I just wanted to dash off a quick note for my other contemplative sisters and brothers with regard to the type of work one decides to do in the way of ministry or of making an income.
It is best to stick with what I call "manual labor," which doesn't have to mean you are out digging ditches. As long as it is something that engages the body in rather routine tasks that do not involve much executive function of the brain, that will be suitable.
In the contemplative monasteries, they make candy and altar breads. Some of them produce finely embroidered vestments. I know one monastery that produces some awesome pumpkin bread. Others make cheese and some even make wine. Many grow a good deal of their own food. We can take our example from the contemplative monasteries and convents and imitate their long-standing devotion to a simple life in which the hands are used for labor.
Something that occurs to me as being rather important is that most of these activities can be done in peace and silence. I don't believe that a stock trader or a retail sales clerk would have an easy time of it, as far as developing a contemplative life. Their jobs would pull them too far in another direction. Anyway, I am mostly speaking to the home-bound in my blog....the disabled and elderly who have the time and the quiet home life on which to capitalize.
Baby blankets and hats are one of my ministries. The work is mostly repetitive, and with each stitch I can say a prayer for the welfare of the new baby being welcomed into the world. Sometimes I listen to the rosary on EWTN and recite it along with Mother Angelica and her nuns. Sometimes I wing it. I also paint, but I am having trouble getting back to that endeavor.
Anyway, if you choose a physical task like this, it is far easier to "pray unceasingly" than if you choose a more active ministry that requires interaction with other people or a lot of writing, research, typing, and that sort of thing. The more involved you become with outside activities, the less you will be operating as a contemplative. If you have a tendency toward loneliness and must be with people to feel alright, then the contemplative life is not for you. We are communing with God at every opportunity we can snatch out of the jaws of time.
I don't mean to say that everyone should be a hermit. I do think we have to limit our interactions with the outside world and keep them within certain boundaries. Each of you will have to decide what those are for yourself.
It is important to focus your prayer life also for, in addition to quietly spending time with the Lord in the practice of the presence of God and in strictly contemplative prayer, we are called to pray for the suffering world in many areas. With so much going on in the world today, it is hard to know what to pray for. It could be overwhelming. I recommend having one primary prayer project that is a constant. For me, it is the prayer that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will resolve their longstanding rift and become one with each other again. My prayer life is dedicated to that rather large request. Not only does this give me a focus, but it gives me a PURPOSE as well. This is important.
People will ask you to pray for them, and there will be transitory requests with which you can pepper the stew, so to speak. Don't lose sight of your mission, however. It will help you to stay more easily on the path.
I would be interested in hearing how you construct your contemplative life. Feel free to comment and let me know. Perhaps others will be interested also.
God bless you,
Silver Rose Parnell