My husband and I have only been living the Benedictine lifestyle for a few months, but already I’m realizing that this way of life is much different than I imagined it would be. You see, when I became an oblate, I thought that I would be denying the world for the sake of growing closer to God. I thought that by shutting everything out, my spiritual life would blossom. Yet, this is not what being an oblate is about at all.
Being an oblate is about dedicating your life to serving God and living a life of prayer. As an oblate, you are obligated to formally pray every three hours. It doesn’t matter what you are in the middle of doing when that prayer time comes around, you must pause and lift up your heart with the millions of other people throughout the world who are also reciting those exact same prayers, at that exact same moment. The prayer schedule is ancient, communal, and salvific.
In the past, when I’ve visited monasteries, I was always blown away by the peaceful atmosphere, slow pace, and the constant prayer. The beauty is always so overwhelming that my chest burns. I have always left the monastery grounds wishing that I could live that kind of life. Wishing that I too could escape from the world, so that I could focus all of my attention on God alone. (At least, that’s what I thought the monks did)
Now I realize that I was completely wrong about the monastery. The beauty of the monastery isn’t found in it being an oasis from the world. It is that the men who live there live a life that recognizes God’s Presence in the world. That’s why the monastery is filled with beauty and peace. The monks consecrate the mundane. Those men still clean toilets, lose sleep when stressed, work hard each day, and get discouraged. They haven’t escaped the world at all. They just see the world as it was created to be seen.
This is what I’m learning. Thanks be to God for the slow conversion of my soul.
Today we are standing at the starting line of Great Lent. Our shoes are tightly laced and our eyes are set on the prize. Inside my chest, my heart is pounding with excitement. The race that lies before us will no doubt be a grand adventure.
The power of fasting and prayer cannot be overstated. Fasting strengthened the children in Babylon. It shut the hungry jaws of lions. It cooled the devouring flames of the furnace. Who knows what this year’s fasting shall bring? All I do know, is that God will do something miraculous.
Tomorrow, Spencer and I will invested as novice oblates. We will pledge obedience to the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, and begin a life of stability, obedience, and ongoing conversion. I cannot think of a better way to begin the Great Fast.
Pray for us as we begin to strive.
“The grace of the Lord has shone forth,
The grace which illumines our souls.
This is the acceptable time;
The time of repentance is here.
Let us put aside the works of darkness;
let us put on the armor of light, t
hat passing through Lent as through a great sea
we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Savior of our souls.”
Spencer and I just returned from a relaxing weekend at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. After spending a few days immersed in deep conversations and heavenly worship, I am having a hard time getting back into my regular routine.
While at the monastery, I confessed giving into my depression and slacking off with my household duties. Now here I sit faced with a choice. I can strive towards a life of repentance and dive right into my chores without complaining, or I can veg out on the couch and waste away my time on social media sites. To some this might seem like a trivial matter, but I know that my decision could very well put me one step closer to heaven or hell.
There is a list of chores sitting on my kitchen counter. Today the list calls for dusting, washing the bed sheets, and vacuuming. In reality, I could put off these chores until my husband is home and can help. Things would certainly get done faster… Or I could offer up my work to my family and the Lord as an act of love.
As I dust the shelves I quietly pray, “I do this for the love of the Lord.” As I vacuum up pretzels I repeat, “For the love of the Lord and my children.” As I spread crisp sheets on the bed my whole being chants, “For the love of the Lord and my marriage.”
These are such small acts. I don’t expect anyone to notice that I have dusted the living room and bedrooms. Even if they do notice, I doubt they would care very much. But in my heart I know that the Savior sees my hard work and I pray that He is pleased with me.
Today I choose to take one step closer to heaven.
“For the love of the Lord.”
Our bedtime routine begins with family devotions and prayer. After snuggling on the couch and listening to Daddy read from the Bible, we all crowd into the icon corner and offer up a few prayers to the Lord. Nora, my youngest daughter, loves to pray to her guardian angel. Her sweet voice squeaks out the following words:
“O Angel you are truly mine, given to me by God Divine, to always be at my side and teach me what is right. I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong. Never go away from me. From all danger keep me free. Amen”
Every night I do my best to sincerely say these prayers with my children. Sometimes, that is a struggle. It is easy to be thankful for the guardian angel that God has blessed me with. It isn’t as easy to apply the next part of the prayer though.
“I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong.”
Perhaps this part of the prayer is difficult because I don’t like to think of myself as being being insignificant and powerless. After all, I have given birth to two children. I have conquered high school and college. I have endured kidney stones and surgeries. I have told loved ones goodbye and defeated addiction. Surely, I am not weak.
But then I am reminded of that recent temptation I gave into when no one else was looking. I could have distracted myself, but I chose not to. I am not as strong as I would like to imagine… Regardless of how much I lie to myself, I am still desperately dependent on God.
Psalm 21:20 “But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”