Yesterday I went to the studio of our local Catholic radio station and recorded the first four chapters of the audiobook version of the new book I have coming out in May. Immortal Combat-Encountering the Heart of Darkness explains the true meaning of the phrase “Jesus died to take away the sins of the world.” I also spent some extra time reading and writing, and spent an hour working in the yard.
I meant to get down to one my other writing projects too. I’m finally working on my autobiography/conversion story. I’ve always held back from this because I figured who would want to cough up twenty bucks of their hard earned money to read about me showing off. You get the idea. However, I’m trying to work out how best to do this. When people have asked me about it before I said I couldn’t write that story because too many of the guilty parties are still living—especially me.
Our daughter Madeleine is living at home at this time while she looks for just the right job and direction in life. I’m glad she’s safe here with us. She’s a delightful, positive and beautiful young woman, and when I wonder how we ended up with such a wonderful daughter I realize it is all down to her mother. We had a cup of coffee together this morning and she told me her plan is to continue with the online graduate course she is pursuing. There’s an idea for people at home who are wondering what to do with their time! Why not investigate an online course you can pursue? There are some great Catholic courses out there. Late in the Lockdown Diary I’ll try to specify some.
The “social distancing” we are going through right now connects with the monastic tradition of spirituality. The word “monk” comes from the Greek word monos which means “alone” and the first Christian monks were the “Desert Fathers”–men like St Anthony of the Desert and Pachomius. By the end of the third century Christianity had made great advances and the majority of people in the great Roman cities were already turning to the new religion. Remember it was in 313 AD that the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. As more people adopted the new faith it became more worldly and respectable. In the face of this increasing affluence and acceptance St Anthony along with other men and women went out to the deserts of Egypt to live very austere lives. They lived alone in caves, fasted, prayed and earned their crust making baskets and other simple crafts. The women who joined them are called the “Desert Mothers” and many of them were well educated, wealthy widows who left everything to live lives of prayer and sacrifice. This was the foundation of Christian monasticism. I’ll write more about how this all developed in days to come, but you might like to look out for a book of the sayings of the desert fathers. Thomas Merton The Wisdom of the Desert.
So what do we learn from these extremists of the fourth century in Egypt? The beauty of their wisdom is that it is not overly theological or intellectual. Their wisdom is encapsulated in little sayings, quotable quotes and stories of their lives together. One of my favorites concerns a young monk who came to an older hermit and said, “I have done all my prayers and penances. I have done my work for the day. Now what must I do to attain wisdom?”
The old hermit said, “Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”
In other words, “Be alone and you will find the wisdom for which you are seeking.” One of the ways to view the imposed lockdowns is to see this time as a monastic retreat When we go on a monastic retreat the Lord takes us with himself off to a wilderness place. It is in the wilderness that we find the Lord and find ourselves in a new way. We correct our priorities. We focus on what really matters. New ways of prayer and our relationship with the Lord and with others begin to open up in ways that we had not imagined before. Therefore, even if you are home bound with lots of kids full of energy, take some extra time to be alone with God. If you are on your own, remember others who are “in their cell” and who do not have the resources you do. Reach out to them by phone call and email.
This afternoon I will be meeting with our social ministry team to discuss how we can best minister to our parish members who are facing difficulties in the present crisis. I have ideas to put in place, but we’ll discuss this and be in touch with members of our parish before too long to let them know what we have planned and how they can help.
- Catholic Productions produces excellent online resources for Catholic bible study. They have a whole range of podcasts, videos and streaming resources. I highly recommend them for at home, online Catholic content. I’m afraid it is a subscription service so you will need to pay for it, but it’s great material!
- This blog has a podcast section. Check it out. All the podcasts are available to Donor Subscribers to the blog, but if you don’t want to pay for Catholic podcasts check out BreadBox Media where they have a whole catalogue of excellent Catholic podcasts free of charge.
- Universalis for today’s Divine Office
Scripture from the Divine Office for the Third Wednesday in Lent
- For single people who are housebound
- For those who are anxious and afraid
- For those who are directing our health care and emergency services
- For those in authority over us
From Classic Catholic Spirituality
“If I send you afflictions or any adversity don’t worry and fret nor let your heart be downcast. I can quickly raise you up again and turn your burdens in to joy.” – from The Imitation of Christ