Spiritual Teaching of the Brief Rule of Saint Romuald

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Part of "Spiritual Teaching of the Brief Rule of Saint Romuald"

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Prayer. Most loving God, we thank you for the gift of life, the gift of this day, the gift of this very moment. Lord, God, teach us how to sit in the cell of the heart as in paradise, as a chick waiting empty for only what its mother feeds it. Teach us how to sit as you sit, Father, Son, Spirit. Loving gaze returning loving gaze in that circle of familiarity and intimacy, that circle


of peace and silence and stillness, yet that open circle of creative love, that open circle that continues to reach out beyond itself and to embrace. Teach us to sit as you sit, and in our sitting, in our stillness, in our very being, to find paradise, to find the fulfillment of all we long for and hunger for. Not only for ourselves, Lord, but for all people, for all your creatures, for the whole universe. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning,


is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Okay, so we spent the introduction last night and the very first point which brought us in touch with the last point, and we talked about the relationship between one and seven, the beginning of the rule and the end of the rule. The beginning is our end, and the end is our beginning. And I'll say a little bit more on Sunday about number seven again, the last point. I'll flesh that out a little bit more. This morning what I'd like us to do is to get through two and three. So that would be the plan, and then tonight four and five, and then Sunday six and seven. See how we move along. Also, what I normally like to do is the first two reflections to just be that and not open


it up for any sharing or discussion or questions. And the reason I like to do that, I think, is in a more contemplative mode to allow these things to be taken in and for you to kind of chew on them and for them to do whatever they need to do in your heart. And then the last two, which are conferences tonight and tomorrow, I'll try to certainly leave time. My presentation might be a little bit shorter, so it'll leave time for your own comments or questions or your own reflections on these, on the rule. So that's how we'll proceed. I want to first start today with a story that kind of links us with our first theme of sitting and links us with that and with the theme of number two, to put the whole world behind you and forget it, or cast all memory of the world behind you would be a more literal translation. And this is a true story.


Many years ago, I was a graduate student studying theology in Washington, D.C., and I was also studying psychology, both at Catholic University and at the Washington Psychiatric Institute Foundation. And at the foundation, I was being trained as a group counselor. So I was going through training to be a group counselor. And in one of our classes, I'll never forget this experience. The professor had the class stand up, and it was at the beginning, probably the very first or the second meeting of the class for the semester. He had us stand up, and being it was at a foundation, there were people of different backgrounds and ages there, some my age, some older, some quite a bit older. So it was a mixed group, male, female. And he had one group form a circle, holding hands, facing outward. And then the rest of the class formed a circle around that inner circle, holding hands facing


them, or facing inward. So if you get the picture of one group of people holding hands, shoulder to shoulder, there's a circle facing outward, and then this group facing them, sort of like wheels, you know, two wheels. And he had us stand very close to the person in front of us. Uncomfortably close. You could, when he kept saying, no closer, closer, closer, telling the outside circle to move closer to the inner circle, you could see all the different little signs and gestures that people show that their, you know, it's just for Americans, that territory has to be usually, what is it, three feet or something like that. Europeans don't mind closer. And I don't know about people from the East. So I think we were a foot. So that's quite an invasion from three feet to a foot. So people were, it's interesting, the joking, the laughter, you know, to handle the tension and the nervousness. So of course we didn't know what he was going to do. So as it works out, there was always a person, one person facing another person.


He had the number of people in each circle so that it's one to one correspondingly. And then he just left us there standing and then he would call time after however many minutes he would want. And that meant the outer circle would move to the right and then you'd be in front of another person. The inner circle remained still. And he did this. It took almost the whole class period till the outer circle moved all the way around and then, for example, I would be back to the person I started with. And it was very interesting what various people did to handle the situation. Some, you might observe as it was happening, but it was more so in the analysis after with the teacher facilitating that reflection that he teased out the various things he was seeing as well as what the people were experiencing. And how some people, as hard as it was, they managed to avoid looking at the person in front of them. In fact, that's what most did. Most looked down.


They just looked down. When they heard time, they moved to the next person. They might give a quick look, acknowledge them, and then they looked down. Some looked up, above, or to the side. And then there were a few clever ones decided, oh, this is a test of eye contact. So they decided to have eye contact, but this kind of steely eye contact that is a looking through, not really into, but just kind of a looking through, kind of a cold, steely stare. And so some shared that they were doing that, and the therapist actually said that's what he could sort of see. It's a way of looking at somebody, but you're not really looking into them at all. But it appears that you have no problem with eye contact when you do. It's just another clever defense. I made the decision, being as I do tend to like eye contact, I made the decision. I said, well, this is obviously about risk, and part of the risk is to let your space


be invaded and to make that eye contact. So I decided, well, I'll try to do it. I don't know what's going to happen. And I came to this woman who was probably in her 50s, and I didn't recall having, this was like the first or second meeting of the class, so I certainly didn't know her. I don't know if I had met her at coffee before the class started, but I went before her as the outer circle moved, and we're about this close, you know, and I just tried to look, not in a violent way or with any sense of violation, but with a caring way and a receptive way and an open way to her gaze. So that's what Ling says with Last Night, the gaze. We sit for the sake of that contemplative gaze, realizing someone is always looking at me, and that's what keeps me in existence, is that loving look. And it's an invitation to return that gaze, and how difficult it is to do that. So I remember I had the experience that she was looking into me, not past me.


So she must have made the same decision. And I could experience her inner being kind of entering into me, and it was really kind of a, what, sort of like a stripping process, and exposing. I felt I was being exposed, but with a gentleness and a caring, and I was welcoming, and I could have closed the inner doors to my eyes, you know. And she did the same thing, and I felt myself, as she's doing this, I felt myself being drawn into herself, through the face and the eyes in particular. And as the seconds drew on, I started to experience a pain in her, somewhere deep in her. And I let myself become the pain. And then I noticed her face undergo a transformation, and become flushed.


And I noticed tears. It's not often you get to look that closely and see what the process of coming to tears is like. And I noticed tears forming in her eyes, and then streaming and flooding down her face. And then her tears became my tears, as I wept, as we wept together. And then the therapist said, time, and we had to move, you know. But it was like there was no one else there at that moment, you know. Even though I'm holding hands with people here, and there's all these people at that moment, it was this presence, this experience of presence to another, that I had no personal history with, no personal background with. How is this possible? This contemplative gaze, we sit to realize this gaze, this loving gaze that's upon us,


so that we might return that gaze, realizing that the gaze is, like my experience with this woman, but even much more so, when God looks at me, God sees me to the core. I can try to get all the fig leaves I want, like in the Adam and Eve story, to try to cover myself psychically, but God sees to the very marrow of my bones, the depths of my heart, and all the closeted fears of my life. And whatever else I might think I can keep hidden there, God's gaze sees to my depths. But also that same gaze invites me into God. That's the awesomeness, at least from the Christian point of view, that we're invited in and with and through Jesus to enter into this intimacy, into this inner life of the Trinity.


But it's very, very difficult. If we have difficulty with human beings, who have a very limited ability to gaze and to enter in and invite us to enter in, how much more so with the Creator of all. It reminded me of that line in one of William Blake's poems, we are put on earth a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love. And that gaze, that divine gaze is like a beam of love, and it really takes bearing it. It's very difficult. It's funny, but as much as we want that, as much as we long to be loved and accepted completely for who we are, with no pretense, no performance, we fear the process involved, we fear the exposition, we fear that being exposed. And we fear going into God, we fear the loss of self, that I will be absorbed.


And Romuald knew this. It's one thing to say, sit in your cell as in paradise, sit waiting content with the grace of God like a chick who tastes and eats nothing but what its mother brings. But how do I go from that one kind of sitting to the other? And that's what two through six really, I think, are about. How do I bear the beams of love? And that's what brings us to number two, where he says, well, you have to put the whole world behind you and forget it. By the way, as a little aside on that sheet, I did mention last night that I put the literal translation, but then what we call colloquial translations, Father Thomas Mattis' translation, and then I recently asked Father Elred to do a translation from the Latin, which he did his own, which have slight variations.


The reason for the colloquial translations is because Latin in that period tended to be more colloquial style, and so they would probably not say it would have been understood in a literal sense. But it's good to know at least literally what the Latin words are, but to realize these are not that far off just because they're not exaggerations. They're what a colloquial style would have been and the way Latin was at that time. So what is Romule saying here? Cast all memory of the world behind you, or put the whole world behind you and forget it. Is Romule saying to forget about the world and its needs and its woundedness and its people? Is he giving us the classic monastic fuga mundi, to flee the world? The world is some kind of tainting, diminishing power


that ruins our lives. Is he saying to shake the dust from our sandals? Is he saying to forget about our families and our friends? Is he saying to forget about our past? Is that what Romule means here? I think we would be tempted if we straightforwardly, especially taking the literal interpretation, we may be tempted to believe that. But as I said last night, this is not a piece of legislation, this rule. It's a piece of inspiration. Therefore, it must be approached as we approach Lectio, as poetry, as symbol, as metaphor, as meant to be chewed on and releasing its wisdom over time to us. Romule's concern, I think, here is that we do not confuse the cell of the heart with the faculties of the mind. Thinking, feeling, imagining, remembering,


the faculties of the mind. Yet, he's concerned that we move beneath these. We must move through them. And I move through them to some extent by engaging them. I use thinking as a tool. Thinking, feeling, imagining, remembering, in moving inward to the cell of the heart. In becoming aware of this loving gaze and returning the gaze. But what I'll notice also is how these faculties operate within my solitude, within the stillness of my heart. How they most often become even more active the more still I try to be. Anyone who has tried to sit still, to sit in meditation, realizes that it seems they become even more intense and more active. The thinking, the imagining, the emotions, the memory.


But Romule is most concerned with the qualitative depth of our attention or, to put it another way, our presence to the Divine Presence. Like the cloud which advises that we enter the cloud of forgetting, Romule is saying, do not rest in any of your faculties. God is not to be found in your memory, in your emotions, in your imagining, in your thinking. God is not to be found in any of these. But on the other hand, God can only be found through them. There's no way around them, there's no repressing them. They are not the end, but they are definitely a necessary means to the end. But what he's saying is don't live in them, don't rest in them,


don't build a dwelling in them, don't reside in them. Yet that's what we do most of the time. We reside, we live in our thinking, our thoughts, or we live in our memories, or we live in our emotions. We live often in the past and can spend whole hours living there, days, years, or in the future. We can live in our imagination, in our fantasies, in images. God is not there, or certainly not to be equated there with any of these faculties. Yet God engages them. Any to encounter with God is an engagement of these faculties. Why? Because of the Incarnation. The whole doctrine of the Incarnation says God has united God's self


with all creation, all matter, all flesh in Jesus Christ. That is the privileged place of encounter. So there is a truth to our looking for God with these faculties, but the twist or the distortion comes when we seek to equate God with them and to live in them, to build a dwelling place in them. And therefore become attached to them. And we lose ourselves in them, in our thinking, in the future, the past, in our emotions. The role of memory is drawn to our attention by Romuald here, and he says, put the whole world, memory of the whole world behind you. Why does he zero in on the memory, that particular faculty of the mind? Now first we have to stop and say, well, wait a minute, wait a minute. The role of memory for the Judeo-Christian tradition is very important.


All Scripture is a holy remembrance. Every Eucharist that we celebrate, after the consecration, the priest says, do this in remembrance of me. The words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel. Without remembrance there'd be no Eucharist, there'd be no Scriptures, there'd be no tradition handed down to us, there'd be no stories about God and God's people. So Romuald is no fool, he can't be saying memory isn't holy. However, what he's saying is our wounded and inflated egos use the memory to maintain its defense system and its fragmented consciousness. That's the concern of Romuald. Thus as holy as memory is, it is also tainted and must be purified.


And we purify the memory by teaching it to find its proper place as only a part of the whole and not the whole thing. By not allowing it to reinforce our old familiar patterns of thought and feeling and perception and behavior. By not escaping into memory, along with its partner, imagination, fantasy. That's what memory uses. Memory of the world is not the world as it is. I think that's what Romuald's getting at. Memory of the world, my memory of the world is not the world as it is. Because as we remember the world and all my past, we distort it. The memory distorts it according to its own purposes and its own wishes and its own desires.


Memory is always selective, how often we say that, selective memory. And so to find the world as it really is, oddly enough, I must let go of the way I view it through my personal memory. Cast all memory of the world behind you, not the world, memory of the world. That's what he's saying. Romuald suggests that we cast memory behind us, that we try to get beneath memory to something deeper. He also specifically mentions memory of the world, of the earthly affairs and anxieties and attachments, etc., anything that would catch and hold our attention, our inner gaze, thus diverting us from the gaze of God.


To cast behind, to let go, to release our hold on these things and their hold on us through the memory. The spiritual writer Louis Boyer writes, those who are free of the world and they alone can contribute to its salvation. I think he's touching upon what Romuald is touching upon, the same wisdom. To be from the world, in a certain sense, in order to be free for the world. But even that word for the world, in Latin, mundum here, or mundus, has a sense that we don't have in English. It means the world as opaque, as dark, as blurry. It tends to have the sense of world as unredeemed, as untransformed. World that has not come into its own full clarity, its own full perfection, its own true self,


its own maturity, that has not fully come into the light and does not fully reflect the light. Mundus, opaque, dark, blurry. The world that Paul will say is groaning in agony, waiting to be reborn. Henry Now and the writer that you probably all know about tells an interesting story about this. He was going through a particular difficult time in his life and he was on retreat for a number of months at this place and he would have these bouts with depression. And it happened that this place wasn't as remote as the Hermitage is and he used to go to this diner to, I don't know, lift his spirits or whatever, have some coffee and pie or something, some sugar for a quick upper, and he happened to notice there was this beautiful rose at the table where he sat.


So when he'd go there almost every day, he'd always choose to sit there for that rose and he found, well, something's beautiful in life, I don't feel beautiful, I feel sort of depressed, and nobody was sending him any mail on retreat and he was missing that and nobody loves him and all of this, but the rose was there and the rose seemed pretty constant and pretty beautiful and pretty contented, just being there, didn't have to do anything, didn't have to get mail. And he got a lot of encouragement and consolation from this rose. Well, you know, after he was going there a week and a half, he noticed the rose wasn't changing at all. At first he kind of liked that quality of the rose the first day or two, but he started to be suspicious. I mean, shouldn't a flower undergo some kind of change? And all this time he had never touched it, I suppose out of reverence and respect and awe for something that could be beautiful when he didn't feel beautiful.


So he finally reached out and touched it and to his horror, it was plastic. And he says he was so horrified he never went into that delicatessen again because he felt betrayed, he felt tricked, he felt allured or caught in a great lie. And the lie was he took something to be real that was not real. He allowed his faculties, you see, to be tricked and for him to be tricked by his faculties, by something that was not real. For to be real is to undergo change, is to undergo birth and growth and blossoming and death. So when Romulus says, cast all memory of the world behind you, he's getting at this, this way that we can be tricked by our memory into thinking we know the world as it is


and then when we try to enter in this contemplative gaze with the Father and all memory of the world comes up, is it really the world as it really is that I'm remembering? Or is it really through the filtering, manipulative system of my memory? To love the world as it really is, I must let go of it, Romulus says. Cast all memory of the world behind you and seek in God a new vision of the world. Seek through God's gaze a new way for you to gaze at the world. To see the world. Do not trust your memory to present to you how the world really is. Be careful. Do not reject your memory. Just be cautious. Because you need your memory. God uses the memory.


The memory is holy, but it is tainted. Cast all memory of the world behind you. Don't worry. Don't, in some sense of agonizing responsibility, feel, well, I'm here in this beautiful place of the hermitage of the heart or wherever I am and this deep sitting in prayer and I mean other people are hurting and I have to keep remembering them out of some sense of obligation or guilt. No, Romulus says, let go of that. Because you will find the world in God. And more clearly, more correctly, more truly as it really is. And if I can come to see the world as God sees it, ah, then maybe, maybe I can come to love the world as God loves it. Free of all my hang-ups. Free of all my egocentricities and selfishness. Free of all my violence and my subtle manipulations of the world.


Then I can really have divine compassion for the world. And that's what God wants. He doesn't want me to love just with my own human love or my own human compassion. God wants me to love with God's love and God's compassion. Just as astronomers always pick a remote place far away from the bright lights of the city in order to contemplate the stars in the sky and the heavenly bodies, so too, for this work that Romulus is suggesting to us, we must seek that place away from the bright city lights. Cast the memory of the world behind you in order to see the world as God sees it. To see more clearly the world, God, ourselves. The purpose is not escaping the world, but rather my way of seeing it and its own powerful controlling hold on me. Master Eckhart writes,


the one who lets himself or herself and God be lives in a wandering joy, a joy without cause. To let the world be is another way of saying it. Cast all memory of the world behind. Let the world be. After all, God is taking care of the world. Release the memory, which then enables us to be free from our past and our future and to live in the now, and that's what he's getting at. To live in the now, in the present moment, with greater attention and availability to the divine presence. When the mind has little to feed on, immediately it uses the memory,


together with the imagination and the feelings, to bring up something artificial to feed on. But it will tell you it's real. Yes, this happened in my past life, and these are real people as I'm remembering my family. If I try to sit still and just be aware of God's presence, what happens? All these thoughts and emotions and imaginings and images come to me. You see, the mind, if it's not fed by what's around it, will feed itself, and it engages the memory. To stay like that empty bird that waits and eats nothing, to sit that way, Romeo says, you're going to have to pay attention to your memory. It will not let you. It will try to be a mother to you and feed you, its own fabrications. And very cleverly, it will take people from your life, real people, real things from your past, and will try to have you feed on them. This is especially true in solitude and silence, in simplicity.


When we have few distractions around us and few outlets, wow, the memory's going to go at it, and it'll engage the imagination and the emotions and stir us up. Memory of the world in this sense, I think Romeo was saying, is that which prevents us from being truly present in the now. I think what he's saying is, spend less time on where you have been and what you have done, and more time on where you are now. Even though we have a past, we are not to equate who we are with that past. Be attentive to the present moment, which is the cutting edge of your very being, as God creates it now. That's what Romeo is saying. Be at the cutting edge. What is God doing right now? Creating.


We're not clocks that have been wound up. Forty-five years ago, I wasn't created and God wound me up, and until the thing winds down, that's it. That's a very static notion of creation. I am not the person I was in the past. Yet, I am not totally separate from that past either. But to just equate myself with that past is to deny the dynamic reality that God creates me moment by moment. And can I get my attention right there? That's the cutting edge of who I am. And of course, if I can begin to do this with myself, how much more so with other people? And I won't put a label on them? Well, I know you. You know, you did this five years ago to me, and that's who you are, and I label you. And I don't allow myself to know you at your cutting edge. And then I do it with trees and with forests and lakes and rivers, and I really don't have this dynamic sense of, Wow, there's something extremely reverential going on here.


There's a creative reality happening moment by moment to me and everything around me. And I'm right here witnessing it. I'm right here witnessing it. I don't have to say, Oh, wouldn't it have been nice to have been there back in Genesis when God created and witnessed all that. I'm witnessing it right now. Cast all memory of the world behind you, Romuald is saying. Let go of the world as your memory presents it so that you might find the world as God finds it. Dombey Griffiths writes, Quote, To be a monk is to take up deliberately the burden of responsibility for sin, not only in oneself, but in others also, and thus to seek to share in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the church. It is to be alive to all the needs of humankind,


but to try to respond to them not by external activity, but by entering by prayer into the heart of that mystery of sacrifice by which the redemption of the world is achieved. That's interesting. That's his definition for the monastic life. And, you know, it's not a retreat from the world, but it's entering more deeply into the world as God will reveal that world to you. Now, what about memory of God? Cast all memory of the world behind you, but Romulus doesn't tell us to remember God. Shouldn't we remember God? Isn't that what we're trying to do? Well, memory of God has a privileged place in the tradition. However, we have to be careful here, too, I think, when Romulus says, cast all memory of the world behind you. Because we can have a very kind of worldly, opaque, that sense of mundus, opaque, unclear memory of God.


When we liturgically remember God through the scriptures, through the Eucharist, through the Psalms, we do it in order to be present to the same God now. That's the purpose of it. Not to escape from the now, the God of the now into the past, the God of the good old days, my good old days or somebody else's good old days. The whole point is to make us attentive on the cutting edge. The danger there is I could end up using the memory, which would then engage the imagination, to picture or experience a God from my past, who isn't the God who is present to me right now, or at least not the way God desires to be present to me right now. And I might feed off that. Maybe some peak experience I had when I was younger, and I want to feed off that


because, well, God doesn't need to be doing anything right now, I'm kind of bored or, you know, I'm sitting here in the cell of the heart, like paradise, and I really feel like number seven, like I'm waiting here, but the mother hen is not bringing any food, you know. So I'll imagine, I'll conjure up God. You see the danger there? Like a genie, I can conjure up God by going through some real past experiences, myself or Abraham or the scriptures. The danger is if I live there, and Ramy says I can't repose in that past, but I use that to what? And open me to the present. That's why holy remembrance is always to bring you to the present. Even when we think about our future, the future for the world, our future with God, the prayer we heard at morning prayer, you know, teach us to what? Focus on the things of heaven in this passing world. That's a dangerous prayer. You have to be very careful how you interpret that. Because what are the things of heaven? The transformation of this world, not the end of it. So it's not something otherworldly,


you know, or mystical or spiritual, you know, where you can get these strange notions here. So not using the memory to escape the present moment, your present situation or condition. And so I think Ramy was saying be careful of the memory, especially when you try to sit in your cell as in paradise. Do not let the memory try to feed the mind itself. But sit there, as he says, and accept no other food, no other feeding, but what God, the Mother, brings it, as he says in number 7. Number 3, that brings us in number 3, which is really connected, isn't it? So your memory, the next thing he says is watch your thoughts. Cautiously watch your thoughts


as a good fisherman, or fisherperson, watches for fish. And here Ramy sounds like a good Zen master. One doesn't sit in the cell in order to watch thoughts, however, which they do in Zen practice. That's not our purpose, and that's not what Ramy means. That wouldn't be paradise, is it? That'd be hell. To sit there and just watch your thoughts all day, that would be hell. That's not what he means. But he says in the process of sitting there waiting, and not letting your mind be fed by anything, waiting, he says you can't help but notice what's happening in the process. How your memory is engaged and how it will try to stir your feelings and the imagination and your thoughts. In order to find this inner paradise, this lost innocence, Ramy was saying you will have to notice the faculties of the mind and how they control us and frustrate our desire for union with God.


So just as Ramy mentions memory, which really includes imagination and emotion, so now he's talking about thinking. So much of thinking is that the rational faculties. There is an old maxim which says as you think, so shall you become. Ramy was concerned that you'll become these things, these thoughts. Be careful. Watch your thoughts. You see, thoughts can be like seeds, and in time those seeds take root in us and they grow. Now they can either be seeds of life and love or seeds of hate, destruction, selfishness, envy, jealousy, rancor, violence, negativity. If I sow them enough, I will become those. They will grow in me. By watching our thoughts


like fish we want to see what kind of seeds we are planting in our lives and to catch them if they are inappropriate, if they're not helpful to our goal before they have time to take root and come to harvest in us. You know, back at the New Monastery that some of you may know that we established in New Hampshire, I was there, one of the co-founders with Father Bruno, as Father Robert likes to call us, I was there for eight months. And there's a lot of bodies of water in New Hampshire and there's a stream, a river, I always forget the name of it, it's an Indian name anyway, that goes through the town of New Boston and then it has various tributaries, one of which passes right through the property of the monastery, the Epiphany Monastery, which is four miles from town. And in the spring, you know, we had a big snowfall this past winter and so the water runoff was great and the rivers going through the town when it broke the ice and knocked several buildings over,


that's how bad the ice, when it broke in town, the little bakery in town which I used to frequent quite often, almost collapsed. But anyway, an interesting thing is, there's very few stores in New Boston, little town of New Boston of what, a couple of thousand people, but there is an angler shop, a big brand new angler shop that has all the latest fishing equipment because it's right on the river. And I noticed that, I said, boy, they must do enough business in this little town and it was the best looking place, better than the hardware store, better than the post office, better than the grocery store. And you used to see men out there with these fly poles and they'd be out in the street by the little bank and they'd be flipping their wrists, you know how that's done? If you've ever seen the movie River Runs Through, it's about fly fishing. You need a bit of space because you've got a cat. And they're all, oh, and they're gabbing away, these men, they have a cup of coffee and then the bakery,


the same thing. Everybody's talking about fishing. So once the ice broke, it was amazing to see the number of fishermen and women and children along the river with their hip boots, you know, because you go right into the water. You don't just stand on the edge, you go, it's a pretty engaging sport, as I imagine it to be. I've never done it. But I was, of course, preparing these talks at that time and it caught my attention. Romuald says, watch your thoughts like a good angler watching for a fish. And so I would observe them with all their preparations and their proper equipment in the pole and going right, waiting right in the middle of the river and being silent. One of the locals said, that's the only way men around here know how to, they're not sitting, but they're still, and to listen and to be alone with themselves and maybe with God. They have to use some kind of medium like fishing.


So there was, I think, something contemplative and prayerful perhaps going on there, whether they realize it or not. But you watch, you'd see them and how they watched the waters, how they would be scanning the waters, looking for those thoughts, looking for those fish just beneath the surface. Watch your thoughts like a good angler watching for fish. Watch them before they even rise to the surface of your consciousness. Watch your thoughts. But I think a good fisherman learns to watch the ways of the fish. Not only to watch when a thought comes and it's perhaps an inappropriate thought, an unhelpful thought, but watch the ways your thoughts, your thinking process operates, the ways of the fish. A good fisherman knows their movements, he knows their favorite places to hide and to feed. That's how he knows where to cast his line.


And when he begins to get a bite, he knows how to avoid losing the fish. If you pull too hard, you might lose it. He's got to sort of befriend the fish and coax it along, you know. There's a clever little interplay. We watch our thoughts first for this reason, to see and understand how our thought process works. What seems to turn our thoughts in a particular direction, to notice that, and how they in turn affect us. In the classic patristic tradition, the early fathers and mothers of the first centuries of the Church, they taught that all temptation begins first with a thought. And that's what Romulus is drawing on. A thought which seeks to engage the emotions and grow, so that it then can engage your passion and your will,


supported by memory and imagination, leading you to action, to a decision, to a behavior. And I think that's true. I know every hot-foot Sunday I've ever eaten began with a thought. But I've always treated those as holy thoughts. And then after I've eaten the whole thing, I say, I can't believe I ate that. Before I knew it, I was in the store and I was saying, yeah, two scoops, extra hot fudge, first begins with a thought. And that's the wisdom where I'm saying, be careful, watch your thoughts. To understand how this process works in us, the first step is to understand how this process works in us is the first step towards catching the thoughts early on, and not letting them just have their way with us. Here, Romulus is reflecting


the ancient monastic practice of what is called custody of the heart, mindfulness, watchfulness, to be vigilant with yourself, over yourself. As Saint Athanasius in his biography of Saint Anthony the Great, he says, quote, an inner voice said to Anthony, watch yourself, Anthony. Gregory the Great, when he wrote The Life of Saint Benedict, describes Benedict retiring to a cave, to the cell, and that he came to himself, watched himself. Saint Luke, when he tells us the story of the prodigal son, the prodigal son, at some point in the whole process, when he's lost all, and he's empty, like a chick, and no one will even give him the corn from the pigs that he's feeding, he came to himself and decided to return


to the Father. He came to himself. And that's what Gregory, when he talks about Benedict, is drawing from that scripture, as well as Athanasius in The Life of Anthony. To return to yourself, to watch yourself, to notice yourself, is important for finding your way home. The famous philosopher Kierkegaard once wrote, monks are those deeply serious souls who tirelessly scrutinize each secret thought in order to discover the obscure impulse hidden in all human life. Well, I would say, really, any contemplative, anyone who really wants to grow in the wisdom that Romuald is talking about, this would apply to. The only slight thing I would say is there doesn't seem much joy in this definition.


Monks are those who deep serious souls who tirelessly scrutinize, believe me, I don't scrutinize every single thought. I mean, that sounds like hell, too. I'm still not going to be in paradise. But he's on to something, that it's that vigilance to watch yourself. The great Peter Damian, one of the disciples of Saint Romuald, wrote, idle and harmful thoughts must not be received but expelled. The soul must be used as a net, it's interesting, in which to retain only wholesome fishes, meaning thoughts. It's another interesting, the soul must be used as a net. So he says something has to be retained and something has to be let go. Proverbs puts it this way, quote, with closest custody guard your heart for in it are the sources of life. Or Saint Basil the Great wrote,


take heed, lest there be a base thought in your heart. It is necessary to keep watch with vigilance of our hearts, so that they never leave to escape the thought of God. That's what Romeo is after, watch your thoughts, because you really want to have one thought. But the minute you try to focus on the one thing, empty, waiting, what happens? The mind wants to feed itself. And will engage all your faculties. And what you originally sat there for, to be aware of the loving gaze and return that gaze, you end up being all involved in thoughts and memory and emotions, all these things are stirred up. Okay, so we're I think we'll end at this point. And as I said,


this afternoon, and I mean, yeah, this afternoon at four o'clock we'll meet a third time and then tomorrow we'll have time for some of your own feedback and reflections. Okay, thank you.