Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Hermit's Heart: The Need for Silence & Solitude

I think there is a hermit in every monastic - a part of the heart that longs for solitude and silence. Some of us need more than others, but all of us need to go apart at some point to take stock of things, to pray as GOD allows and to do our inner work of healing and integration. After our visit to Subiaco - Benedict's cave - I remember thinking that I could stay there for a while. Not forever - not even for three years as he did - but for a while. Benedict went to Subiaco in search of the living GOD. He went there to listen...to fast and pray...to write the Word on his heart. I think the hermit in every monastic has a similar agenda.

My friend, Sister Mary Catherine - a Sister of the Order of Saint Benedict, in St. Joseph, MN - entered a hermitage this morning for five days of solitude and silence. Her community built two hermitages in honor of the 150th anniversary of their foundation. These small houses, constructed by Amish artisans, sit on their property way out near the woods. She has been looking forward to these days...eagerly awaiting the chance to stop, rest and listen.

We don't have a hermitage at Bristow. But, we have a small house in the mountains just an hour from the monastery. It's a place we can go to by ourselves or with other sisters. It's also the perfect size for small groups. Our women in formation make retreat there now. Different ministries - like the Vocation Team - can go there for a few days to plan and dream - inviting the Spirit to guide our future. We call our house, "The Ridge." (Sister Henry Marie won the contest to name the new house. It's very appropriate considering the house is on a ridge one mile above the main road.) It's a wonderful place and we are so grateful for the space, the silence and the holy leisure it provides.

I am a bit curious about my friend in the hermitage. The little cottage looks just right for one. I can't wait to hear what these days were like for her. I am praying for her everyday...that GOD will be especially present...that the WORD will be a banquet table...that the SPIRIT will strengthen and anoint.

During Lent our prioress asks each sister to make a "desert day" - to take a day apart for silence and solitude in preparation for the great Paschal Triduum. I'm certain many of my sisters went to "The Ridge". As a matter of fact, I think the prioress is taking her turn right now. This encouragement for silence and solitude is one of the great gifts of the monastic life. Right from the beginning of our journey, we are taught to take time for retreat and given that time so we can learn why it's so very important in the spiritual life of any Christian - not just monastics.
I hope that all of you who have been reading this little travel blog will find the time for a "desert day" before the holy season of Lent is over. Just one day...all to yourself...with nothing in it...no plans...no "to do" list...and, no people. God knows, I love them but even a flaming extrovert like myself needs to be alone every now and then. So, dear friends, find YOUR cave, YOUR hermitage and just BE. GOD will do the rest, I promise!

Blessings and love to you,

- Sister Vicki
PS - Sister Mary Catherine's community website has information about the hermitage experience. You'll find a brochure and contact information.