The Practice of Recollection

This isn’t an oblique reference to Back to the Future but a brief thought about something most of us need more than we realise: the habit of taking a few moments throughout the day to pause our activity, go into ourselves, as it were, and emerge with a more thoughtful, more purposeful grasp of what we are about.

The Latin word from which we get ‘recollection’, recolligere, means ‘to gather back’; and I think most of us understand how easily we become dispersed or unfocused in the course of the day. For monks and nuns it is easier, of course. We have the structure of the Divine Office to remind us, at regular times, of God and the things of God. But in a busy life, where the majority of the people we meet probably have little religious understanding, we’d be thought odd, if not actually mad, were we to make any kind of physical withdrawal in order to pray. Unlike our Jewish and Muslim friends, we Christians have largely abandoned the ancient practice of formal prayer at set times throughout the day. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to give up the idea of turning to God in the course of our everyday life. We can practise recollection anywhere and at any time.

There are many opportunities for finding a moment or two to recollect ourselves. Walking from one floor to another (you do take the stairs, not the lift, don’t you?), before switching on the car, while waiting for the kettle to boil, we can turn to God interiorly and simply lay before him all that we are and do. Grace works to a timetable of its own. All we have to do is open ourselves to it; and that doesn’t take very long or require ‘optimum conditions’. How about making ‘Give grace a chance’ our slogan for today?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

A Thought for Friday

I shall be spending much of today in London at various meetings. It will be all roar and rush and I’ll probably feel like the proverbial fish out of water. (The habit tends to attract some very odd types — the only people who don’t come anywhere near are usually wearing clerical collars!)

Is it possible to maintain an inner silence, a spirit of recollection, in such circumstances? My answer would be ‘yes’. Have all those years spent learning the discipline of silence perhaps begun to bear fruit? I now know that it is not exterior noise but the endless babble of interior thoughts and feelings that causes all the trouble. Cultivating interior silence isn’t easy, but I think it is necessary for both psychological and spiritual health.

This week scripture has been urging us to go out into the desert to seek Jesus. Today, however, romantic visions of a vast and starry sky, rock, sand and a luminous silence must give way to the reality of the modern desert, the urban landscape of concrete and steel, full of clamour and bustle. Is it possible to seek and find God here, among the fast-food outlets and the diesel fumes? Francis Thompson is not much read nowadays, but I cannot help recalling the concluding lines of his ‘Kingdom of God’:
. . . lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!

Today, wherever we are, is full of hope.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Annual Retreat

You may wonder why contemplative nuns should need an annual eight-day retreat. I am half in agreement with you, if you do. If we lived monastic life as it should be lived, our recollection would be perfect and a retreat unnecessary; but in actual fact, none of us does live monastic life as it should be lived. We are not saints in heaven, just sinners struggling on earth, and a retreat is an excellent means of reminding ourselves of the fact.

For the next few days, therefore, the community will be almost invisible: no tweeting, no blogging, no Facebook, no Google +, save in the most exceptional circumstances.  What shall we be doing? That rather depends on the Holy Spirit. The whole point of a retreat is to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and union with God. It’s a rather open-ended contract. All we know is that, provided we aren’t deliberately obstructive, what God wills will come about and in a small way (or perhaps even a big way) the world will reflect God a little better than before. Pray for us as we do for you.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail