue to think that is true in much of my life – laughter, and the ability to see the ridiculous nature of so much, has often been what has sustained me.

Of course, not all my laughter is that. Sometimes, it is a nervous laughter – I do not know what is going on nor how to change/help the situation, so I laugh. Sometimes it is a cruel laughter – a deliberate laughing at someone (and a need for confession later). Sometimes it is a tired, almost manic laughter – I cannot really cope with anything any more so I laugh.

But mostly (I hope), I laugh because I want to affirm what is still good, to see what is still possible, despite the worst of circumstances.

And in that laughter there is a humility. Because I am not the one in charge, nor the ultimate judge. I am one small person who loves G-d’s world and G-d’s people – and a good joke!

And what about you? when do you laugh? and is it good?!

Megan+

not seeking to please an external G-d

For me, a very powerful line in the reading from the past week was found in the reflection for Sept. 26, p.80:

“what is most vital to the fanning of the spiritual fire is to become aware that the God we seek is aware of us”

That’s Joan Chittister commenting on Benedict’s reminder; “let us recall that we are always seen by God in the heavens”. That could be quite a scarey thought – G-d has spies checking in on us & we need to keep such a G-d placated! But Chittister sees something very different here. Not fear. Instead a realisation that we are already in relationship with G-d. It isn’t something we need to earn – because it already exists. We cannot move outside that truth. And when we realise that, then it affects how we live.

That’s a very different understanding from the one most people were taught as children. (There are some similarities to this Calvin & Hobbes comic.) I can easily fall into this error, thinking of G-d as only external. And yet most of my actual experiences of G-d, of the divine, have been the awareness of G-d already present in my life, already present in the world, not separate, not apart…

What about you? How do you experience G-d? What compels you to act in a moral fashion? what motivates you to lead a good life? What allows you to be truly humble and yet also all that you were created to be?

Megan

More on obedience

Yesterday’s reflection pushed the notion of obedience further – and in particular obedience to the prioress or abbot (p. 68). Joan Chittister writes that such obedience means hearing “the voice of God in one another – in the members of the community, both young and old; in the person we married and all of whose aphorisms we know by now; in underlings and children; in old parents and boring in-laws”.

Alan wrote last week about the danger of being obedient to another human being ( you can read his comment here) -and I am inclined to agree. But when the reflection broadens it to other members of the community, then I am more comfortable with the notion.

Or am I? It is one thing to believe G-d speaks to others in the community. That’s one of the things I have come to most appreciate about St. Bede’s – the idea that all of us are each listening and responding to G-d. But I don’t know that I am willing to obey someone else’s discernment!

I know, I know – I have vowed obedience to my bishop. And I continue to believe that is a good and necessary discipline. And yet, if there was something I felt strongly about, I would first argue the point, and if he/she remained adament, then I would resign  my orders rather than do something I felt was contrary to G-d’s will.

And surely that is partly the point of all the emphasis on obedience. It isn’t a moral value no matter what. It is instead an essential component to being part of a community, whether that’s the monastery or the diocese. And when we can no longer be obedient, then we move ourselves outside the community.

What do you think? Does that make sense? Is that something you can agree with – or does it still leave you uncomfortable? And is this a trait that needs to be true of all communities? Or only certain ones?

Megan

 

Week 2 – beginning to look at the community of faith…

This week, the Rule moves into looking at the community of the faithful.

First, on Sunday there was that LONG reflection on the different kinds of people who appear in a monastic community – with all those unfamiliar terms! There are cenobites (seekers who truly join a community, including choosing to be under the authority of the rules of that community), anchorites or hermits (wise and experienced people who have lived in a community  but now choose to live on their own, in soliltude), sarabaites (people who present as wise and experienced, but only follow their own advice and authority) and gyrovagues (people who move from community to community, always receiving and not participating in the life of the community for the long-haul). What do you think of those categories? If you were to think about when you have been part of communities, does this ‘fit’ your experience? Can you divide people into those categories? Are there other types of people who show up, especially in faith communities, that are not listed by Benedict?

As someone who has moved around a lot, I am cautious about Benedict’s last category – the gyrovagues. I understand his distinction between really participating and simply passing through, or just looking at what “I can get from belonging here”. Yet, sometimes we are called by G-d to move onto somewhere else – and to the community we are leaving or joining, it may appear that we are not really committed.

Are there categories that make you uncomfortable?

I have to say also that as an Anglican we don’t tend to stress the rules of community. So I wonder – what is the ‘rule’ for St. Bede’s community? Do we have one? What does it mean to belong to our faith community? Is it simply a question of turning up on Sunday? (Though that’s a fairly significant thing on campus!) Is it about participating in the coffee ‘hour’ conversations? Showing up for pot-lucks? What switches someone from simply showing up at chapel to being a member of the community?

I will add more later in the week about the leaders of the community and Benedict’s throughts on leadership – but wanted to start with this…and curious to hear people’s thoughts!

Megan