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!

One Comment on “Finding Solitude

  1. This is a very old post so I’m not sure if you get email alert if I post this. I’m 61 in spiritual discernment for a form of religious life. I have found some Third Orders and Oblates that allow older people in lay life. I liked this article on solitude. I like that you wear your habit publically to “be approachable and available” to other people. Some time my head spins with wanting to be Franciscan, then other times I think of choosing Benedictine. Other times I think of a more modified personal form of my own design. It is as if I can’t choose. Sometimes I want to be very active with people and other times I want entire periods of no people while I just spend time with God. I’m Episcopalian so my marriage is OK as well. I tried keeping six prayer hours and that seemed too hard. It was as if all the comprehension of so much reading didn’t allow time to actually “hear” God’s voice. So I dropped it a while and just went back to a simple morning Ignatian practice using Lecto Divina. But when I gave up my idea of living the religious life, I began to fail in my behavior as a better Christian. Wearing a habit, a little more prayer, and daily schedule of disciplines began to tug at me. So, today I sat my husband down for a heart to heart. He’s terrified of me wearing a habit, belonging to a group. So, I said, forget the habit. When am I a better person? When I was on a prayer and daily work schedule itenerary or when I wasn’t? He said when I kept a steady schedule of prayer and work. Our only fear of the habit is fear of people in my small town who know my foibles thinking i’m a nut and hubby being embarrassed. So I told him not to worry. I’d never don the habit unless I was changed enough that people would think I wore it well. That instead, I’d go back to my daily schedule of only one to three prayer times a day (The Book of Common Prayer and my Ignatian practice in my case) and the rest scheduled time of work with alternating rest in between. (l’m disabled) Yet, I have dreamed of wearing a habit 5 years. We used to be biker evangelists and our habit was our colors so I get what you are doing and it was the same for us then. But we no longer wear Christian biker colors as our life is different. But I do feel called to do the same as you by wearing a habit in appropriate ways. I am convicted about society, same as you. But I also understand all the vows and what the pieces of habit mean and I’m not there yet. I’m a person in a backwoods country town. I’d be like when they said of Jesus, “What good thing can come out of Nazareth?” I’ve made mistakes and everyone knows them. The only thing I can do is as I explained to my husband is to do this in degrees. As I grow, we together can decide if I am stable enough to ever wear a habit of a group. In the mean time I will practice simplicity and sew my own simple plain dress and just try to keep my rule of my own making and improve upon it as able. Time will tell if due to old age, or maturity and development, if I can ever take it to a higher level. I hope you and others will respond back for input. I’m clicking notifications.

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