When I was younger, and at several times during my life, such was my spiritual devotion and seeking that I had thought of becoming a Catholic monk. This morning I came across the writings of an ex-monk and one of the most famous monks. I saved these scraps to remember...
"Living “in the world” was good but it didn’t tackling for me to realize that for so many, life was a shallow, meaningless experience. While the abbey was too far away from everyman’s experience, the constant pursuit of money and good times stretched too far into mindlessness."
"I think that already at this age I no longer thought of the Deity as an old man with a white beard sitting on an ornate marble throne surrounded by troops of angels who, along with myriad of other folk who made it to heaven, stood there for century after century happily and ecstatically singing praises to Him. God help us! It did take some years of silent seeking to realize Its essence in the gentle majesty of trees, the innocent beauty of animals, the silence of the evening sky and the peace in distant mountains."
"We who entered cloistered orders...were certainly chilled by the sense that there was something warped and inhumane about it. We were not totally blind and stupid. We knew we were getting into something hard, even unreasonably hard. But we also knew that this counted for very little in comparison something else which in our case was decisive. We believed that we were really called by God to do this. . . . It is true that we were told absurd things, made to behave with a stupid and artificial formality, and put through routines that now, as we look back, seem utterly incredible. How did we ever stomach such atrocious nonsense? It must be even be admitted that the climate of Catholic spirituality, perhaps especially in contemplative life has proved for many to be unhealthy, both physically and mentally. We carry deep wounds which will prevent us from ever forgetting it…."
"[But also] one learned much about how prayer, meditation and solitude led to a healthier mental outlook and brought us closer to the Ineffable."
"My aversion to philosophy and theology was boundless. My deep love of the monastic life at that time was not in reading explanations of how prayer worked, nor the foundations of Church doctrine nor half-assed explanations of what godhood was theologically, not how many spirits could dance on the head of a pin. (Nor was my life enhanced by the spiritual aphorisms which were painted on walls just below the ceilings of many of the monastic gathering places–as though one could not allow one’s mind to be empty of spiritual propaganda every minute of the day. God forbid your mind would be empty of all thought and just soaking up the silence of the spiritual.) All empirical knowledge meant little to me in reference to the truth of living and love of whatever you want to call the Source of creation. I found simple joys in everyday living in the monastery: walking in the woods, loving the chant and being part of the schola cantorum, working in the novitiate garden, getting in the hay, planting tomatoes, working in the woodshed to provide heat for the abbey and really just being in a place which seemed sacred and blessedly steeped in silence."
"...he suddenly realized that monastic contemplatives were not in any way above the common man, that we were like all of humanity. We are all in this life together and the monk’s responsibility was to help everyone toward a greater awareness of the love surrounding us. No one was better because they locked themselves away in monasteries. They just had taken a different path from others."
"The “permanent” community was an amalgam of a few truly saintly men, some very nutty men, and the rest of us in between– Much like those living on the outside the walls."
"I have no intention of trying to “solve your problem” because that is your problem: you go around looking for solutions. Life is very nice as it is, without solutions. If you want to be a living question mark, by all means go ahead and be one. But if you expect answers you defeat yourself. What will happen to the question mark if the question is answered? You don’t want an answer. But you haven’t the courage to face that situation, because you still depend so much on everybody else and everybody else says you have to have an answer. I won’t tell you either to leave or to stay: that is for you to decide. But it will be useless to stay here asking yourself day after day “why why why” unless you are content to ask why without expecting an answer. I’d forget the question. Incidentally, have you ever heard about God? Maybe He can run your life better than you can. You have never let Him."
"...a grueling peruse of internal suffering, an experience something like St. John of the Cross’ “dark night of the soul” where everything bottoms out and you’re as al one and godless as if you were completely abandoned by all things physical and spiritual..."
"...it is possible that you are just starting to climb back up out of a deep hole. I am certainly with you but it is not going to be easy–you have made it tough on yourself by systematically destroying the normal ladders on the theory that you could get out of the hole through a secret tunnel without having to climb.
You have to have a very large amount of courage, patience and humility and you are weak especially in the first two of these. However it is basic humility to accept the fact of being in the same boat as everybody else and trying to make the best of it.
You are going to feel tragic about it once in a while. OK but not too much now. It is the ordinary lot of all men. And of Christ on earth and above all, what we go through here is very trifling. It is a sin to exaggerate it as much as we all do. However, you are right to face it. And for heaven’s sake if you do find a little joy in the ordinary things of life again don’t go and reject it. Be humble enough to take anything good from anybody even if it is far short of perfect– anyway–lots of love and prayers."
"I continued to have problems with life in the modern world, everything too shallow, consumerist and empty. I still felt the pull of monastic life and thought that this might still be had in a monastery or friary where peace and silence would nurture the spirit. I truly enjoyed the pleasures of everyday life but thought depth was sorely missing. These pleasures were quite simple and boiled down to listening to music, eating great bagels, having a drink with friends after work while discussing the complete collapse of humanity..."
"Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts. Never was it more necessary for us to respond to that action. I pray that we may all do so generously. God bless you."
"I found myself questioning all of the Catholicism I had been following my whole life. I began to feel that it was just one religion in the world, not the only true one, that God was above and beyond any organized religion and that Catholic exclusivity was a delusion. I still believe this and have grown, into a more understanding person, embracing diversity in beliefs, shunning all organized religion as dead ends on the way to understanding, to enlightenment. My faith in God has not faltered, though I find trying to understand this world far beyond me, belief being something, as has been said, irrational and unexplainable."
"Nowadays, atheism is increasing in cultured societies and it speaks volumes about our divorce from nature and any spiritual underpinnings due partially to lack of time, materialism and greed no less than to the shabby and often criminal behavior of so many in organized religion. It seems belief in something outside of the purely empirical is an absurdity. Understandable to some degree, but when one considers that we billions are living on a revolving speck of dust, hurtling through an inconceivably gigantic universe of billions upon billions of suns, planets, etc., at unheard of speeds, belief in something Other seems no more absurd. (Personally, I prefer an honest atheist to a phony priest.)"
"If you forget everything else that has been said, I would suggest you remember this for the future: ‘From now on everybody stands on his own feet’”."
I am Catholic, Native American, Heathen/Pagan, Scientist/Skeptic, Animist, Humanist, and all manner of things. Yet am not strictly any one of these to exclusion of the others. Truth will not be bounded except BY Truth. I do not fit in to any of these categories. I see the commonalities more than the differences. God is of Truth and so I will not exclude any Truth by mandate of any dogma in order to fit God into a particular worldview as to what God is said to be. Yet on this perilous path, the discernment of Truth is therefore paramount. "...pure spirituality transcends ‘isms’ and salvation may be had for all beyond the established churches."
In some ways, I am a natural contemplative. As a boy I remember during recess in 6th grade staring deeper and deeper into a common pebble, until I felt immersed in its crystalline structure, inward further and further. This nature of course set me as different from others, and this led to bullying and further distancing. Yet it was humor and laughter which kept me connected.
To perceive, to marinate in perception. To meditate. To go to any place, seeking God, but not in abstraction, rather in the streak of morning dawn on cloud and mountain, voice in wind and bird and wave.
It turns out I have become a monk of sorts, not a recluse not cloistered, but secluded in an ordinary, small life as seen from outside, but an immense life as seen by the one living it.
"From now on everybody stands on his own feet."
(Quotes from http://mertonocso.wordpress.com/