Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stepping Out Of Vogue

“But for him who would hasten to the perfection of that life there is the teachings of the holy Fathers, the observance of which leads a man to the height of perfection. For what page or what utterance of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not a most unerring rule of human life? Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may come by a straight course to our Creator? Then the Conferences and the Institutes and The Lives of the Fathers, as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil – what else are they but tools of virtue for right-living and obedient monks? But for us who are lazy and ill-living they are a source of shame and confusion.”[1]

Outside the realm of Catholic literature, and the examples that produced it, there is pitifully little in the world of modern Christendom that focuses on solitude and the contemplative dimension that accompanies it.

It’s really no surprise that those who embark on the adventure of living contemplatively in solitude are viewed by the larger society as strange and out of step with the times. Even within the context formed by modern Catholic culture, with so much of its emphasis on activities to keep the faithful engaged and busy in the life of the Church, as good and needful as these may be, solitude and contemplative living seldom get an honorable mention as a viable way of life.

It’s not such a bad thing to be out of step with these modern times. However, a vocation to solitude and contemplative prayer, perhaps especially in a lay capacity, is a difficult challenge to actualize in this present complicated economy. Monastic spirituality simply isn’t vogue in the 21st Century. Though we are never surrounded by large crowds of like-minded pilgrims on a common journey, we are not alone or engaged in something onerous.

Neither are we are pioneering something new. The pathway was hewn out of the rough and hard terrain by faithful men and women long before we happened upon the slight traces that caught our attention and invited us upon this faith exploration, to this journey back to the very heart and soul of the Christian experience.

Benedict begins the Holy Rule with a simple but hard word. “Listen.”[2] Herein is found the greatest difficulty challenging modern human minds attuned to the myriad stations playing pleasurable and inciting music that drowns out the tunes heard best in silence and solitude.

[1] RB 73:2-7
[2] Prologue 1