Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Altar

I'm both sad and happy to be writing be writing this last blog: sad because it is the last one, and happy because I have a sense of coming home as I reach this point in my life. I shall, however, be making a monthly contribution to our regular website blogs, so you can keep in touch there, if you'd like ( Also on the website, there will be a video clip of highlights of the profession Eucharist.

Well, July 11 was undoubtedly full of grace! During the past week, I'd been conscious of a nervous anticipation about making profession, but it was more about preparing for the ceremony and wanting it to be meaningful for  me and all those who attend, rather than about my choice. I was sure I was called by God when I entered in 2007. At first profession, in 2009, I was making a lifelong commitment in my heart, so my perpetual profession in 2012 is simply a confirmation of what I had already promised. Seeing perpetual profession in this light has enabled me to be fully present to each moment and to enjoy this very sacred time in my life.

So, what was the day like? I felt carried by the prayers of all those I knew to be praying for me and thinking about me wherever in the world they were. In the chapel, I felt entirely surrounded by good wishes, support and care. People, music, liturgy all conspired to lift my spirit toward the light. They didn't distract me at all; instead, they helped me to focus on God, and my experience was characterized by a sense of what I can best describe as sacred intimacy. At the same time, I was conscious that I was making profession in the name of the Church, which is something greater than individuals or single issues. In my profession, I consciously gave myself within, in the words of the Creed, "the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church" which Christ founded.

The highlights of the service were when I made the promises of stability, fidelity to the  monastic way of life (conversatio) and obedience, signed the profession document, sang the Suscipe ("Receive me, O God, as you have promised and I shall live/Do not disappoint me in my hope"), prostrated before the community to ask for their prayers, and was blessed and received by them. For me, however, the most profound experience was seeing the prioress lay my signed profession document on the altar where it remained throughout the sacrifice of the Mass, symbolizing how, in committing myself to monastic life, I had given myself over completely and unreservedly to God. Beyond that, I felt myself united with the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, which we celebrate in the Eucharist. I didn't have a moment of understanding the mysteries of the universe (the waters remain murky), but I did feel myself to be at one with divine unknowing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pascal's Dice

I think I must have accidentally deleted the original of this, published July 4, so here is a copy.

A week to go before profession. I feel centered. I don't know what the rest of my life will hold, but I feel assured that I am called to live in this community according to the Rule of St. Benedict. In the words of the psalmist, "I am confident and unafraid."

Being confident and unafraid is not the same as being unaware. I walk towards July 11 still in the understanding that I am choosing to do this freely, and in the knowledge that I could be getting it wrong. I don't mean getting it wrong at the level of making a mistake about doing what's best for me, but getting it wrong at the deeper level about the primacy of the search for ultimate meaning.

There are certain authors who write something which speaks to me profoundly, and however often I read it or think about what they wrote, it gives me a renewed sense of rightness, of having hit a primal truth. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), French Catholic writer, philosopher, physicist and mathematician is one of these. In the Pensees, he speaks of how human beings are faced with a choice: to believe in God or not. Either God exists or God does not exist: there is no middle road. He likens our choice to a game of dice. The game is in play. You must bet, for or against God and, when you've placed your bet, everything, EVERYTHING hangs on the roll of the dice. That sums up how I feel at this moment. I am staking my whole life, for God, on the roll of the dice. I have no guarantees about the outcome. I am reaching for Infinite  but, because I am not infinite, I am always reaching forward into mystery and darkness. I am standing on the edge of a cliff and I understand I'm launching myself into darkness. To my great surprise, I don't feel anxious, I don't feel uncertain. On the contrary, I feel completely calm. The moment is at hand when I shall say a universal "YES!"

My resolve is firm, but it is also a great comfort to have the prayers of friends. I'd like to ask those of you who have been accompanying me on my journey to pray for me in these next days. You might be surprised at how large and diverse our "blog community" is. I have been. There have been over 3,000 hits since I started writing in January, coming from 36 countries across the globe. Thanks to all of you for listening and sharing my journey.

By the way, it might be Thursday next week (July 12) when I publish the last in the series. I think July 11 is going to be rather full ... of grace, I hope!