Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When the Swallows Return to Spring Bank

Last evening after supper one of the brothers here at the Cistercian Abbey near Sparta WI pointed out the swallows which fly around the Abbey in late afternoon. They have a funny way of swooping up in an arc like motion and then when they reach the tree tops and the top of the building they just sort of "let go" and let the wind pull them backward. You can almost hear them saying "Whheeeeeeeeeeee." It looks like a lot of fun.

I am very thankful for the discipline and ascesis which the rule of Benedict has brought to my life. I think back on how well- intentioned I was in my younger years. I WANTED to serve God, but something just always got in the way. People, emotions, practicalities. It was only when I submitted to the Benedictine spiritual exercises of daily prayer and frequent lectio that I began to make headway... to move up the arc, speaking in swallow-flight pattern terms.

So, I am very happy on this Feast of St Benedict- a Solemnity for us Cistercians- after all he is the font from which the Cistercian charism flows. I feel blessed to have the ora et labora paradigm- prayer and work- as my mission in life.

But those swallows call to me, too. They remind me that all work and no play makes Jack a very sad boy. Benedict himself realized the need for moderation and relaxation for even the most dedicated monks. He counselled against taking too much on. Some fasting, some prayer, some work, some recreation- and all in moderation.

Sometimes we each need to play like the swallows..... just arc up and let go and let God take care of things.... forget the schedule, forget the goals, forget the seriousness of the moment.

I was reminded of the need to loosen up again recently when a good friend reported that he had too much on his plate- a variety of roles- a huge plethora of tasks are all demanding his attention. As he continued to describe them- one after another- my heart sank and I became sad for him. I realized that my friend is weighed down by his work, his ministry, his leadership responsibilties.

Will you pray for him tonight?

Pray for us all that we will find a way to imitate the swallows.

St Benedict, patron of the Middle Way, pray for us.

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