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Into the Deserts of London

December 23, 2007
mr-sister.JPGWhat better way to get out of a snowstorm in Toronto than to go into the “deserts” of London, Ontario!!!That's what I did from Saturday, December 15th, to Monday December 17th. With only a backpack of overnight clothes and my retreat journal, I went on a two hour bus ride to the Monastery of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood.
I’ve only been there one other time, almost a year ago, when I stayed for a personal eight-day silent retreat directed by a priest. As they say, “when a shoe fits, wear it!” – this “shoe” is very snug on me, and so I see myself coming to this place at least once a year for long weekends. I love this place, the Sisters are wonderful, and when people ask me what exciting things I do here, I can only say – I sit on my bed, read, pray, walk, sit in the living room, walk, let God act in my heart, read, go to bed. Nothing terribly exciting on the outside, but terribly exciting on the inside! Just soaking in the silence, the peace, allowing myself to be there completely for my Creator and my God – it’s just an indescribable experience. And something I always look forward to, because I’m never quite sure what God has in mind for us to talk about!!!
There wasn’t much time to plan this recent visit. This was the only weekend free for me before the end of December. But a priest wasn’t available to direct my weekend. At least, I thought there wasn’t.
mr-chapel.JPGOn my first night, the Superior of the Monastery gives me a copy of one of their editions of Daybreaks, which is a booklet of daily reflections. The reflections for this booklet are all from Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. I can safely say that Fr. Rolheiser ended up directing my weekend retreat through Daybreaks.
I thought so much about the meaning of human longing. Of waiting. And more waiting. Of loneliness. It’s hard to wait – for the right moment to do things, for the right person to come into your life, for the right moment for God to be able to reveal his love for me. During this particular weekend, I learned about the truth about why I am waiting. And of how God is the one waiting for me. To mature, to open up to him, to accept the “ordinariness” of how love is manifested.
Here are some excerpts from Daybreaks that helped me…
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit priest and scientist, noticed that sometimes when you put two chemicals into a test tube they do not automatically unite. They only unite at a higher temperature. They must first be heated to bring about unity. There’s an entire anthropology and psychology of love in that image. In order to love we must first be brought to a higher psychic temperature. What brings us there? Sizzling in tension: not resolving the tensions of our lives prematurely; not sleeping with the bride before the wedding….
In his controversial book, The Closing of the American Mind, American educator Allan Bloom suggests that lack of chastity is the leading cause of unhappiness among young people. His thesis runs something like this: “I look at the students I teach, young 20-year-olds, and I see most everything, except happiness. Young people have been everywhere and experienced everything. But they have never had anything sublime in their lives because sublimity depends upon waiting and waiting depends upon chastity. Whatever else they may have had in life, they have never had these: sublimity, waiting, and chastity….. Waiting and chastity, these are not the virtues of our time. Advent is the season that celebrates these virtues, both by pointing desire towards its adequate object and by teaching us to wait.
I was reading a book recently called Raising Kids in the Media Age. The author speaks of how Marshall McLuhan, one of the greatest philosophers on communications, said that for every technological advancement, we pay a price. For example, mass producing Bibles has made the Bible more accessible to everyone. BUT at the expense of individualized art, since the early monks wrote and designed each Bible by hand. Even earlier than this, once we started being able to write words on paper and pass down history this way, we let go of oral tradition – who memorizes epic poems nowadays? Heck, who can remember a shopping list without the list?? The question we need to ask every time we “make progress”, is, “Is it worth the sacrifice?” If it is, go for it! If it isn’t, then we’ve got to think things through.
It’s true that we don’t value waiting as a society. Waiting for the right time, for the right person, for customer service, for an e-mail reply, for a TV program…. What a great value Advent gives us, to really think about what it means to wait for Christ. Which makes his coming at Christmas an even greater opportunity to enjoy his presence among us.