Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Catholic Hermit, the Lord Directs

Of course, it is always wise at least initially and also as a contact when needed, to have a spiritual director.  Usually for a Catholic and especially a consecrated hermit, it is best to have a priest be an earthly director of one's soul.  There are common sense reasons for this.

One is that a priest (bishop, monastic superior) has more theological training as well as vocational experience than, for example, another hermit, deacon, or most lay persons.  A priest also has the authority and investiture to provide the Sacraments (notably confession and anointing of the sick) when requested or necessary.

(Consecrating the Host during Mass also is the privilege and ordained function of a priest, but Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist may offer or bring the consecrated Host to others, such as a hermit who is unable to physically attend Mass.  No others, not even a deacon, can hear confessions.)

A hermit's vocation by its very nature (and dependent upon the progression in the spiritual life) will at some point intersect with the forces of darkness, with the taunts and tricks of the devil.  A priest is a powerful agent in dealing with demonic treachery.

However, we all--no matter our vocations (ordained, lay, or those of us in the consecrated life of the Church)--need to pray about and discern who we may request or who may be assigned to us as our spiritual directors.  And, we must also discern as we proceed in spiritual direction, along with the director, if there is positive movement and progress.

Not all priests (or religious of various vocations) are adept in spiritual direction of souls.

For a hermit in particular, there are few who have as much knowledge about the vocation as may be the case with the hermit his- or herself.  And that ought be expected and understood, for most priests or other spiritual directors with varying amounts of training in such, are unlikely to have spent the time a hermit would have spent in studying, reading, and living the hermit life.  

What may be most important, thus, in a director, is to seek and find one who does not have ingrained errant ideas about the hermit vocation.  And, what also is of greatest asset in a spiritual director is one who leads a prayerful, knowledgeable, dedicated spiritual life of following Christ--actively steeped in His Living Word and living by the Spirit.

I personally have found that order priests (and those in the more contemplative rather than active orders or communities) have more experience and training in the spiritual life and can tend to be more open to and aware of the hermit vocation, than do diocese priests and bishops.  

At least with the inception of CL603 within the past few decades, diocesan bishops are attempting to discover more and come to some agreement among some of them, as to guidelines for a hermit who requests public profession of vows and to become what has developed as a descriptor for such hermits: diocesan hermit or canonically approved hermit.

Yet an insight came to this privately professed, consecrated Catholic hermit yesterday late afternoon while continuing the task of off-loading black bark mulch from the most-appreciated used pick-up truck, named lovingly "Precious Blood."  Once again I realized that my thoughts and projections (perhaps some truth to them or perhaps simply my ideas triggered by past similar, negating situations) were not God's Thoughts, not His Mind.  I also realized that it did not take too long for the Lord to correct me and to show me that my own thoughts ended up being rather pointless.

Yes, pointless--other than the necessary work of the Holy Spirit's guiding my soul to discern the difference between my thoughts and God's.  My thoughts tend to increasingly assume possibilities as to why some situation or person/s are as they may be.  The Holy Spirit was pointing out to me the truth of the matter; and also that while I have forgiven some fairly nasty persecutions of the past, my mind tends to take incidents, real as they are, but to assume what may or may not be the case.

Or, if the assumptions are correct (often they are gut-instincts with some if not full truth in them) my own thinking about them and entering into old pathways of thought and reaction within my mind are energy- and time-wasting, emotionally non-productive, and ultimately futile.

The inner listening yesterday afternoon (while shoveling mulch!) provided some of the richest, purest, and most humbling spiritual direction I've had in awhile--a short while, actually.  I've not for awhile had much written contact with my earthly spiritual director nor with the holy priest who is in Nigeria and whose guidance is quite luminous and succinctly spiritual--not much contact due to temporal obstacles, understandable enough.

That reality has opened up far greater spiritual direction from His Real Presence.  The insight came that there is a point in which the Lord directs our souls.  But the circumstances for secure direction seem to include the degree in which the soul, especially for a hermit, is living in the silence of solitude, in stricter separation from the world.

This makes solid sense, actually.  A hermit who is more active in the world or distracted even by good deeds, parish involvements, or private sector, part-time workplace interactions, or even distracted within the hermitage by not thinking of God above all things.  These types of distractions can hinder the capacity of the hermit's inner senses, particularly of inner sight and inner listening in order to receive God's thought-flashings; and to lesser importance the distractions suppress inner thought-flashing communications from the hermit to God.

For awhile this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has been distracted in too many little ways--relationships here or there, trying to find work help because I thought surely the Lord wanted me to progress more rapidly with the hermitage and then get out from under the financial and physical burdens.  

In all those aspects, I was listening more to others around me and their temporal views which do make good temporal sense, sure enough.  And even my spiritual father writing to get the [expletive!] house done and get to my writing--he did not say get it done and sell and move elsewhere to write.

Increasingly, since the death of my will the Wednesday after Easter last, I have experienced an increase in the Lord's insights and of His spiritual direction.  However, I also have recognized all the more my ideas and thoughts from my mind in hindering conflict with God's Mind, His Thoughts, His Ideas, His Wisdom.

Praise be to God that He is teaching me to discern the difference by showing me within, and telling me within, and by also using present moment, temporal examples from daily and nightly life.

This morning upon awakening, the physical pain was its usual drain and attention-grabber.  I have gotten into the not-so-great habit of perusing the online news clips of what is going on out in the world, including the political scene or the latest terrorist attack or murder, or even the heart-lifting video-clips of goodness in lives lived well.  I also read His Living Word and ponder it some, but the sequence of what I take into my mind through my external eyes and ears muddies the soul's receptors.

If I remain physically still, here on the mattress in my 11'x7' cell--boxes piled on one end and books and bills stacked to the side--a simple office set-up--the physical pain intrudes upon my mind's capacity for inner silence.  (Another reason to plea that the Lord replace my mind with His!)

Thus, I note the times of best listening and receiving of God's direction of His nothing consecrated Catholic hermit, come more when weeding or shoveling mulch, or drywall mudding, or painting a ceiling, or in the night when the externals are consciously removed in sleep.

Depending upon a hermit's circumstances, the Lord becomes the very best spiritual director one could ever pray for or request!  Only when a hermit (or anyone, I suppose) gets side-tracked with the temporal or forgets Who Is in charge of all details of life, or is uncertain of discerning spirits--the bad from the good--is there interference with the direct line of God's guidance with the hermit's receptive capacity.

I mention "only when" with some humor, for we mortals can be side-tracked quite easily and often with the temporal.  We easily forget that God is in charge of every detail; we struggle with discernment of good and evil vying for our thoughts and actions.

In my recent seepage into the temporal diversions, all with good intention (or so my mind thinks), the Lord has shown me the absurdity of "my" intentions and notions as opposed to His Mind on matters: The Lord thus directs my soul.  

Even though His Will has replaced mine, my mind does not so well cooperate with His Will.  And it definitely then is not His Mind, either.  Nor, I suppose, can one's mind ever cooperate that well with God's Will because the human mind is always going to remain diversified with human thoughts, ingrained with memory and knowledge of the human sort, tampered by human emotions and physiological senses.

Lying here on the mattress on the floor of this tiny cell-room in Te Deum Hermitage, I once more throw myself before the throne of His Real Presence abiding within me, or more circumspectly me within Him.  He is allowing me to dwell with Him in this mortal body, pained as it is and conflicted with human controversies of varying types.  May His Mind replace mine as His Will has done!  

Bl. Charles Foucauld came to mind, brought for a visit by His Real Presence to augment the lesson.  The hermit priest of the Sahara had no mortal to listen to, to speak to in his native tongue, nor spiritually guide him. The Lord was His Spiritual Director.  The more Bl. Charles turned his mind over to God's, his heart to God's, his will--all that was his was sooner or later replaced by God's as well!  
Whether or not this occurred fully in this life or not, is beside the point of our need of the process and the blessed conclusion.  

The outer circumstances and our inner considerations do make a difference and are, we could say, inversely correlated with our relationship with the Lord.  The more we think with our minds and sense with our emotions, the less we will be of the Lord's Mind and Heart.

I praise the Lord for the examples in time and place, in which His Insights have graced my being with His Divine Spiritual Direction.  I, of course, had not considered there would be a situation such as this, in which I would realize the correlation between stillness, silence of solitude, and necessity that would open the way directly to His Priesthood being my guide in such tangible manner. 

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