The template of monastic life helps us to define and order our lives here in Cor Unum, to discover ways to turn all of life into a work of devotional art. We will never have what cloistered men and women have, and they will never have what we have, but all of us can have all of God we want! It is the pursuit and the love of God that makes us monastic!
Where does rest fit in? Our considerations have always had to do with what goes on during our waking hours. Traditional Houses of monasticism know the importance of proper food and proper rest. In some abbeys there isn’t a great deal of either, but enough is as good as a feast!
As to sleep, some monastics must learn to conduct very difficult spiritual work with very little shut-eye! Carthusian monks in some Houses pray at 11:30 at night in their cells, privately, and are up at fifteen minutes past midnight to pray for two to three hours in chapel. They also go to bed at 7:30, or no later than 8:00 p.m.! They rise again at 6:30 and in chapel by 7:00. It works out to about seven hours of sleep, even though it is interrupted each night. The older monks are there alongside the younger brothers, until serious infirmity keeps them away, and many of them are stronger than their younger counterparts. They tell us that the “worst” for them, is to be unable to answer the call of the bells and to pray and sing their Divine Office.
Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if the worst for us would be to miss our appointments with God! Wow! It isn’t that the baby was fretful and we couldn’t get in our Bible reading or that our husbands wanted us to join them out early for coffee – no, it isn’t that at all! The worst for us is when we could spend time with our Beloved Lord and God, when we know He’s waiting for us, and we don’t want to show up. Sometimes, we are being lazy, sometimes distracted, and sometimes we are just TIRED! (There is a fourth category, an all-important category . . . we will get to that, and it will set us free!)
For the next day or two, we are considering the benefits of rest, of both sleep and quiet, undisturbed moments. Rest for our souls comes through the rigors of devotion and of putting the Word of God into practice. Without proper physical rest, we usually make little headway.
Today’s Cor Unum assignment is as simple as taking a bit of forethought, Check tonight to see how long it takes you to get to bed. From start to finish, from the first step in the direction of sleep to putting aside your bed book and turning out the lamp, how long does it take you to get ready for sleep? Five minutes? Twenty? For married women, you are headed for a tryst with your husbands, even if it’s just a sweet goodnight kiss and hand-holding in the dark! Be there with him, and with the Lord. Check for the next few nights and see; observe what gets in the way, what gets left undone, what is more disruptive than relaxing. Remember: you are the Abbess of your own cloister, and it is by patient endurance that you take possession of your own soul! Jesus said that’s something we are supposed to do, and that’s why we are here together in this monastery of the heart!
photo from the Abbey archives