Doing the Coenobitic Crawl

It would be nice to report that I had awoken this morning thinking, it is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I am ready to ‘run with an inexpressible sweetness of love along the way of God’s commandments.’ (RB Prol. 49) The truth, alas, is less uplifting. I spent yesterday nursing a sick headache while filling in endless government forms, tossed and turned all night, and am now contemplating the day ahead with muted enthusiasm. Situation excellent! If I can’t run, it is time to do the coenobitic crawl.

Most of us have a tendency to have unreal expectations of ourselves. That little bit of D.I.Y. will only take an hour we think, and five hours later, there is still work to be done and we are discouraged and weary. Or we set ourselves a programme of reading and prayer that is completely unsustainable. As a junior nun, I decided I ought to read the whole of Aquinas. I did, eventually, but it took me years rather than months and there were a few syllogisms I think I read with glazed eyes and scant attention.

In a few days we shall begin Advent, our hopes high, our aims generous. Many of us will try to take on too much and end up exhausted and disappointed. But it is we who will be disappointed, not God, who loves a generous giver and would prefer us to be prudent as well as filled with holy ambition. How blessed we are to have this feast to remind us that growth doesn’t come all at once! Our Lady was dedicated to God’s service from the first moment of her conception but she had to learn, as we all do, what that meant. She had to crawl before she could walk, both literally and spiritually. What I dub the coenobitic crawl is merely the monastic version of something common to Christians in every age. There are days when we seem to sprint along; others, when we seem, if anything, to be going backwards. It doesn’t matter. God sees and loves us as we are. His encouragement will sustain us even when we can’t find any in ourselves. So will the prayers of Mary, if we ask her.


7 thoughts on “Doing the Coenobitic Crawl”

  1. Dear Sister Catherine, may the good Lord bless you and recharge your inner battery so that you feel less frustrated with the daily travails. Your heart more than most is dedicated to God’s love and work. Keep safe, peace and love be with you and your Sisters now and always.

  2. Not at all sure about my capacity to run anywhere, never mind with an inexpressible sweetness of love. But I agree whole heartedly with Linda above! Sorry you had a rotten night after a migraine-y day, too. I slept little and often, Quinny-the-peke woke me every half hour for no discernible reason until I gave in and walked him before daybreak. Now he‘s snoring in a majesterial sort of way behind the curtains. Typical. Indulge yourself today! And tomorrow‘s Stir Up Sunday, as Anglicans call it after the beginning of the Preface. Used to think that meant get your puddings cooked! Bless you.

  3. Dear Sister, I just love this. I’m still smiling. Thank you. God Bless you- and -very selfishly, – I hope He gives you a bit longer on this earth before He envelopes you in
    His warm and loving arms up in Heaven. God is in charge.

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