Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Creating a Domestic Monastery

When I was in college I actually spent time discerning the religious life. I visited several convents and even spent 10 days during Lent, leading up to Easter with the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr, St. George

That time with the Franciscan sisters was one of the most powerful spiritual encounters with the Lord I have ever had. The Lord was very tangible there and it seemed like he was physically walking around the convent. When I was in their Eucharistic adoration chapel praying, it felt as though I was floating off the ground. Those ten days of monastic living wasn't easy however. There were lots of sacrifices made, especially in the area of sleep as we would start morning prayer at 5:30 am followed by mass, but those acts of mortification proved to be very fruitful and I definitely grew in my relationship with the Lord. I came close to joining but in the end I told the Lord I needed him in the flesh and he asked me, "What about marriage?" Soon after, he brought Tom into my life and the rest is history.

Even though I didn't join a convent, the seed and longing for monasticism had been planted through my time at the Franciscan University and the convents I had visited.

Don't even ask me how we detoured and left the Catholic Church for ten years because I'm not sure, except that we were impatient and wanted more doors to open for us in ministry and we were longing for community. What drew us back however was a longing for a "sense of the sacred" as well as the Eucharist and other Sacraments. The time away produced in us a deeper appreciation for the Catholic Church.

Soon after we came back to the Church, we came in contact with a member of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic expression. We were familiar with this community, started by John Michael Talbot from our time at the Franciscan University but we did not know they also had a Domestic expression. We only knew about the Little Portion Hermitage in Arkansas. Our hearts burned within us when we found out you could belong to the community and not have to move to Arkansas! Everything they offered, we had a longing for. Their spirituality was Franciscan and Benedictine, charismatic and contemplative. They were monastic, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and practicing simplicity. Through them, we saw that monastic life was possible even in the world with a family. Right away, we knew it was right for us! We contacted the regional minister, checked out the community and soon after, started our formation with them. We have now been a part of the community for five years. This past weekend we went on our annual regional retreat. Every year that we go, it reinforces this idea of  living simply, being in the world but not of it, and practicing monasticism, even with a family. The community has definitely been an instrument in helping us deepen our relationship with the Lord and grow in intimacy with him and with his people.

Practicing Monasticism in the world, especially with little children, can prove challenging but it can be done.

Here are some ways we try to practice it in our home:

Create a Sacred Space
We have a room that we try to keep clean and uncluttered. The kids are not allowed to have toys in there. We mainly use this room for prayer, individually and as a family. We have religious art on the walls, candles, and we usually burn incense when we are in the room. Sometimes when in there, we read and play sacred music. 

Keep it Simple
We try to limit the number of toys, especially "junk" toys that we have in our house. We try to purge our clothes often and get rid of anything we do not need or wear.  We also do our best to live within our means.

Sacred Music
We often have sacred music like Gregorian chants or contemporary worship music playing in the background throughout the day.

We commit ourselves to morning and evening prayer, both individually and as a family. For Tom and I this usually includes the Liturgy of the Hours. We have been pleasantly surprised how much our children like praying the Liturgy of the Hours with us. We usually start with a couple worship songs. When we are not able to pray it as a family, our children miss it and ask when we will be able to do it again.

Religious Art
We have religious art and crucifixes in almost every room in our house. Religious art and symbols can be wonderful tools to draw our attention upward and is especially important for children.

Limit Electronics
This can be one of the hardest disciplines to follow. Sometimes it is easier for us busy moms to just turn cartoons on for our little ones to keep them out of trouble. I am still working on this one but we do try to limit TV and computer time.

Limit Activities Outside the Home
Busyness is usually a big obstacle for hearing from and drawing close to the Lord. We try to limit how many activities we and our children do outside the home.

Make Everything an Act of Prayer
Sometimes it is hard to find Christ in the mundane and ordinary but he is there. One way I try to be mindful of him throughout my day, while doing dishes and folding laundry is to say the Jesus prayer in my mind and picture myself leaning back in him.

Of course this is not an all encompassing list but I think it is a good place to start!

Audio of a Eucharistic Miracle Story

On the feast of Corpus Christi, I posted a link on my Facebook page to a radio interview I did but forgot to post it on my actual blog. So, for those of you who don't get my Facebook messages, here is an audio story of a Eucharistic miracle I got to experience in college. It is the June 2 podcast and starts around 12 minutes.
Ignite Radio

Monday, June 1, 2015

Let Me Off!

The Lord has truly blessed Tom and I with an amazing church community. There are so many good people at our church who love the Lord and desire to draw closer to him. If we had found a community like this 18 years ago, we never would have left the Catholic Church for ten years.

One way we try to build community is to have what we call "Pasta and Praise" once a month. We rotate who hosts and then we have a simple meal, fellowship and worship. The last one we had was last Saturday and our theme was Pentecost. The Lord was very gracious to us and his Holy Spirit was so sweet and manifest in the house where we were worshiping! His presence was very tangible!

While in worship an image came to my mind. The image was of children on a park merry-go-round. I'm not sure if these are still around but I remember them from when I was a kid. You would get on and then hold on for dear life as another child would spin the merry-go-round as fast as they could. 

In my image the children were laughing and thoroughly enjoying this amusement. What came to me however is that an adult in the same situation would not necessarily enjoy it. Vertigo would set in and an adult might lose their lunch and want to get off. 

Life can often feel like a merry-go-round. When you are a kid you might enjoy the thrill but the older you get, the responsibility of life sets in and daily life can sometimes feel more like drudgery than fun. We can lose our sense of wonder, awe and excitement, especially if we have experienced suffering.

The sense I had was the Lord wants to renew and restore a sense of wonder and the faith of a child. I don't think this just applied to our little group but something the Lord would like to do for all his people. Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth!