I hope you are well. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are surrounded this very moment by the love and presence of the One who made you. I hope you are able to let that sink in somewhere.
Here is a very brief peek into the ministry of Father Michael Fish, a Camaldolese monk:
Among other things, Fr. Michael leads retreats, works with lay people who are searching for a relevant spirituality, and offers a monthly newsletter about his ministry at hermitfish.com. In his personal life he explors solitude and itinerancy as expressions of Camaldolese life and mission. Though living alone, he remains involved with his monastic community, the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur.
Fr. Michael is the source of today’s reflections. It occurred to him that his experiences as a monk might be helpful for all of us as we live in the isolation engendered by the coronavirus. In the article I quote below, he describes in part what a monastic life entails, and it becomes evident quickly how that way of life offers us a potential source of grace. I hope you find his words both compelling and helpful.
From the April, 2020, BuenCamino, the Newsletter of Fr. Michael Fish, OSB. CAM www.hermitfish.com
A monastic guide
Over the years we have often spoken of the Inner Monk and the Monk in the World. With the coronavirus and enforced isolation, we now have an opportunity to live these teachings. Monasticism can guide us – Ora et Labora, Lectio, hospitality, solitude, rhythm and routine are sign-markers along this strange Camino we suddenly find ourselves walking together.
A few random thoughts that may help:
1. Have a daily plan, a routine or discipline. From my early Redemptorist novice days we had to make our beds and keep our rooms well ordered. This was re-enforced by the Camaldolese tradition of the sacredness of the cell as a place of, not only prayer, but of beauty and harmony. Pay attention to your living space, a vase of flowers, a lit lamp, a work of art.
2. Monastery life requires showing up for prayer and meals a number of times each day – routines involving personal etiquette,hygiene and a dress code.It’s important we hold to some standard, even if living alone.It makes a difference as to how we feel about ourselves and how we approach the sacredness of the day.
3. Plan your meals, even if from the freezer. Prepare them with care and attention. Dine at least once a day, not in front of the TV, but at a set table. Each meal is sacred, a gift from Mother Earth and a mini Eucharist.
4. Stop four times a day for prayer.It doesn’t have to be long, but pause – Dawn, Day, Dusk, Dark – for a time of quiet – a poem, a Psalm or two, or the readings from the daily Liturgy.Light a candle or incense, the Presence within.
5. Take a leaf out of the Shabbat tradition of our Jewish sisters and brothers. As one of your prayer times, preferably at Dusk, light a candle over bread and wine. Say the Offertory Prayer from Mass, which is actually an adapted Jewish Berakhot Prayer, “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation through your goodness we have this bread to offer...”
6. Spend time daily in manual labor, cleaning, gardening, decluttering. Exercise is also a must.
7. Hospitality is an integral part of monasticism. Welcome the feelings, fears, emotions that surface in you, (at this time they are myriad). Don’t suppress them, talk to them and to your inner child who is very frightened and confused. Reach out to others by phone, email, text, video chat and social media. Connect, encourage, listen and laugh.
8. Recreation is vital – watching Soaps, streaming, reading novels. But also sit and observe Spring/Resurrection creeping forth despite the darkness.
9. Finally, remember that monasticism has always believed it exists primarily to stand before Mystery on behalf of humanity. Humankind is being plunged into Good Friday, as ‘a monk in the world’ hold suffering humanity in quiet and place the sick, dying, grieving and dead into the heart of God who holds us all as Michelangelo’s Pieta Madonna holds her son.
In the same newsletter, a prayer by Edward Hayes, from Prayers for the Domestic Church:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Who watches over us in times of trial and danger
Thanksgiving fills our hearts, as we rejoice in You, our Lord and Holy Protector. We who live in the midst of storm and sickness, of war and danger, who are daily exposed to evil of every sort, rejoice in Your constant and parental love for us. Surrounded by darkness and the shadow of fear, we do not falter, for we trust that Your constant care cradles us and keeps us safe.
With angelic attention, You watch over our home and each of our bodily temples. Your holy spirits surround us and, in winged wonder, call us to prayer and to confidence.
Guard us in this time of danger, as Your Holy Presence fills the darkness of this moment with the splendor of Your shelter.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, who watches over us in times of trial and danger.
Jesus’ grace and peace be with you.
Northminster Presbyterian Church 400 Rancheria Road | Diamond Bar, CA 91765 | PH: (909) 861-4715