Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Domestic Monastery

This article has been something I refer back to often. Usually when Im feeling the pull to practice the faith (Eastern Orthodox, we converted to it 3 yrs ago) I am supposed to have, and want to have. And when Im feeling the need to make things more "home-centric" I really have a hard time staying home, I enjoy being around people and meeting new people and seeing things and just going places. But, it seems to me that Im in a season now where I need to slow down a bit, take an account of things that matter, and rework a few things that Im aware of.

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, Seattle, WA
The Catholic Northwest Progress, Jan. 18, 2001

Carlo Carretto, one of the leading spiritual writers of the past half-century, lived for more than a dozen years as a hermit in the Sahara Desert. Alone, with only the Blessed Sacrament for company, milking a goat for his food, and translating the Bible into the local Bedouin language, he prayed for long hours by himself.

Returning to Italy one day to visit his mother, he came to a startling realization. His mother, who for more than 30 years of her life had been so busy raising a family that she scarcely ever had a private minute for herself, was more contemplative than he was.

Carretto, though, was careful to draw the right lesson from this. What this taught was not that there was anything wrong with what he had been doing in living as a hermit. The lesson was rather that there was something wonderfully right about what his mother had been doing all these years as she lived the interrupted life amid the noise and incessant demands of small children. He had been in a monastery, but so had she.

What is a monastery? A monastery is not so much a place set apart for monks and nuns as it is a place set apart (period). It is also a place to learn the value of powerlessness and a place to learn that time is not ours, but God's.

Our home and our duties can, just like a monastery, teach us those things. John of the Cross once described the inner essence of monasticism in these words: "But they, O my God and my life, will see and experience Your mild touch, who withdraw from the world and become mild, bringing the mild into harmony with the mild, thus enabling themselves to experience and enjoy You."

What John suggests here is that two elements make for a monastery-withdrawal from he world and bringing oneself into harmony with the mild. Although he was speaking about the vocation of monastic monks and nuns, who physically withdraw from the world, the principle is equally valid for those of us who cannot go off to monasteries and become monks and nuns. Certain vocations offer the same kind of opportunity for contemplation. They, too, provide a desert for reflection.

For example, the mother who stays home with small children experiences a very real withdrawal from the world. Her existence is definitely monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from
the centers of power and social importance. And she feels it.

Moreover, her sustained contact with young children (the mildest of the mild) gives her a privileged opportunity to be in harmony with the mild--that is, to attune herself to the powerless rather than to the powerful. Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her with what St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called the "monastic bell." All monasteries have a bell.

Bernard, in writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (Prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them. He was adamant that they respond immediately, stating that if they were writing a letter they were to stop in mid-sentence when the bell rang.

The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time, it's God's time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's agenda.

Hence, a mother rearing children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while rearing children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times during the day and she has to drop things in mid sentence and respond, not because she wants to, but because it's time for that activity and time isn't her time, but God's time.

The rest of us experience the monastic bell each morning when our alarm clock rings and we get out of bed and ready ourselves for the day, not because we want to, but because it's time.

The principles of monasticism are time-tested, saint-sanctioned, and altogether trustworthy. But there are different kinds of monasteries, different ways of putting ourselves into harmony with the mild, and different kinds of monastic bells. Response to duty can be monastic prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and working without status and power can constitute a withdrawal into a monastery where God can meet us. The domestic can be the monastic.

I think I might need to read this more.
There has also been a quote floating around in my head for a few days now:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. St. Philo of Alexandria

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To the Zoo

Went to the zoo to meet up with some moms from a mom group Im in. Spent 5 hours there.

Gwen made a new friend...named Gwen.

Addison corrected an adult about the bats we were looking at "Excuse me, but those aren't baby fruit bats, those are a different sort, they are Golden Mantled"

I wanted to hide.

Eli wanted to find howler monkeys so he could "talk" to them...he has quite the impersonation of a howler monkey down. You know, they can be heard for 3 miles...I think Eli can be as well.

I was happy to see that the boys were able to read the signs by themselves...for some reason the fact that they read helps alleviate so much anxiety for me.

Saw a monitor lizard eating dead rats, took photos and texted them to my husband. Add was completely grossed out, and Eli sat down and watched the whole thing. Gwen just ran in circles.

I saw a weird looking bug on the other Gwen, and flicked it off, but managed to flick it onto an older woman.

I wanted to hide again.

Then we left and came home. While driving I was listening to the sonic youth cd's my husband picked up for me yesterday. I have had several of their songs stuck in my head for awhile, all from different he got 4 of them for me. Whenever I hear them it reminds me of my dad. I would listen to their tape in the car when he drove me to ride my horse. Everytime he would say the same thing:

"Damnit Alana, this is NOT music, it is NOISE. Sheer NOISE! Can't you listen to something with some resemblance to music??" I would tell him that the whole point WAS the noise.

He never believed me and did his best to make sure my music collection had a large dose of classical, opera and jazz. :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Like.....You know???

I love this video. It highlights a conversational style that irks me to no end, and even worse, that at times I am guilty of? I seemed to have acquired it by osmosis...from conversations with people who do know?

But then, hearing someone saying You know? Know what I mean? I am immediately mindful of this....
(it is the wink wink nudge nudge skit from Monty Python, and is a tad inappropriate)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Just one more reason....

Last week my daughter received twin dolls as a birthday gift. My 7.5 yr old son promptly adopted the boy one and named him "Noah" He spent the day wrapping his baby up in a blanket, so he wouldn't get cold, and taking it everywhere with him. We went out to did the baby....we went to visit a historical working did the baby...he even ordered a bowl of sliced bananas at the restaurant for the doll.

On the way out of the restaurant, my son was walking, with his baby cradled in his arm, and holding the hand of his 3 yo sister. We walked by a father and his two boys, who appeared to be around the same age as my son. They boys looked at my son, looked at each other, and started laughing. Thankfully my son was totally oblivious.

You son does not see any reason why boys can't father a doll and be nurturing. No one has told him any differently, no one has teased him about this fact.

Some may point this out and say it is weird, and proof that homeschooling generates strange children with no idea of appropriate social behaviour.

I say, what is more normal and appropriate for people to be nurturing and empathetic?

My son will greet everyone we pass, adults..down to infants. He will say "Hello, my name is Add, I am are you doing today" Or he will without hesitation tell parents they have a sweet baby. He will also help out little kids he sees needing help, defend kids being picked on and tell the ones doing the picking on that that is not nice..and will stick up for girls. He has no problem speaking his mind on things he sees as being unjust as well.

On the other hand I find that I still bear some after effects of my schooling. I find that I am still afraid to speak my mind in groups, to raise my hand and give answers in settings where that happens, afraid to draw attention to myself. I did these things a few too many times, and was found to be foolish, and learned to just hold it in, to not speak my mind, because they might not want to hear it...or the timing might be wrong. I have gotten much better with it...but there still is a little voice in the back of my head..."no..don't, they might laugh, you might be a fool...just stay quiet and let it go"

I am glad my children are growing up without that. I am glad that they don't have the crippling self-consciousness I dealt with growing up.

I don't homeschool because of that specifically....but it is a wonderful benefit.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

First things first

The name of our homeschool is St. Philothea Academy. No, it isn't widely broadcasted, because we don't HAVE to have a name. Why is it St. Philothea? Simple...St. Philothea has a special place in our family. We were welcomed into the Orthodox Church on the feast day of St. Philothea almost 3 years ago. That day is one of the most important, special days for our family.

Who IS St. Philothea anyway?

Saint Philothei was born in Athens in 1522 to an illustrious family. Against her will, she was married to a man who proved to be most cruel. When he died three years later, the Saint took up the monastic life and established a convent, in which she became a true mother to her disciples. Many women enslaved and abused by the Moslem Turks also ran to her for refuge. Because of this, the Turkish rulers became enraged and came to her convent, dragged her by force out of the church, and beat her cruelly. After a few days, she reposed, giving thanks to God for all things. This came to pass in the year 1589. She was renowned for her almsgiving, and with Saints Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite is considered a patron of the city of Athens.