I have to remember to return constantly to prayer. If I start to actually believe that I am going this alone, or even simply going it with the support of humans minus Christ, I will be filled with despair before I even get started. I have to remember to return constantly to why I am here. Not just the generic, pat answers that I give people to placate them and normalize the process of entering this community. I must remember that I very much still long to be part of a monastic community like Thomas Merton’s.
I don’t feel very often like people in my denomination are striving as hard as I would like to in order to be closer to God. I think we are easily distracted by social issues or simply wanting to be social. We are a worldly, rational sort of denomination, and I don’t necessarily get to my happy place with God by being rational and worldly. When I do have some moments to myself to be alone with prayer, and I finally start to see my own thoughts evaporating in the face of a calmer, ineffable Presence, I don’t really feel like concerning myself with the world of the present–the technobusy world of high anxiety, or even the world of people writing and saying a lot of things in order to hopefully change social situations for the better.
The social issues component of my future is extremely important to me, but I can’t see myself being sustained by it alone–which is the whole reason for being here instead of in a generic MSW program.
The appeal of the Catholic Mass, especially as it takes place within a monastery (as best as I can picture it from YouTube videos and descriptions in books) is a pull that I shouldn’t ignore. The choice to be a Presbyterian minister instead of a very active and devout lay person in a Catholic church (like a deacon or something) was made out of a holistic consideration for both my future and my family’s future. I honestly didn’t think I had the courage or the willpower to see through all of us converting to Catholicism and me taking another crap office job to support the family while I pursued my passion within the Church.
I don’t think that I need to live in a monastery or even a quasi-monastic community to benefit from getting closer to God through repeated moments of contemplation and prayer, but I do think that it will be a struggle for me until I find the right group of like-minded people, or I become a pastor and I can sit around in church as much as I please.
I will likely spend the rest of my life longing for a simpler sort of life where I am not bombarded with so many temptations to spend my money on things I don’t need and hardly use. But also, I think the longing is partly one of just wanting to go home and be with the Lord. To walk and abide in a nice place that never sees sickness or disease, anger or poverty, lust or sloth or greed or pride, etc. A simple place where we walk about discussing the glory of God, the greatness of His love, and we go up often to the high temple to worship Him.