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Recently, our Order was graced with a visitor that was attending our weekly meetings of contemplative prayer. The main thrust of their purpose was the need for contemplative community in their spiritual life. Unfortunately, we did not suit this visitor. It was not necessarily a fault of ours so much as we weren’t the type of group this person needed. This episode led me to a great deal of meditation on it. I’d like to share what I’ve discovered.
My first inclination towards our visitor was to be exactly what they wanted us to be. They had even said they were considering leaving the church because of the lack of contemplative spirituality in the parishes. It was, after all, for that very reason that we started our Order. But what this person wanted was just a place to practice centering prayer, discuss it perhaps and that’s it. They weren’t looking for basic instruction or the diverse instruction that we offer. Our meetings now have people of very different degrees of practice. It is hard to teach to adepts when there are still beginners present. But for now, we are the only resource available. And there I see the problem.
There is no way that a single group can meet the needs of everyone looking for contemplative spirituality. There’s no way we can fit every one’s desire. In fact, when people try to fit in when they really don’t it makes for a far worse environment. And yet for the sake of a spiritual healthy Church, anyone who is looking to find a contemplative community should be able to find one that suits them. What then can the Church do?
To be frank, the leaders of the Church, her priests, deacons, bishops and even laity must start pushing for Orders to be established. The Sufis of Islam have a fine example for us to follow. Where ever there is a need for contemplative spirituality, those that are so inclined start meeting together and, tada!, you have a Sufi Order. Because the Church only sees her Orders in the light of monstrous leviathans like the Benedictines and Franciscans, people don’t even think to start their own contemplative community where they live. But the truth is, that’s how all the large Orders started all those centuries ago. And the as the contemplative knows, there are as many ways to God as there are God’s children. So the more the merrier! There should be so many Orders out there throughout the Diocese that if one were looking for a contemplative home they would be guaranteed to find a fit.
So what’s the point of this blog? It’s a call to all those who are looking, who would like to learn, who would like to be in community with others that are trying to be contemplative. I call to all of you, my brothers and sisters, and say start your community now! Make your presence known. The canons of our Church are written with very simple steps to be a religious community. It’s time we threw out the stereotypes and romanticized ideas of what a Religious Order is. It’s time now to rediscover the contemplative path and make it available to everyone. The rules of this Order were designed to be a template for anyone looking for what we’ve found. All it takes is a group of people or even just one to start what we have started here. I pray we are not alone. In fact, I know for certain that we are not. But those that are starting their own communities are few and far between. God help us that this will not always be the case. Amen.