SAINT OLGA

SAINT OLGA
MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, SAINT OLGA, PATRON SAINT OF CONVERTS

Sunday, September 21, 2014

THE CONTEMPLATIVE, MANUAL LABOR, AND PRAYER PROJECTS

Baby blankets and hats being prepared for donation
to the Gabriel Project at Project Defending Life
in Albuquerque, New Mexico


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

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! God seems to have called me to a life of poverty, celibacy, and even solitude...though none were of my own choosing. At least not originally.
    As an evangelical protestant I am struggling to come to terms with this. Many protestants believes wealth, marriage, children, and prominence (fame) are proof of God's approval. This seems more in keeping with the Pharisees of Jesus' day than the message of the Cross.
    My chief concern is that I not be selfish in my solitude. A lot of people would criticize me for this. Nevertheless I am no longer employable, I have no car, my income is very meager, and my health is not that great. Volunteer work can only be done so much. A lot of hospitals, food pantries, shelters, etc. have limits on hours you can volunteer. It seems much better to pray, study and do useful manual labor than watch TV for 7 or 8 hours a day.
    I truly admire how you have taken your imperfect life and are living it for the glory of God and helping others in the process!

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  2. Rachel, thank you so much for your beautiful comment. It encourages me on a day when I am feeling a little low. Hearing from other "accidental hermits" always cheers me! Doing this completely alone can be extremely difficult. Even the hermits of old ended up with followers grouped around them, or living in loose communities.

    Having a spiritual director would be very helpful, if you could find one who comprehends the value of the monastic journey. If no one is available to you, I hope you are able to take advantage of some reading of "the desert fathers" and the mystics. If you were Catholic, I could direct you to several very valuable third order possibilities in which your mission and ministry might be understood and nurtured. Trying to "go it alone" is very hard. I have HAD to do it, but I still lean toward finding a third order and a spiritual director if I can manage to find a way attend the meetings. Very often, the seating is not suitable.

    I have lived alone for about 20 years, the last 13 of which have been dedicated deliberately to living for the Lord. I am just now seeing how very hard it is to do this alone. I DO have a few Catholic friends who are helping me with expenses and prayer support. In this regard, I worry for you, and I hope you have some well wishers. After a dozen years or so, you'll keenly miss community, if you don't develop one.

    It will take you some time to realize your particular ministry, so don't feel badly if you try a few things that don't work out. The Lord will open the way for you.

    I know what you mean about the Protestant world. "Prosperity Gospel" churches are a scourge. What Jesus must think!

    If you are keen to remain protestant, you might try a "high church" Episcopal or Anglican church. Episcopal churches are protestant but they also have a monastic tradition, nuns and monks. If you can find a good one, with a good pastor, you could become part of the community and take advantage of the opportunity for service projects, spiritual direction, etc.

    Of course, I am prejudiced toward the Catholic Church, since it is the original church, and I think that it is the best place for monastics. Finding a good, friendly parish that is obedient to the Catholic faith and welcoming to the independent monastic can be VERY DIFFICULT.

    I want to help you, if I can, and if you feel you could use it. I can recommend some excellent books. Some can be gotten at the library. I may be able to send you a few also.

    My comments are moderated before being published. If you would like to maintain contact, write me a comment giving me your email address or your phone number...however you would like to be contacted. I won't publish the comment, but will get your contact information from it.

    P.S. Don't be too critical of those who rely on television for companionship and sound of the human voice. Many older people who are alone and lonely feel more of a connection with the world at large with a little television. Also, it can keep a person a little grounded. An intense, solitary life of prayer can set you off balance very easily without community and guidance. A little news won't hurt you!

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