A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Are We All That Different From Contemplatives?

Last week when I was at my retreat with an active/contemplative community of sisters, they required that we get up at 4 AM in order to attend morning prayer. “4 AM!” I thought. “How unreasonable!”

Later that week after my retreat had ended, a company called me up asking me to come to the city for an office visit. As they required my presence at the office at 8 AM in the morning, I needed to catch a bus that left campus at 4 AM. In this instance, I immediately obeyed their request without any question.

After I thought about this discrepancy, I said to myself “how bad we humans are at figuring out our priorities!” How hypocritical we are! I got to thinking even more….here we label our contemplative brothers and sisters as strange and reactionary- we regard their lifestyles as something very alien to us. But if we analyzed the situation a bit more, we’d realize how much we have in common with contemplatives….

We claim that contemplatives constrict themselves by scheduling their lives according to the ringing of prayer bells.

But are we any different? Indeed, we live our lives by bells- alarms, car horns, work bells, school bells, telephone rings. We answer to these bells each day of our lives, far more frequently than the contemplatives answer to their church bells.

We love to claim that contemplatives repress their “individuality” by donning identical habits.

But look at us! We stuff ourselves into a monochromatic sea of blue and black suits for at least five days out of the week. And when we aren’t forcing ourselves into monochromatic conformity, how often do we immediately obey the call of the media and magazines to wear the latest “styles?” Indeed, we wear habits too. The only difference is that our habits have a $300 price tag.

We love to say that contemplatives are hiding from the world, enslaving themselves inside of a cloister. But what cloisters we have! For 90% of our time, we shut ourselves up in dull gray offices and cubicles, adoring the unblessed sacrament of prosperity.

And what about the silence of contemplative life?! Have we ever took time to think that it’s not about the silence of our mouths but of the silence of our hearts? If we listened to our own words, I think that we’d realize that most of the things that our mouths say need not be said at all….but yet we refrain from speaking with our hearts for fear of being “offensive,” too “emotional,” or saying something that could be a “Career Limiting Move.”

They “blindly” obey God and their Abbot/Abbess, but do we see any clearer? When was the last time we openly questioned our boss?

Thus, if we look at our lives and theirs, we will realize that we too answer to bells, wear habits, enclose ourselves within walls, remain silent, and obey our “superiors.” So what is the main difference between us and them?

It is said that contemplatives are the most “joyful people in the world,” so why are we so miserable? Why must we look to the next promotion, the next house, the next product, the next commodity as the ultimate source of our happiness?

Let’s look even deeper, then.

They allow the bells to draw them away from their work and enter into a deeper union with God. We let our bells draw us out of whatever we are doing to fill in our time to a hurried life of what we call “productivity.” But does God look at balance sheets? Does God hear the banter that goes on in the boardrooms, or does He really care? Will God be persuaded to buy the product in the latest advertisement?

They wear their habits as an expression of themselves- as an expression of saying that they don’t need sartorial finery in order to be happy. But us? I need not go on.

They put themselves up in cloisters because they love the world so much that they can’t hold it tight enough. But even in the most crowded offices, we are world apart from our brethren due to the walls of competition and pride that we have erected.

And then the boss walks around the corner. Their boss is the Lord Almighty. Perhaps their happiness lies in the fact that they know that their boss isn’t committing fraud behind their backs, their boss will never give them bad direction, and their boss has no “favorites.” They know that their boss has a reason to be in the position where He is, and it’s not so that he can drive the latest BMW or live in the “elite” section of town. It’s because He wants us to live in the most elite place of all- with Him.


Blogger Joseph said...

Awesome reflection. I've never really looked at the similarities between the contemplative life and the lives that most business people lead. Keep up the great posts!

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

You make an extraordinary point... how true

5:26 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

That is so true. I'm glad that I discovered your blog. May God bless you always! Your blog also serves as an inspiration to others. May they also find God.. may they take the time to listen and hear His voice..


5:54 AM  

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