July 26, 2011
Submitted by guest writer, Jolene

Times are changing!” So often when we hear those words there is an underlying negative tone that goes along with it. While this may be true for many areas of life, there is one area of change that I have been grateful to see. That area is modern monasticism.

I have always been drawn to the ‘religious’ life and even discerned the possibility for many years before choosing to be married. The thing that fascinated me most about this lifestyle was its attentiveness to each moment and the continual disposition of prayer no matter what an individual was doing. Little did I realize that this type lifestyle is available to any vocation.

I don’t think I am alone when I say that for many years I had the impression that the lay vocation was sort of second rate to the more ‘religious’ vocations. This mentality, which has been shared by many over the years, has hurt the Church greatly. I am not disputing that the Priesthood and Consecrated life are truly holy vocations, what concerns me is the spiritual mediocrity that the laity seem to settle for. Although this change had been stirring for years, it was especially during Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate that we saw what many people have come to refer to as the ‘Rise of the Laity’. In so many areas the Laity is rising up in ways that they were never expected to before. With that has come the canonization of lay men and women who remind us that we too are called to be saints.

The more I read about monasticism the more I realize how applicable this way of life is to any vocation. St. Therese’s ‘little way’ of doing ‘little things with great love’ can be applied to anything from changing dirty diapers, to changing a tire on a car, listening to a child’s long drawn out story, or putting up with a difficult coworker. As lay people we too are called to be present to each moment. Just as the hermits don’t leave their cells, we too are called to remain within the ‘cell’ of the present moment. Within this ‘cell’ there is a peace free from past regrets and anxious concerns for the future. While prudent preparation is a healthy element of life, there are times when we seem to lose sight that it’s God’s job to hold the world in place. The more we faithfully do the things He’s asking us to do in this present moment the more we are prepared to live the next, and then the next…One step…then another. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all things will be added unto you’. ‘Remember the birds of the air…’

A key element that needs to be part of any vocation is prayer. I would be aghast to hear of a priest who doesn’t pray or a religious who skips out on the Liturgy of the Hours, yet so often we overlook the prayerless lives of the laity with the idea that prayer isn’t one of the things expected of us. God wants to be in relationship with each and every one of us and He deserves to have our undivided attention, if even for just five minutes a day. With five kids in tote, a house to manage, and homeschooling to be done I can think of a million reasons why I just don’t have the time to pray; however I can think of two million reasons why it is absolutely necessary that I do take that time each and every day. Whether I spend time in prayer in the morning or before bed, for thirty minutes at once or five minutes here and there, with a little creativity anyone can find the best way to develop a lifestyle that has prayer as one of its priorities.

The hardest part about implementing this sort of discipline is not necessarily finding free time to pray, but rather finding what has taken the place of prayer. So often we treat our lives like suitcases, stuffing it beyond maximum capacity. If we find that we have to sit on it just to zip it up, then something has to go. If we can’t find time for prayer then perhaps it’s time we pull out the pruning shears and make time. I can understand how difficult it is with little kids around to get that time to pray; however, what better example can we give them than to be a woman (or man) committed to prayer? I tell my kids to wait while I’m on the phone, why can’t I ask them to give me 15 mins when I’m chatting with God? After all, everyone benefits when prayer is part of the home. ‘Come to me all who are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.’

So often we are deterred from a daily personal prayer time because we don’t really know what to do, or because it doesn’t seem very meaningful at the time. Everyone feels this way at one time or another. Even poor Noah thought that building a boat in the desert was an odd way to spend his time; however when the rains came, all the time that he had invested in developing this boat came in handy. We too will find shelter from the storms of life when we take up the ‘boards and nails’ and invest time in developing a committed time of personal prayer, where we lay down our burdens and find direction for our lives.

As for not knowing what to do, there are a multitude of books on prayer nowadays. Not only are there books on how to pray, but there are also books with short reflections that give you something to spring board off of during prayer.

The more I see the lay vocation being encouraged to be ‘active contemplatives’ (JPII), the more I am realizing that ‘Mary’ and ‘Martha’ are meant to go together. We are called to be attentive to our daily duties, and we are called to grow deeper and deeper in relationship with the Holy Spirit. The lay vocation isn’t second rate. After all, Mary and Joseph were married and Jesus was a single person. Just as they were called to be holy, so too are we. It may seem like a tall order, but with the Holy Spirit’s help we only have to take it one step…then another….

For those who are interested, these are some books that I found particularly helpful:

The Essence of Prayer-Sister Ruth Burrows
Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Grace- Scott Hahn
The Hermitage Within-Unknown Monk
In Praise of Hiddenness-A Camaldolese Hermit
The Cistercian Way- Andre’ Louf
Abandonment to Divine Providence- Jean-Pierre De Caussade

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