What is morning awakening for this Catholic hermit? How
may it differ from any other Catholic's awakening--or for that matter any human being's awakening? Need it, ought it, be different than others?
This post-midlife, pained Catholic hermit can but offer personal experience (thus far). The daily awakening has evolved over the years: as Protestant child, young adult, adult, and Catholic convert at age 44. But some similarities in daily awakenings persist and seem influenced by God's bequeathing a calling and mission as early as the soul's conception. (Knit in my mother's womb, He knew me.)
This soul--my soul--always awakens with rather serious and ponderous thoughts. As a child, this was so, yet filled with vitality and delight in the morning light and the beautiful world outside the bedroom window of an Italianate childhood home. The seasons and all the world reveal the beauty and goodness of God our Creator. Then during school years, the thoughts, yet serious, would quickly turn to what studies and tests awaited; and such thoughts as what to wear to school and the rush with sisters and mother (a marvelous school teacher by profession) to be on time intruded upon ay first-awakening communing with God.
Back then, only on rare days of sickness would there be temporal pain in the body. And this scenario of first awakening thoughts of God--even if not consciously directed to God Himself but always having to do with some or other of His attributes, unnamed but sensed--continues into adulthood. The temporal thoughts quickly intrude as the responsibilities of dressing, eating, and tending to whatever duties of the next minutes and hours of the day unfold. In marriage there is the responsibility to the other; when children come along there is the consideration of their temporal needs. Work--in and outside the dwelling place--factors into the awakening moments.
What ought characterize a person's awakening, if deeply in love with the Trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is that of extending the first awakening communing with God into awareness of His love and mercy well into the temporal aspects of the daily unfolding, moment by moment. Yet this may not at all be what the bulk of humanity considers or even desires.
For this Christian who became a Catholic Christian, the daily awakening altered and became more actualized when the Lord guided my soul with major shifts through life-altering suffering. Many have such elements which may be termed positively as "deeper conversions." The onset of constant, intractable pain followed by an earthly spouse leaving the young family brought about the shift in my life. Yet prior, the soul had consciously been called to pray all the more in the early morning awakenings, as it seemed something much deeper was missing in life, and there was a mission or God-call not being met. God provided the shift.
Then the daily awakenings grew more God-seeking, God-centered, God-loving as time passed and God-desire increased. The more trials and the more suffering, the more the soul yearns. However, not all souls are blessed to link the yearning with a yearning for God as opposed to yearning for a human love interest, or money, or prestige in career and social standing, or power over any aspect of ourselves and others, or a lovely house or any number of wonderful yet very temporal "possessions." By the grace of God, this soul grasped the yearning was and is for God.
Even if the soul recognizes God as the object of true love and fulfillment beyond all else in life, now and forever, the temporal intrudes. This is so and is human in our human base. But we are called to overcome the base. Our spirits' first morning (and all) awakenings are to find awareness in God, in God-is-love, and to continue in that awareness throughout the day and night. The temporal aspects of our beautiful earthly existences may thus be propelled and permeated by God rather than the world.
Once the conversion to Catholicism, this soul's daily awakenings extended to awareness of God plus Christ as Head and Christ as Body. The first awakenings take in God in all His attributes, as well as His Church and all souls therein, living on earth and not on earth. The awareness may be very subtle and evolves into a sensing much as we take in the scenery without consciously detailing each aspect.
When a soul's vocational calling is answered, such as every soul is called but not all are aware or answer, the morning awakening may take on yet deeper contemplation of God and inclusive of all His attributes, and the Church temporal and mystical, the Body temporal and mystical. Yes, the awakening soul ought upon awakening, grow in holiness day by day in what otherwise could be a lost opportunity.
Upon awakening, these past 19 years as a Catholic and 14 years as a Catholic called and chosen by God to live the hermit life while on earth, the struggle persists in the worthy cause to have the first thoughts of God to persist as first thoughts of God. It is a daily effort; it is a daily grace.
I awaken in earthly solitude and silence now. I awaken slowly. I awaken in dire physical suffering. When also the suffering is mental or spiritual, it is marvelous and valid as part of the call to a union of moment-by-moment awakenings of the soul with God.
In bodily suffering. I contemplate the space about with the gratitude for having a bed and to be in it, and a roof overhead. I consider the beauty of God's creation with a look out the window, and thank God for the temporal eyes to see His Handiwork. Yes, when thoughts of what temporal efforts lay ahead for the day, I can make a choice of the will: Be drawn into those thoughts, or reach for the laptop (since most all books are packed away and in storage until the hermitage is not in interior demolition mode) and read the daily Mass readings of the Holy Catholic Church.
Sometimes the temporal, bodily pain is so great that the first act of the will is to reject the longing to die and be free from temporal pain. The next act is to take some over-the-counter pain aid, and sometimes a prescription pain aid. (One must address the body, after all, for while on earth one shall know earthly pain.) Yes, the conscious can better absorb the Living Word of God when the temporal pain does not override the Word's conscious effect. (The subconscious probably absorbs profoundly--perhaps better?--when pain persists.)
A daily awakening may include any combination of prayer: verbal, mental, contemplative. The contemplative prayer is dependent upon God's choosing to bequeath this wordless intimacy with Him in any given moment, day or night. And prayer may continue throughout the day despite very temporal responsibilities. For a hermit, prayer may seem easier due to the stricter separation from "the world." Yet hermits ought readily attest that even in solitude and silence, the challenge persists to keep "the world" subservient to the spiritual by communing through, with and in Christ.
Admittedly, this hermit's daily awakenings--and proceeding present moments through day and night--continue to be an on-going struggle. The effort remains to learn by His unending grace and to make acts of my God-given will to live in prayer [a constant, conscious or subconscious, verbal or wordless, conversation and communing with God] and to live in His Real Presence, temporally and mystically.
A major assist in life as God-is-love, is prayer. And God-is-love-become-prayer is also receiving His Living Word and the Body and Blood of Christ daily and many times daily. Receiving His Word and His Body and Blood come as easily and quickly as faith and desire. If possible, one tangibly and mystically shares in the Mass by physically participating in Mass. When the physical is not feasible, one participates through spiritual Communion, any time, any place, on earth as it is in heaven.
Yet for a Catholic hermit, there is an inherent standard, a spiritual responsibility, an holy and anointed calling, to seriously cultivate the daily awakenings, morning and otherwise, as one totally begotten by God and besotted with Holy Spirit love of His Son. Catholic hermits represent God and Church, whether in hidden mode or times visible.
His Living Word [Gospel of John] this morning breathes His Real Presence. I praise Him for calling us personally and intimately His friends if we do what He asks of us. I praise Him for choosing each of us, for appointing us to bear forth good in our lives on earth. I take seriously and with gratitude, Christ's adjurations to do as He tells us...so that we may love one another.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."