Carving out solitude for Contemplation

The big problem with contemplation for those living in the world is the static that comes from being bombarded with all kinds of interests and projects competing for our time. Face it.  There will never be a good time for contemplation (unless you carve out a space for you to experience silence and solitude). Silence is not just a place where there is no noise, but a place where you can focus your spiritual energy on Lectio Divina, or reading from Cistercian authors.  Solitude means you find time for yourself, even in the midst of community activities. I like the idea of carving, don’t you? Here are eight tips or ideas that you might find useful in devising a contemplative system in the world of noise and competition for your time.

  1. Make a sacred space at home.  Create a small table on which you place scripture, Rule of Benedict, Cistercian authors you are reading, rosary, pictures of mom and dad, family pictures, and some sayings that speak to your heart.
  2. Create a golden, virtual book. This book is in your mind and heart, but it also attached to the heart and mind of Jesus. In this book you place all those for whom you have been asked or desire to pray. See yourself writing your name in golden letters. The file cabinet is God, so you won’t have to go to the trouble of remembering all the names of people throughout your lifetime for whom you said you would remember. Each day at Eucharist, or Morning Prayer, simply think of those who are in the golden book, living and dead, and ask God to be merciful on you and them.
  3. Make a holy hour.  Typically, this is a period of time when I go to the chapel at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, and pray in reparation for my sins and the sins of my Church, read Scriptures, and pray the Divine Office. The Blessed Sacrament is present but not reserved, i.e., not exposed on the altar in a monstrance with six candles around it. The term for this is Eucharist Adoration, which I will get to shortly. Holy hours can be made in State Parks, waiting for an appointment at your physician’s office, or even in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s grocery.  I fill my holy hour with meditation, reading, listening to CDs on spiritual topics, and thinking about how fortunate I am to be able to see Christ is daily events.
  4. Attend Eucharistic Adoration outside Mass. This is a semi-formal event at parishes in the chapel or church, where anyone can come and go, sitting in front of the Real Presence of Christ. People usually sign up for an hour of adoration (remember, we only adore God, not churches or people). Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida, has an hour of Eucharist Adoration every weekday from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. Blessed Sacrament Parish, Tallahassee, Florida, has 24 hour Eucharist Adoration with every hour filled with at least one person who is a sentinel before the Lord, waiting for His coming again in glory.
  5. Make a schedule of activities you will do every day or every week, with the proviso that life must be very flexible. Don’t go overboard.
  6. Begin with small steps and small accomplishments.  Don’t try to be a professed Lay Cistercian (minimum of five years discernment) in your first year. Do one thing and try to be persistent and consistent. You will find even this is fraught with temptations to do something, anything else that is more meaningful.
  7. Get the support you need to be contemplative from your spouse. I travel from Tallahassee, Florida to Conyers, GA (outside of Atlanta) once a month for what is called a Gathering Day. We have community prayer together plus three classes on the Rule of Benedict, Cistercian authors and formation (taught by Cistercian monks).
  8. Pray as you can, says Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., one of our instructors in Junior Formation Class at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist).  Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God, so don’t be too wordy with God. Contemplation is about carving out a space where you and God can sit down and have a heart-to-heart. Literally, your heart against the heart of God. I know, God doesn’t have a heart, but Jesus does.  –uiodg

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