The Brief Rule of St. Romuald

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The Little Rule of Saint Romuald

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I know that it's going to be my favorite session and it's going to be the longest one.
And so we want to give ample time.
Today, as it turns out, is the shortest.
This morning's is the shortest.
And so I thought after we finish, after I finish the presentation,
we could open it up for discussion regarding anything and everything.
From last night and from this morning, if you want.
If not, if you want silence, that's fine too.
Also, little pieces of business.
For those of you who don't have a copy of this book,
now this book has been out a lot, two years already.
This is our bible.
This is our holy book.
And this was put up by our congregation.
This house and then a couple of Italians who added their two cents.
And it's about our spirituality.
And it's available in the bookstore.
But this is the book I wanted to mention even more.
Now this is my newest book, The Language of Silence,
The Changing Face of Monastic Solitude.
And if you're interested at all about the issues of silence or solitude,
I was contracted to do this book.
And it's fairly comprehensive.
And yet has a whole surprising contemporary section in the end
of people who, with a twist in their lives,
built on monastic solitude in ingenious ways.
Such as Dorothy Day, who was an unnamed denominee,
and who took it to the streets.
Other contemporary figures pointing out how solitude,
which was a constant in so many ways,
with little shades of difference during church history,
and I point all that out historically,
suddenly in the 20th century, the late 19th, 20th century,
burst and is continuing now in incredible ways
to change the face of the church, as well as monastic solitude.
And then there's Paulette, who became a professed hermitess
in the Diocese of San Jose.
And there's another one of the Arlites who, forget her name,
she's from Trinidad originally.
Do you know her name?
Catherine, I think.
She was also a professed Arlite.
Do you know her diocese?
Bay Area, something like that.
And just like two or three months ago,
she also became a professed hermitess.
In an active life outside of monasticism,
these are new things that are coming forward,
and very exciting for the church,
and certainly exciting for monastics to see this happening.
Other people outside of the institution embracing these realities.
Also, in today's, especially today's, this morning's presentation,
I am not exclusively, but using extensively,
part of one of Peter Damian's letters, Letter 28,
which is his famous The Lord Be With You letter,
and it's about aramidical solitude,
and in praise of the solitary life.
More about this later.
In English, this is what we have in print now.
The only version is in this very expensive Fathers of the Church series
out of the Catholic University.
However, just so you know,
I've been contracted by Paulist Press
to do a volume of Commodity Spirituality Essential Writings
for their Classics of Western Spirituality series.
And I haven't begun yet.
I've all set up in my cell this manifold of books and manuscripts
for me to translate these works out of the medieval Latin,
and then do some introductions afterwards.
I hope I have a couple of years to do that.
But, my point in bringing this up is that
in addition to The Life of the Five Brothers,
The Life of Rahul,
and First Time that the Constitutions of Buddha of Commodity will be in English,
this letter by Peter Damian, which is my favorite,
is also going to be in that volume.
And so, we'll have a nice paperback version,
our own copy of that.
And I just want to notch your memories a little bit,
that when the time comes, you'll have this.
And it's a really beautiful work.
And the last portion of that letter,
maybe five, six, seven pages,
is this praise of the Aramidro.
And you want to read that.
It's about the cell, how he sees the cell.
Let us pray.
O God, we thank you for the wonderful gift of your son, Jesus,
who came among us, lived among us,
and gave us the way
in a very honest, truthful, and simple fashion.
We thank you also for giving us figures
like Saint Romain, our founder,
who embraced, again, simplicity,
a vision of life for the simple-hearted and the pure-hearted,
a simple vision of purity of heart and sinceless purpose.
And we thank you also for gathering us together here
as sisters and brothers,
united in the name of your son, Jesus,
and united also under the inspiration of your Saint Romain.
We thank you for the opportunity to be here
and for the graces that will come in this encounter.
And we praise you.
O God, unto whom all hearts lie open,
unto whom desire itself is eloquent,
and from whom no secret thing is hidden,
purify the thoughts of our hearts
by the outpouring of your Spirit,
that we may love you with a perfect love of pure hearts,
and praise you as you deserve.
Thank you.
Sit in your cell as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisher watching for fish.
The path you must follow is in the Psalms.
Never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery
and in spite of your goodwill you cannot accomplish what you want,
then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart
and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up.
Hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God's presence
and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the Emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
with the little bird that tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what its mother gives it.
Last night we didn't get any further than sit.
Today we're going to look at sitting in the cell
and sitting in the cell as in paradise.
This is from the desert tradition.
An old papa once said to a young monk,
I believe that if you sit in your cell for the name of God
and if you continue to seek the knowledge of God,
you too will find yourself in the place of Abba Antony.
Do you catch how important that is, that statement?
Abba Antony, the father of monasticism,
the first great monastic in the Egyptian desert situation at least.
What he's talking about here is he's saying
if you apply yourself to that sitting in your cell,
in God's presence, if you really apply your mind and heart to it
and persevere, you can be right there at the beginning,
at the thought, at the origin,
it would be a primal monastic place.
You don't want to be anywhere else but there.
If you can pull this off, you're there, capital T.
Naturally, for monastics, the cell is something very real and very tangible.
It's where we live and move and have our being, as it were.
Certainly in the world of spirituality,
it is not all that difficult to make the transition
from a solitary, four-walled cell of solitude and prayer
to a private space for prayer and solitude and quiet contemplation.
And further, to the monastic inner cell of the heart,
which is available to everyone.
Our extended family have come over these oblates
and is working at just such transitions in their very lives,
in all walks of life, every day.
And it's much harder for the oblates outside
than it is for the monks here, at least ostensibly so.
Sometimes it's harder for a four-walled cell as well.
But there is the advantage of having a real tangible physical solitude,
which is not always available outside.
As you know, in the tensions of your own minds,
how to find that space, how to find that time,
and how to, especially in a city situation, find the quiet.
It's not always so. It's not always a given.
Regardless, though, whether we're talking about the spiritual cells
of our inner hearts or the four-walled kind in the hermitage here,
the cell will mean different things at different times.
If one looks at the history of monastic spirituality,
the writings of the monastic fathers and mothers throughout history,
one sees that the cell meant different things to different people
at different times over the centuries.
And I want to give you at least a few of these images
used by the monastics to talk about the spirituality of the cell.
One of the first images that comes up, and a number of these
are contained in that letter from the age of Peter David,
and then used by others, or used by others before Peter David.
But his long elegy of hermetic life uses a lot of these images,
not exclusively so.
The first one that I want to mention is that the cell is referred to as
the furnace of Babylon.
And of course here we're talking about the experience of the three young men
in the fiery furnace.
Those who are cast into the fire of the furnace alone
and find themselves in the presence of the very sun god.
And so they're in, instead of being in a destructive place,
a destructive fire, that solitary experience on their part
turned out to be a purifying one,
certainly a testing of the faith,
but also an experience of light and redemption and freedom in the end.
Another image used by monastic writers for the cell
is the pillar of cloud.
Of course this refers to the desert experience of the Jews
between the time of Egypt and the time of the Promised Land,
where the pillar of cloud was the presence,
symbolized the presence of God in the desert,
where Moses spoke with God.
And so the cell is seen here as a place of speaking to God
and listening to God, a place of communication,
certainly a place of security in that desert experience,
but also, and more importantly so, a place of guidance
and a place of accompaniment,
just as the cloud accompanied the people of Israel
through their desert experience.
So the cell is seen as a place of encounter,
a place for silence and communion.
And also a place of communication and prayer.
Mirroring, mirroring,
say that five times fast,
mirroring Jesus in his own experience of prayer,
as we have in the Gospels,
when they talk about Jesus being at prayer,
he's in solitude for the most part,
whether it's up on a mountain top
or it's running off and escaping on the lake alone,
even sometimes getting away from his disciples,
much less the crowds,
or at the very end in the garden.
And even though he asks them to be there,
he's alone in a very existential way during that time,
and quite lividly once they all fall asleep.
So, the cell is seen as also mirroring
the experience of Jesus at prayer,
in encounter, in silence, communion,
and communication with the Father.
There's also a delightful strain of
a feminine quality of the cell
coming through the monastic writings,
and that is the cell as the womb.
The cell, the monastic cell is the womb
that gives birth to us
over and over again and again repeatedly
throughout our lives.
And also, phonetically at least,
the tomb, not just the womb, but the tomb.
From which we repeatedly emerge to new life,
in resurrection life, over and over and over again.
Quite literally, in the Celtic monastic experience,
the monks and some nuns dug their tombs in their cells,
and they were buried in their cells.
So each day was a spiritual practice
for many of the Celtic monastics
to dig a shovel full of, you know,
a shovel full a day,
or a chalk layer of stone,
chew away, so that by the time they died,
they were ready to be just blown into their tomb
and entombed quite literally.
And also this puts into the whole monastic ethos
of keeping death before one's eyes.
Not even a morbid faction, you know, I mean,
it couldn't have been much more morbid than a lot.
I mean, one could chew the tomb out two days
and then sleep in it, and I suppose some of them
actually did that sort of thing.
But generally speaking, it wasn't for the morbidity factor.
It was for the very real,
and life was shorter in those days for the Celts.
Keeping the presence of God
and the ultimate union with that presence of God,
the loving presence of God,
not just before their eyes,
we could hardly miss it if they were using their cell,
but also before their very being
as solitaries.
Also, the cell
has been referred to many, many, many times
as the place or locus of stability
and faithfulness unto death.
One classic example, still today,
among the Carthusians in the charter houses,
the Carthusian takes a vow of stability,
like most monastics.
We here take a vow of stability,
as Benedict and Camomile did,
to the house, to the friar of the house.
Of course, a vow is really to God,
but I mean, juridically, it's to,
we vow ourselves to a house,
as all Benedictines do.
But certain other groups
vow themselves to the congregation.
It can be sent here and there,
wherever the stability is,
wherever the master says it is.
With the Carthusians, it's not just the house.
Each monk at night
vows stability to the cell,
to the cell, to the room.
That's the stability.
And so the spirituality of the cell
for Carthusians is extremely important.
And when you read the Carthusians,
is it getting cold in here?
No, it's not.
Let's turn it on just a little bit.
So, first of all,
if you read the spirituality of the Carthusians,
even in the stuff that's,
just the volumes that say,
published in the Classics of Western Spirituality
of Carthusian Spirituality,
one runs into this
accent on the cell
in a very vivid way.
Well, why wouldn't it be?
They even live it today.
They still live that.
Stability, a vow to stay in the cell.
They can do this dream.
Also, the cell is seen throughout history
as a place of vigils.
Well, this is natural or not.
I mean, the whole thing about vigils
is a monastic to begin with.
It was a monastic thing,
starting in the desert.
And the early church
around the desert
with groups of dedicated people
who weren't necessarily living in the desert,
but were influenced by them
while living together
a communal life in the cities in Egypt.
And that is the whole idea
of watching through the night.
Whether it's a rotation type thing
where everybody is doing it up at night
or where each person in each cell
is doing that.
It's keeping the vigil for the Lord.
Why keep the vigil?
Because the whole expectation,
the whole monastic ethos in the beginning
was a very, very advent in its nature.
Waiting for the Lord's coming.
And there's both aspects
of our liturgical advent present there.
Waiting certainly for the end.
Waiting for the coming of the Lord
at the end of time.
Anticipating it.
And trying to live as much
with purified hearts
to meet the Lord that way.
As well as to meet God
coming into my life
in any way God will tomorrow
or today.
Each day.
Over and over again.
All the various comings of God.
The incarnation of spirituality.
God in a very mind-centered
and heart-felt way every day.
So that kind of advent,
spirituality as well.
So, the place of vigilance.
Also, a place of temptation.
Now I can tell you,
each cell is a place of temptation.
And you can look at any of the babies.
Give us a big,
what, I guess,
seven deadly sins.
You just need eight.
You're not dealt the monastic one.
You just have eight of them.
The age of 18.
Any one of those sins
and flesh and all
in your own life,
you know, if you're a monastic
and it's there,
that's all.
You're talking about pride,
faith, glory, lust.
The whole thing.
They're all there in various ways.
They are in all of our lives
You don't escape temptation
by burrowing yourself into a hole
in what we call the cell.
It doesn't work.
thank God it doesn't,
or we'd all be very,
very unreal, I think.
Also, the cell,
historically, of course,
became the place for
personal asceticism.
Whether you're talking about
fasting or penitence
or just gathering
that eight, excuse me,
that eight-headed demon.
So, you know,
the desert situation
in the whole
you can put yourself back
into the monastic desert.
Thank you.
Once the monastics
moved into the cells,
that's where the battle began.
And we all knew the same reality.
It's just that in the early
desert situation,
in Egypt especially,
the desert was seen as
the place of complication
and the battle.
Because the desert was the place
where the devil lived
and the evil spirits lived.
They didn't live in the desert.
They didn't live in the city.
Once in a while,
they'd rush through.
But they ended up in deserts
where the old tombs were.
That's why the early
monks and nuns went out into the desert.
There were a number of reasons
why they went out into the desert.
The primary one was
to wait for God
and to battle the evil one
while they're waiting.
And that's why they were out there
because there were other reasons.
As I said, this is a classroom.
So I won't get into it.
I just lectured on the two reasons.
they're out there to battle.
The cell still is a place for battle.
Peter Daniel,
in a wonderful way,
in this particular,
in his letter 28,
the Lord Be With You,
writes about how
the cell is,
well, it is paradise.
And he writes about why it is,
the phrase of the cell,
the phrase of the solitary life.
But he says,
don't forget,
don't forget that it's also purgatory.
And there's no missing
the purgatorial aspects of the cell
if you're living the solitary life,
if you're living in that sort of life.
Because they're there.
They're there every day.
He's keying into this whole thing
about the battle.
Whether you're talking about
the eight-headed demon,
and you can actually visualize that,
or whether it takes flesh,
or it takes form
in something we'll call
psychological struggles,
or mental anguish,
or physiological needs
that come forth in fantasies,
the whole dream world.
It's all there.
It's all,
we're talking about all those realities
when we talk about struggle.
And Peter Daniel says that this is
for every real, for every solitary.
And then he says,
that not only is it a purgatory,
but sometimes it's a downright hell.
And that, too, is reality.
That sometimes
the utter aloneness
of a solitude
freely embraced
and consciously encountered
can be a hell,
can have its aspects of hell.
And that's where
embracing perseverance comes through.
One can, when the hell comes,
one can run
and give up everything.
And sometimes that happens.
But for those who persevere
with a vocation to solitude,
with a perseverance
of heart
in solitary prayer,
through the struggle,
through the anguish,
it doesn't remain a hell.
It blossoms into paradise.
And this happens periodically,
I think, realistically,
for most people
who are living in the moment.
Some kind of real
encounter of solitude,
of true aloneness.
Not just being alone,
but being alone with a purgatory,
and being alone in communion.
I got it.
You're divine,
but you're not alone at all.
But, from a human perspective,
that aloneness can sometimes
become a shattering loneliness.
And that's a different thing altogether,
and that can be a hell.
I think David points that out.
Also, this is the most unusual image
that I ran across.
William of Saint-Thierry,
in France,
who was a Benedictine abbot
who joined the Cistercian movement later on,
when they joined that new Cistercian movement,
right in the beginning,
became a biographer,
a biographer of St. Vernon,
a clerical,
and a good friend of his,
and became a Cistercian abbot,
called the cell, at one point,
the place of abortion.
The place of abortion.
Well, why is he called
the place of abortion?
Because he says
that anyone nasty
who doesn't belong there,
and who doesn't take his cell seriously,
who doesn't take solitude
and silent communion seriously,
will be aborted by the cell.
It's not going to work.
You can't pretend that sort of thing.
Not in any real encounter.
The cell is also
referred to as the obituary of the soul.
what's being alluded to there
is the power for the cell
to heal
and to draw
out of the heart,
and then to spread
balm on any wounds that come forth
in the struggle.
So, it's also a connection with the cell
as the place of the struggle.
But not a struggle.
It's healing struggle.
It's gone.
Oh, my goodness.
No, it is. It will just continue to...
Okay, I'll wait.
I couldn't talk.
Oh, and this is, I find this,
this is an anonymous saying
from the Jesuit.
It fits into this,
the cell as an obituary.
I find this stuff in the Bible.
It sounds like a laxative
Sit in your cell,
and God will give you relief.
You know, the more I thought about it,
I thought,
You know?
It's true.
We're all just full of things.
You know, just full of
And, and, and,
God does that for us
in the cell, you know?
In the cell of the heart,
in the healing action
of real silence
and real solitude
that's embraced.
That's exactly what God did.
That's the side of it
that's refreshing.
Thank God
that we get rid of you
and can get rid of the cell.
You know, in our lives
we need to be
gotten rid of.
Also, the cell is referred to
as the workshop.
So what does that mean?
It means it's a place where,
and this is also Pipita David,
it's a place where
with your little hammers
and your chisels
and you can work out
all the little cakes and dents
in your own spiritual life.
And if you don't do it,
the cell will do it for you
or with you.
And if you're,
if you take it seriously,
if you take living yourself seriously
so that you become refined.
It sort of keys into the
Prince of Babylon image.
A place where one is purified,
where one is refined,
where one is refurbished
and made smooth again.
or not,
the cell is also referred to
as sacred ground.
You find this all over the place.
And, you know,
I say naturally because
the cell for a monastic
is seen as
that place of
God's image.
So, God really is present
in this cell.
And because God is present
in the cell,
it is a sacred space.
It is a sacred place
in the most
primeval religious consciousness
That's exactly what we're talking about.
Because space and place
becomes sacred
in any religious consciousness
because God is present there.
Because the divine
is manifest in there somehow.
And so,
one is not at all surprised,
at least the monastics aren't,
that we are called upon
again and again
in the 20th and now 21st centuries
to be the place where
any real dialogue takes place.
If they want ecumenical dialogue
to take place
outside of the
such as at the Vatican,
where they're assigning the documents.
Much of the real nitty-gritty
work of inter-religious dialogue
takes place among nuns and monks.
Because they consider
any space sacred.
And when monastics get together,
and I know this from
personal experience
with the Tibetan monks
back in North Dakota
when they came over,
when monks and nuns get together,
it's like old homework.
I don't care what your religion is,
what your country of origin is,
when monks and nuns get together,
there's common ground.
You don't have to explain
that the jokes are the same,
lots of laughing,
and the openness is immediately there.
I think because of this.
In all traditions,
we have this.
This space is sacred.
And every space is sacred
because God is there.
We apprehend God,
God's presence,
as sacred everywhere.
And lastly,
the other image
I found that comes through
a number of times,
and is used by a number of artists
is that the cell is
Mount Tabor.
That the monk or nun,
or indeed, by extension,
any person who takes
solitude seriously,
is going to be living
at some point
in the Taboric Light.
And that's what it's all about.
There is one monastic feast
in the evangelical calendar
every year,
that comes to the fore,
and we all say,
why don't we all have
all professions on this day?
Because it's so perfect.
It's the Transfiguration.
What feast in the calendar
speaks more to what monasticism
is about,
and I write about this in my book,
than the Transfiguration itself.
That we are trying
as hard as we can,
in any way we can,
to live together
in that Taboric Light.
Whether it's in the cell,
or in the community arena,
that's what it's all about.
Whether it's out in the city,
the light is the same,
and the aim is the same.
It consonants with
the socrality of place
and the encounter
with presence.
so within the monastic ethos,
sitting in the cell
is seen as the most ordinary
of things.
Just as ordinary
as temptation,
and birth,
and death.
And many contemporary monastic writers
of spirituality today
point out the absolute necessity
to maintain psychological
and spiritual equilibrium
in monasticism
by having a cell.
For instance,
this was a big change
for the Sturgians,
the Trappists,
in the renewal
of Vatican Council II.
And that is,
the whole Sturgian thing
has been traditionally,
you live in a dormitory.
You all work together,
you all eat together,
you all pray together,
you all sleep together.
And there is no privacy.
Much less of an issue.
Since Vatican Council II,
and I dare say
probably the majority now
of Sturgian houses,
they've moved to cells.
So they've ended the dormitories,
or they took dormitories
and put walls there.
Because it's psychologically healthy
to have some space.
And for monastics,
imagine having to fight for a cell.
That was my mind,
but I realize historically,
I know the whole Sturgian history
and whatnot,
I understand why they were there,
and the reasoning.
I understand it.
I'm not surprised at all,
I wasn't surprised,
when the Sturgians
had so many defections
with the Council.
They just went out in droves.
And they're suffering now,
especially in this country.
You go to Gethsemane now,
if you had gone to Gethsemane before,
you go to Gethsemane now,
and you see this little group
of old men,
excellent little,
once knowing that they would make foundations
by sending up as many as 90 monks at a time
to make a new foundation.
You know, it's just incredible,
but it's not incredible
if one takes this into account.
And they've seen,
and most of the writing
on the psychological
and even physical
and spiritual
positive implications of the cell.
You find Sturgian writers
doing this work,
because it's a new thing for them,
and they're excited by it,
and they're very grateful
for getting the cell.
I only mention that
because of the fact that
true solitude,
and of course it has to be true
in any situation,
we don't mean Sturgian
from all of these,
or out in the city,
any situation.
True solitude
a healthy balance,
let's put it that way.
Maintains a balance.
And in your own lives,
you know that you need time alone.
You need quiet time,
you need down time.
Just to exist in this day and age
as a spiritual person,
everybody needs that,
in one fashion or another.
Well, that's what I'm getting at.
And for monastics,
the cell
affords that,
or accords that.
Not necessarily,
it's not a given,
but at least it gives you
the opportunity
to have that.
Once true solitude,
and by that I mean
just not being alone all the time,
but true solitude,
which is also all these things
that we talked about
in all these images.
So not just the theological fact
of being alone,
but of being alone
in a very special way,
with intentionality.
You're talking about
being able to move
to a new behavior,
be firmer,
all of that.
The rest,
once you have that,
once you have a true
of some sort,
then the rest of the
whole essential thing
falls into place.
And each person's life
will enflesh that
in a different way.
We all find our own path,
regarding asceticism.
Often with the help
of a spiritual director,
a spiritual guide,
or a superior,
but not necessarily so.
Thomas Merton,
that 20th century
apostle of solitude,
as I call him,
wrote that
sitting in the cell
means learning
the hollowness
of one's own evolution.
Oh, he fought for a cell.
He fought his whole life
to get a cell,
and had what,
five years before he died,
five years in the cell.
But boy, during that time,
and prior to it,
fighting the battle,
he wrote some beautiful things
about how wonderful
a cell would be,
and how important
a cell is.
He says sitting in a cell
is a matter of coming to grips
with one's own hollowness.
With all the false self,
you know how he writes
about the true self,
false self,
all those pretensions
of the false self,
they're faced in the cell.
Well, solitude faces
all the different faces.
Oh, I'm using face too much.
One has to face
all the various levels
of falsity
in one's life,
and a cell helps you
to do that.
If you sit there all the time.
Even if those illusions
that you have,
and this is a telling thing
for him to say,
were the first things
that brought change
to the gnostic cell
in the first place.
But even if you,
all your illusions
and your hollowness,
and you realize,
oh my God,
when all this is gone,
what's left?
Why did I come here?
If you persevere in that,
in a real solitude,
that is healing.
It's a whole new reality.
And in various ways,
we all need that
within our own lives,
in our own spiritual journeys.
Part two.
Sitting in the cell
as in paradise.
Regardless of the fact
that Romuald's biographer,
that is, Peter Damian,
is keen on pointing out
that the cell can also
be a purgatory,
and at times,
even a hell.
St. Romuald,
in his little rule,
wants us to experience
sitting there
as though sitting
in paradise.
William of Sant'Erie,
a fellow who was
the one who came up
with the image
of the place of abortion,
that the cell can be
an abortive factor,
wrote about
first meeting
Burgundy Clairvaux
when he was living
quite uncharacteristically so
for an early
Cistercian woman
in a little shack
by himself
near Clairvaux,
outside the common dormitory.
His father just couldn't
live that,
even though he was
they had to put him
in a little shack
to keep his equilibrium,
interestingly enough.
And later on,
he would fight against
the solitaries and whatnot
because he was so enthused
about the Cistercian ethos
and whatnot.
But he couldn't live
in the cell
in the beginning.
William later extrapolated.
He wrote when he first met him,
I found him in this freedom.
He was in his little shack.
I found him in this freedom
as happy as a saint
in paradise.
He probably should have met him
before he got his little shack
and it might have seemed
even more of a paradise
for both William and Anne
to put in Burgundy.
And then William later
in his spiritual writings
how the Latin word
cegna, that is cell,
comes from cegna,
the Latin word for heaven.
Well, this is not right.
He's totally wrong
linguistically, you know.
William, very erudite scholar
and whatnot,
made a huge blunder here
and went on
with all the spirituality
and everything.
But he was totally wrong
in the actual linguistic
source of cegna.
But spiritually,
he was right.
You know, spiritually
he's in consonance
with Ronald
and the desert tradition
when they say,
sit there as if you were
in heaven.
Why shouldn't it be heaven
for you?
Well, it's very consonant
with the monastic journey.
The point is
that the cell of solitude
is a sacred place.
Because God is present there.
And Ronald's followers
are to live in God's presence,
indeed are to live
in God's presence
as much as possible,
as they were already
fully with God,
every day,
in every way.
In paradise.
What Wirton would later
term a provisional paradise,
that the cell is
a provisional paradise.
Sort of a paradise
on the way to paradise.
A little paradise,
a small kingdom.
He wrote that
in the monastic journey.
But it's a provisional paradise
because the solitary
and love of God
is almost there.
It's almost in paradise,
capital P.
Later in his book,
The Contemplation
in the World of Action,
he would connect solitude
to a relationship
of lady wisdom,
divine wisdom.
This is beautiful.
This then, he writes,
is the true secret of the self.
A paradise in which
she or he who is called
meets in silence
awareness and peace.
The consoling and healing
presence of that wisdom
whose beauty is a reflection
of the eternal right
and the spotless mirror
of the doings of God,
the image of God's excellence.
We'll pull that section
to direct quote
from the book of Winston.
But isn't that beautiful?
Isn't this a beautiful,
succinct philosophy
of sovereignty?
This then is the true secret
of the self.
A paradise in which
she or he who is called
meets in silence
awareness and peace.
The consoling and healing wisdom,
presence of that wisdom,
whose beauty is a reflection
of the eternal right
and the spotless mirror
of the doings of God,
the image of God's excellence.
Just a brief aside then.
Zen Buddhist masters
will say much the same thing
as St. Robert.
When they instruct others
to sit always
as if they were sitting
on the buddhi spot,
B-O-D-H-I, the buddhi spot,
that is that archetypical place
where Gautama Buddha
is believed to have gained,
sitting, to have been sitting
and gained his enlightenment,
universal enlightenment.
And so what buddhi spot means
is the most sacred of spots.
The smack dab in the middle
of the sacred.
That's what that buddhi spot means.
Let me go back to the first thing
I read today.
An old Mapa once said to Gautama,
I believe that if you sit in your cell
for the name of God
and if you continue to seek
the knowledge of God,
you too will find yourself
in the place of Abba.
One Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master,
forgive my probable mispronunciation,
Nguyen Cong Trung,
wrote this poem about
sitting on the buddhi spot.
Four lines, very simple.
Of course.
On the same spot I sit today,
others came in ages past and sit.
One thousand years,
still others will come.
Who is the singer?
Who the listener?
I made one mistake.
On the same spot I sit today,
others came in ages past to sit.
One thousand years,
still others will come.
Who is the singer?
And who the listener?
I just want to point out to you
the fortuitous connections
of Camaldolese spirituality
and our own Camaldolese history
since we are a millennium old,
since we are a thousand years old.
Let me read the poem once more,
hearing it as if you were
a Camaldolese monk or nun or an avatar
sitting in your cell of meditation.
On the same spot I sit today,
others came in ages past to sit.
One thousand years,
still others will come.
Who is the singer?
Who is the listener?
Thank you.
Now we'll open it up.
If you have anything about last night's session
or today's session,
anything at all that you want to discuss,
we can do that now.
How are we on time?
It wasn't the shortest one, I think,
because I started babbling.
So, anybody has anything?
Pardon my tune.
And if you could speak loudly
as the mic's on.
Yes, good.
If you could speak loudly now.
When you first mentioned Thomas Merton
and you gave a quote
and you started out by saying
how you referred to Merton
as the 20th century apostle of psalmology,
and then you went on and you read a quote
and I'm curious, was that from which book?
The one about the Anglican?
No, it was the very first time
that you brought up Merton.
And you introduced Merton,
you said, Thomas Merton,
the 20th century apostle of psalmology,
and then you said a few words
and then you went and you read a quote of his
where you learned the Holland-Helsinki equation.
Oh, yeah.
I don't have a quote here.
I was just paraphrasing.
Well, it's going to be either
either from Monastic Journey
or Contemplation of Obed.
I'll get back to you on that.
Yeah, I wasn't giving an exact quote there.
But that's what I'm saying.
I tend to think it was Monastic Journey
because that's where he talks about
provisional paradigms and stuff.
Okay, thank you.
That one quote you gave that you said
was from Wisdom?
Yeah, you want the Wisdom quote?
Like all of Wisdom or parts of Wisdom?
Wisdom 7 and 26.
Oh, okay.
Chapter 7, verse 26.
Okay, thank you.
Do you believe that people living in the city
and not just ordinary people
that are on a spiritual quest
can find a place in their home
where they are in the presence
or striving for it
and that this can be their spiritual self
within their own home?
Yeah, I would think most people would be able to.
Most serious spiritual seekers
would feel the need for that
or feel its lack if they couldn't work it out somehow.
They would always feel,
I need at least a closet.
I need somewhere where I can...
Some people use closets.
But then that little spot there
becomes the sacred spot in the home.
I think a lot of it depends on the personality type
of each person.
But I would think a lot of people
would physically want a certain spot.
Maybe people can talk about this spot.
I don't want to force anyone to do that.
When I was living outside of community
for a period of three years in New York,
in my apartment,
I had to have that spot.
When I was out of town,
I had to get cushioned.
That was the sacred spot.
Only my cat and I went there.
My spot sort of changed for me
when my children were small
and could be bopping in and out of places all the time.
I did have an actual closet.
And that was from having read the book Prosthenia.
And then now...
Now it's almost kind of like
I feel like the whole house is.
But I do have a place where I sit
where I also meet with directees and stuff.
But it's kind of like that's my spot.
I have a sense of that
that I kind of just rest into that spot.
Sometimes a spot can be just a bench outside too.
Like Paula Houston in her book talks about
a bench that she had set up with a view.
That can be enough too.
And then when you go into that spot,
do you actually feel a difference
than in other parts of your home?
Do you feel that the stress is built?
At one time, definitely.
At one time, definitely.
Especially when I had the closet.
I really felt the difference of that space.
But it's kind of what you were...
Father Peter Damien was mentioning earlier
that it begins to kind of move out
so that it kind of goes with you.
You carry it within yourself.
But it's also good to have a spot.
Nonetheless, I think, from my own experience,
that it's just kind of a little reminder to me.
In our cells, most monks, I think,
have a chapel area.
Or they use that as a chapel type of sacred place,
sacred spa.
But I personally, at this point,
even though I have my beautiful little prayer spot,
find often on my hands and knees
working out in my gardens
where I plug in that way that I used to
by sitting on my zabata,
you know, my prayer cushion.
And so it differs for...
I think we go through different periods.
Here's a monk, a commodity hermit,
getting out of his cell into his garden
to weed stuff in order to
plug into what he used to.
I think it's just different.
This is what I'm trying to get at,
is that the ordinary person
who doesn't, you know, come,
that they can experience this,
whether in a garden or
eventually carry it with them
so they feel the presence or try to connect
when they look at a tree or whatever.
My husband's cell is really our holy art.
I can see him when he's out there
and sometimes I can, you know,
if God is good, I catch him
being in that kind of space
and having that sense of the presence of God
just out there digging around.
I've actually, over time,
found that I'm a set of altars,
many altars in different places
in my environment
so that wherever I am,
I have a place to enlighten me
because not being an altar,
I'm living in a world
in which I'm being reacted to,
which actually leads to the question I have.
But, and so, what I have found,
because I've worked with people
in my home in the retreat,
when they enter,
when they enter into different areas,
it will remind them
to leave the world outside.
We have so many here who work
in environmental art.
That's for sacred space.
Could you just say why you are drawn to do that?
Because I think it's going to reveal something.
Why do you feel drawn to make space like this?
Well, as you were sharing,
a word you mentioned today
that I wrote down,
that I like, with intentionality,
I think if we're present
to wherever we are,
whatever we're doing,
and have that intentionality,
it doesn't take a whole lot
to make any place a sacred space.
And whether I'm creating it for myself
or for a group,
or I'm in the garden
I think that's what makes the space sacred,
is that intentionality.
And a little bit of ritual here and there,
but why do I do it?
Because it feeds my soul.
Because I must do this.
For me, that's what feeds me.
And that's why you make your altars, right?
You might have a little twist to it.
I don't know how to ask the question
because it's sort of multi-dimensional,
but not being an omelette.
I have another personality,
so I can probably tell you.
The work that I do
is mentoring people
and trying to help them bridge
and transform themselves
from reacting in the outside world
to finding their inner peace
from which to make better decisions
and live a good life
in a bigger perspective.
In the world in which
most people are dealing,
I find that there's very little understanding
of any sort of spirituality.
With what we're drawn to,
these deep messages,
these wonderful inspired thoughts,
do you have any guidance
to help us in the non-religious world
try and bring this sort of deepening
for people who are lost?
Because I find so many people
don't have a point of reference at all.
And so I've been using solitude
and silence and simplicity
as the basis on which
to help people outside this liquorism
speaks so much to me.
Well, I would say right off,
immediately, and others can add to this.
I would say,
the more you actually live that,
people will be drawn to it.
Even if it's to fight it,
in an initially adversarial position,
I would think people are drawn to it nevertheless.
If it's real for you,
if solitude is true solitude,
and there's an inner stillness in your life,
and a peace,
it spreads.
It affects people.
I laughed because I had one client
who I spent a week and a month with,
and I know his environment,
said to me that he almost demanded
that I get a cell phone
so he could be in touch with me.
And I said,
that's the reason why I don't have one.
And I actually brought in every computer
until two years ago for that reason.
My computer was my best friend
and my worst enemy too.
I would say a word of real encouragement
to both you and to Janet,
and a word of thanks
because of creating that kind of environment,
it has a powerful impact on people.
I like to watch Janet when she creates an environment
because it's a prayer for me to observe that.
But also, I've seen what happens.
Janet has set up some environments for me
for retreat work.
And I see what happens.
Instant people enter the room.
I just did a parish retreat
and I wanted there to be a lot of silence and reflection.
And without the environment that she created,
it would have been much more difficult to achieve.
Because even though these people were
on a spiritual journey and aware of it,
silence was not always figuring into the process.
And somehow, by the grace of God,
through all that was provided,
and by you providing the kind of environment
that you provide for people,
they just entered in.
They entered in and settled in
and were blessed.
I want to know how you feel about this.
This might sound a little bit plain,
but do you know how Carl Jung said
that the symbols,
that whether we even consciously
or are aware of them,
or not, unconsciously,
when we look at the cross,
it will have an impact on us.
When we went to her house,
we had this beautiful cowboy and Indian painting
that they were fighting each other
and it was at the end of the hall
before we went into our bedroom.
And I was going through
a terrible illness.
And I kept looking at that
and I said,
we're going to replace this
with some angels.
And because
you might not be thinking about it,
but it impresses you,
the fighting.
So if you put up the angels,
whether you even are aware of it or not,
it will impress you.
How do you feel about that?
Oh yeah, I think,
close right into a gentleman saying,
what is your position?
What Ray is asking for you to.
It differs from person to person.
I probably wouldn't do angels,
but I might have an empty space
or a candle,
hanging candle,
or something like that.
But it differs from person to person
what plunks you in that way,
Doesn't make it alarming.
But it's going to do it.
Do it.
Even on a conscious or unconscious
it will have an impact.
An example,
a lot of people in a space
that they want to make quiet
will do one of these stem circles.
The eternal circle.
Paintbrush or something.
That plugs into,
into a symbol of wholeness.
Also there's a level of peace
and tranquility there,
of completion,
and ongoing cycles.
Jung was great for pointing out
that all of these levels
can be taught by God.
I'm not a Jungian expert,
but I've studied them.
I've called them Satan
for a while.
Well, I've brought the spiritual
aspects into every room
of my home,
even the bathroom.
And so I don't have one particular spot,
but I feel my entire home
is like my cell.
And my husband,
his cell is his office.
He's a monastic and doesn't know it.
I've even brought
the spiritual aspect into his office
here and there.
One day I put up just this tiny,
the little wooden crosses that Brother Anthony makes
and gives free,
and I just put it on the wall of his office.
And I heard him in there one day,
he said,
Lynn, Lynn, it's a miracle.
I said, what?
And I come running in, he said,
look, a cross has appeared on my wall.
I said, oh, a true miracle.
And we both laughed.
Well, I was just thinking
of something you had said earlier
about a lot of the people are secular,
perhaps not
religious path
or maybe spiritual path
that they know they're on,
but they want to help their life
to become less cluttered
or less frantic, frenetic.
And I have found
Eckhart Tolle's work
On the Power of Now
to be really a cross
of any person's
way of expressing
spiritual life.
Because he does not
use one particular
genre or religious
philosophy, although he
quotes the Bible, he quotes
a number of different things.
I think, though, that his philosophy
and presence
to the now
has really, at least for myself,
been very, very helpful
in times of my
personal anxiety
or struggle.
So, by
listening to him or by reading
just sometimes a little tiny bit,
I'll open the words of Eckhart
and he wrote The Power of Now.
Most people, I think, are familiar
with it, but I just
have found that to be very powerful
in working with people.
again, you bring
yourself and your
own presence
and your own ability
to listen.
One of the
most interesting pieces to me when I
come up here is that
sense of presence of
people. Often we don't
have time to discuss things
with the monks, but there's that presence
and the presence in the
Lord that
is very quieting
and healing and
maybe you didn't even have a
word with anyone, but you
had that sense of being
filled in a
very deep way.
I find
that when I
carry this cell with me
and it comes and hits me
in certain epiphanies. It could be a
moment of taking Eucharist.
It could be coming around the corner and seeing
a sunset or reading
something. All of a sudden, there I am, totally
alone with God, no matter
what's going on around me.
And also that
we are standing on holy ground,
no matter where we are.
You got it.
Well, can't you interpret
cell as your body,
the vessel that you walk in?
Absolutely. I take it as
we're the cell, so
wherever you're at,
you just ground.
Can you say it's like
constantly dwelling in the cave of the heart?
Also with Eckhart Tolle,
he mentions that even in the midst
of noise in the city,
there's always silence.
Silence is in between the noise.
Can you write a little rule?
We could do mixtures between them.
Eckhart Tolle.
Someone told a
lovely story where a Native American
man was taking her through the city
of, I think it was Albuquerque,
and there was all the street
car noises and everything going on,
and he said to her,
listen, listen, do you hear that?
She said, hear what?
Because there was just so much noise and confusion.
He said, listen, can't you hear those little crickets
over there in that tree?
He had really tuned himself up.
As they crossed the street, sure enough,
there's one of those trees and a big planter,
and there's little crickets chirping away in there,
and he heard that because he was in that place
in itself.
If you like, we can also have
a period of discussion after the
afternoon session.
Let's see if you
really want to talk.
A couple of people are late.
I can get started. Just so you know,
tomorrow's session
will be at 9 o'clock in Central
to give us more time.
It's going to go longer
Thank you.