Finding Solitude

I may have experienced solitude here, but a spirit of solitude comes from within.

Back we are in Wilmington, and away we go! Today I found myself enjoying the bright sunny day with a little reading, cleaning, and laundry, taking in the time to relax  before heading out again. No complaints here, though: t’s was a great week at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, and I’m looking forward to our retreat coming up!

The week started on Tuesday with a 4 day workshop on Franciscan prayer led by the renowned André Cirino, OFM. Centering the material around Francis’ radical approach to constant prayer, we spent a good portion of our time focused on his The Office of the Passion (translated and published by Fr. André as The Geste of the Great King), and A Rule for Hermitages (also known as The Prayer of Solitudea less common but arguably more accurate name).

Of all the little bits of wisdom I received from Francis and Fr. André alike, one thing really struck me: solitude is less of a place than it is a state of mind.

This is a great challenge for me. When I’m in between activities with only fifteen minutes to pray or am outside of traditionally “sacred” places where it can be busy or loud, I find it difficult to get into a prayerful mindset, and believe that less-than-ideal environment makes my prayer less meaningful, and to some extent, less effective than a more formalized, “ideal” prayer. The problem that I’ve realized is that I am looking for solitude outside of myself, as if it can be found in a particular place or situation. In reality, one finds solitude from within, not from without.

My attempt to process this new concept could not have had more appropriate, yet ironic, timing: starting tomorrow, we’ll be starting a six-day hermitage retreat. Talk about external solitude! Not only will we be on retreat from the busyness of the world, prohibited from using cellphones and the like, we will also be living in our own private cabin. Whereas we were discouraged from talking outside of communal prayers on our trip to Mt. Savior Monastery back in December (“Living In The Moment“), we will even be discouraged this week from seeing one another but once a day for mass, dinner, and vespers.

Though I do find it a little ironic as well that I’ll be entering into physical solitude while arguing that inner solitude is independent from location, I think that this will be an excellent first step, and a challenge for sure. Just because one can remove all external distractions doesn’t meant that there will not be distractions to prayer! On the contrary, the lack of external distractions simply leaves an individual unable to hide from their internal distractions. These are definitely the hardest to overcome and the true impediments to prayerful solitude.

And with that, I’m off to find some solitude, hidden deep within myself! I thank you once again for your prayers and support, and will be praying for each of you this week!

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