Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the going gets rough, stay where you are... redux.




"Each of us has our cell and that cell can teach us what we need to know."
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My Bruderhoff brother sent me a wonderful article written by a priest I had never heard of before.  Fr. Rohlheiser wrote a reflection on the monastic counsel, "Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything you need to know."  It seems to me Father's offering makes an excellent meditation about staying - in a vocation, a job - whatever.  It is the old proverb, bloom where you are planted, and echoes traditional monastic teaching.  I was pleased with what I read. 
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Sadly, other readers informed me that the priest's writings may not be entirely 'orthodox' and may contain elements of New Age phiolosophy.  I elected to take it down despite the fact other readers informed me his columns appear in diocesean newspapers across the country.   
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Nevertheless, I think my initial inspiration may be a helpful consideration for those constantly struggling with the idea of vocation - many times even after final vows - people spin there wheels thinking they are meant to be elsewhere or doing more.  Recently I heard about a monk I know who is taking a leave of absence from his community to discern his vocation.  Married couples sometimes go through that too... separating and ultimately divorcing.   
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Sometimes leaving may not always be the right answer to one's problem.  Looking back on my life, I realize there were times  when I left a job or situation I was unhappy with, I was doing so in order to avoid the trials of the former position, only to find the same issues pop up in the new circumstance.  The Imitation says, "Everywhere we meet the Cross!"  That is true - but everywhere we meet ourselves as well - and we're often the carriers of what ails us and quite possibly we affect those around us, thus increasing the discontent - unless we stay long enough, or rather endure the cure in situ
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Instead of basing this post on the article by the priest others objected to, I will first of all quote from 'approved' monastic writers, using the passages my friend Michael submitted in the comment box:
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Lessons from the monastic cell.
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"Go, sit in your cell, and you cell will teach you everything." I love the way certain of my favorite monk-writers address it as metaphor, and not just as physical space, just as Rohlheiser does. "The monk must build an interior mansion or cell in his heart, to which he ceaselessly returns in order to find the hidden presence of God. And having found it he remains there in loving contemplation. The Cistercian monk tries to live in deep peace even amid the distractions of the common life." (Andre Louf)
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"The monastic cell will be the scene of many stuggles, defeats and triumphs, many joys and many tears. The cell is like a womb from which I emerge again and again, reborn as a more mature, experienced self, ready once again to meet the challenges of the day. .....Steadfastness in the cell is the counterpart of stability in the abbey until death." (Charles Cummings O.C.S.O.)
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Obviously Rohlheiser's observations do indeed agree with traditional monastic understanding, especially as it can be applied to ourselves and our particular state in life.  Therefore he is not mistaken when he defines the cell as a metaphor and the importance of stability in the ordinary Christian's life:
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"Cell, as referred to here, is a metaphor, an image, a place inside of life, rather than someone's private bedroom. Cell refers to duty, vocation, and commitment.
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Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything you need to know: Stay inside of your vocation, inside of your commitments, inside your legitimate conscriptive duties, inside of your church, inside of your family, and they will teach you where life is found and what love means. Be faithful to your commitments and what you are ultimately looking for will be found there." - Father Rolheiser 
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Thanks for the initial article DJ!  Thanks Michael R. for the good comments.
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Art: "Heretics Roasting By An Open Fire"   I made the title up.  The painting is by Canadian artist AndrĂ© Durand.

14 comments:

  1. A great reflection - thank you.

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  2. michael r.10:23 AM

    Yes, I love this one. I've always been interested in the idea of the monastic cell, and that is one of my favorite sayings - "Go, sit in your cell, and you cell will teach you everything." I love the way certain of my favorite monk-writers address it as metaphor, and not just as physical space, just as Rohlheiser does. "The monk must build an interior mansion or cell in his heart, to which he ceaselessly returns in order to find the hidden presence of God. And having found it he remains there in loving contemplation. The Cistercian monk tries to live in deep peace even amid the distractions of the common life." (Andre Louf)

    "The monastic cell will be the scene of many stuggles, defeats and triumphs, many joys and many tears. The cell is like a womb from which I emerge again and again, reborn as a more mature, experienced self, ready once again to meet the challenges of the day. .....Steadfastness in the cell is the counterpart of stability in the abbey until death." (Charles Cummings O.C.S.O.)

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  3. A word of caution (even though I know you are a way smart guy): I would be careful when reading Ron Rolheiser.
    While some of his writings contain germs of truth, he is pretty heavily steeped in "New Age/Progressive" thought.

    I spent close to a year doing intense research for my talks and Rolheiser came under pretty close scrutiny. He didn't hold up well.

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  4. I should have added - I never heard of him before my friend sent me this - which isn't bad advice for someone who always seems to be discerning or thinking they belong someplace else. The article resonated with my own experience - unfortunately I rarely stayed in 'my cell'.

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  5. Terry, you haven't changed your avatar! How come??

    PS. - I back up what Adrienne says - Ron Rolheiser is not orthodox!

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  6. Thanks everyone - I re-did the post so as not to mislead anyone. God bless!

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  7. This post reminds me of a post of Fr. Mark's which I've had bookmarked all year on St. Thomas Aquinas and a letter of advice he wrote--in the letter St Thomas mentions the importance of staying in one's cell:

    http://vultus.stblogs.org/2009/01/advice-from-the-angelic-doctor.html

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  8. "Staying in one's cell" can also be understood as St. Ignatius' counsel to not change one's status unless it is discerned, by the individual and the director as the direct will of God.
    How many marriages, religious vocations, or priestly vocations could have/can be helped by this most prudent and wise counsel?
    That is not to say that you have to "white knuckle" everything...but when the going gets tough (and it will) you have to persevere...no matter what...until it's obvious, in the external and internal forums, that something must change.
    Great post, Terry!

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  9. Words of wisdom come from hard experiences. Thank you so much for these reflections. They spoke right to me where I needed it, today.

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  10. Austringer9:08 PM

    That is quite a dramatic painting...I'll have to check out the link you provide to the artist. Thanks, Terry!

    Adrienne, what has been the subject of your talks?

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  11. Re: Rolheiser:
    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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  12. Ah, Fr. Richsteig beat me to it...that's what I was going to say.

    Every so often the dissident, prayer-needing priests actually produce some kind of a gem. I've actually occasionally found some writings of theirs that are orthodox, which I have sent to dissident friends. They don't trust, me, but they'll trust those who agree with them on everything else.

    Even Rolheiser can have a few good things to say.

    Pray for him, y'all, and pray for yourselves as well.

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  13. Mr.Terry, I loved this post.

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