Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Catholic Hermit's Reading Genre and Habits

In this past year, the spiritual reading altered from previous years.  Why?  The temporal life circum-stances changed.  The daily horarium (hourly schedule, basically) required more time for manual labor in addition to the usual hours and days--never consistent--of unanticipated, worsened suffering.

Prior to these last 12 months, this Catholic hermit read the daily Mass Scriptures and additional Scripture with commentary (Schnackenburg's commentary of the Four Gospels was the latest), a biography of some saint, hermit or mystic, a book on the spiritual life (prayer, virtues, spiritual direction, the Church), and the Divine Office (at least 3 of the "hours").


For some time in previous years, after reading St. Silouan the Staretz's biography, this hermit gave up reading current events in the news and online viewing of news video clips.  St. Silouan had advised this, as do the Carthusians (other than the Prior).  The reason for their steering clear of current news is that it can distract from a life of prayer and listening to God--both critical elements of a hermit's vocation.  The point is that God will certainly let us know for whom and what to pray by His means including hearing word from others or mystically.  (The Carthusian Prior or Prioress posts major prayer intentions within the Charterhouse, as example.)

A couple or so years ago this hermit began perusing online news headlines and reading some articles, usually involving injustices or traumas to people around the world.  Also, viewing of a few video clips came into the daily routine.  It is a trial-and-error process, of sorts, comparing now the mind and soul with that when no news was a part of the daily life.  

For awhile, there was too much viewing of video clips.  The newscasters became friends, of sorts, and this was during a time of extreme persecution and resultant isolation from human voice contact and interaction.  One daughter who tended during a second shoulder surgery, noticed the video news clip habit and said, "You just need some voice noise, huh?"  Yes, I think it was partly that and a filling in for the increased solitude.

The past year another ascent to higher peak of solitude has reduced the number and length of video clip viewing and listening.  The intense training to more solitude and silence came naturally by God's arranging circumstances that alter a life more than one might have the human will to do, cold-turkey.  
Perusing headlines and news articles continues, depending physical and mental weariness.

That is the honest truth of it.  And the spiritual reading (lectio divina) has dropped off tremendously for two practical reasons.  All but a handful of books remain packed away in the pole barn as there are no closets or shelves or any place to protect the books (or any possessions) from dust and debris in this 1904 beleaguered farmhouse hermitage!  And, the body and mind are stretched to exhaustion daily by the manual labor efforts and ensuing physical suffering, plus the sheer hardships of heat and cold and no place to recline to read but bed, with only a flashlight at night.  

However, on days when pain precludes the body from manual labor, daylight and bed provide for long as the suffering is not too intense for mental concentration.  Fortunately, St. Teresa's Way of Perfection is inexpensively downloaded onto the laptop, and the laptop is illuminated for darkness' sake.  That and the other handful of books, including two purchased online, plus daily reading of the Scriptures and bits of The Catechism and a devotional of homilies on the Word, are the extent of the current reading.  The body is pained and worn; the mind is weary these days.

Sometimes when resting, the hermit listens to music, and oddly enough, these can be songs of love from past artists, including hymns and those not hymns but which the hermit considers Jesus as the subject of the love.  The internet has become a tool of research for learning construction skills and in ordering necessary items for the work-in-progress here at the hermitage named "Te Deum."  

[The 7-year-old visiting grandson suggested "The Kingdom of Love", but given the location and variety of people here, his father commented that name could be horribly misconstrued.  The little fella agreed readily to Te Deum (God, We Praise You), as he likes other languages and agreed to praise God always good.]

Writing has been a daily part of existence here, and always has.  For decades, others have said it is this hermit's "gift."  The correspondence that churns out of the computer to those writing for spiritual purpose, is immense but takes not much time.  The fingers fly as the mind unfurls the thoughts, and the writing always has a spiritual purpose and import.  Always.  Even with a business contact, such as selling a used book online, the correspondence with the buyer has a holy inclusion.

Of the internet, the hermit does not read blogs, despite having, in the past, written blogs on several spiritual topics.  Only after some blog readers alerted to personal criticism a few years ago, did reactive reading occur.   Soon the detriment to reading such posts came clear:  One must keep the mind free from external distraction and practice listening to the personal flow from the Holy Spirit. Even if the listening takes time and practice with human error tossed in, the Holy Spirit has private ways of suggesting and correcting.  (And this is so no matter what vocation or work in our lives.)

Recently the Catholic hermit's blog writing and conversation online began anew after an absence.  A priest and the closest friends are thrilled in this return to sharing the thoughts of heart, mind and spirit.  It is a joy to write again, as there is a peace and serenity within and without, when this hermit shares of any aspect in a soul's loving quest for union with God.  The sharing provides a needed aspect in the hermit's journey at this time:  Total stripping of  pretense and detachment from observation.   The internet is a great instrument for providing raw negation on many levels.  The writing itself is part of the daily reading, for it is being "read" while flowing out from within the heart, mind and soul.  

The daily horarium of a hermit (or anyone) can be temporarily or permanently altered by tangible, life circumstances.  Consider the vicissitudes of the body--eyesight, thought, memory, arthritis, exhaustion, responsibilities, activity.  Any of these and other circumstances can alter what the hours of the day and night will be.   And they can alter back after a time, or not.  Yet the constant remains the love of God beyond all things.  The prayer, the thought, the spiritual reading and writing within the mind's eye can adapt to any shift in temporal aspects.

It seems important to not fret when circumstances do change and to adapt and alter the daily horarium accordingly, knowing all aspects of the temporal are...temporary.

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