Holy Saturday

     Jesus is dead. All our hopes are overturned, the kingdom is not about to be liberated from the forces of oppression and injustice and evil after all. That's not what Jesus came to do, it turns out. This world, this life, is still going to be hard . I don't like to anticipate Easter too much, I like to sit with the devastated disciples in their upper room, grieving the gruesome lynching of their hero, the man on whom they had pinned all their hopes, reeling from the loss of everything they had looked forward to: King Jesus on the throne of a free, just, and holy Israel, blessed by the God who had sent Him to lead them out of darkness. Now Jesus is gone, gone all the way into that darkness. We, the disciples gathered in that upper room, we don't know yet about the resurrection. The holy women haven't yet gone to prepare the body for burial, and found it missing, and angels telling them He is risen. We haven't heard the good news yet, all we know today is that Jes

Challenge: Do Something Badly

     There are two quotes I've heard lately that have really struck me. Both have to do with pernicious perfectionism, and both I heard on ADHD-related podcasts. The first one was:  “ B-minus work can change the world ”      The corollary is: work that doesn't get done changes nothing. That one I heard on the I Have ADHD podcast , by host Kristen Carder, who was quoting life coach Brooke Castillo. What brings it home is how Kristen Carder shows up as a right hot mess , and let me tell you, with all her messiness she has taught me more than any other ADHD expert so far. If she had waited to get her act together before starting this podcast, I and a whole lot of other people would have lost out.       The second fits right in with that one:  “ You don't have to be the best to do what you love ” spoken by guest entrepreneur Kristen Ley on the Semi-Together podcast .       You don't even have to be original , which is nice, because there's really nothing new under the s

Praying the Psalms

     My life is centered in prayer. A lot of that is personal, inward, direct, meditative or conversational. But the kind of prayer that forms the structure for my life, the kind that frames time, is called The Divine Office . This is the prayer that keeps me connected with a whole body of pray-ers, of people praying near and far; not only hermits, monks and nuns, but all Catholic and some Protestant priests and religious, past, present, and future, around the world and in many languages. It is a tradition that goes back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and beyond, back before Christianity, before the Second Temple, before the exile and restoration of Judea, even before Israel and Judea separated into two separate kingdoms, if tradition is right in attributing at least some of the psalms to King David. That would make them about 3,000 years old.      There are 150 psalms, and I chant them all, spread out over a two-week cycle, four sessions or "Hours" per day. Most priests

Who is my enemy?

I've been wanting to say something about the appalling state of American politics. It seems to me that the most urgent issue in U.S. governance is not this party's policies or that party's policies, not what the last president did or what the new one is going to do. The most urgent issue facing us is our polarization, and I don't mean the dysfunctional Congress -- I mean the great gulf running between us, the voters. And I don't mean out there , I mean right here in my mirror, because I am as firmly pro-this side and as firmly disgusted by that side as anybody else.  Every four years, we're all faced with the absolutely stunning evidence that roughly half the electorate is stupid, crazy, and apparently just downright evil. Each half thinks that same thing about the other half, right? The Democrats were so horrified when Trump won in 2016, the website for Canada's immigration administration crashed with all the people who would rather leave America than call

Silence, Solitude, Simplicity

I've changed my mind about blogging weekly. My vows as a hermit are Solitude, Silence, and Simplicity . Blogging is interfering with the Silence. I spend a lot of time thinking, which is great, but spending time trying to frame my thinking in words to get it across to other people is not so great. I'm thinking my thoughts twice, instead of just moving through them and on to the next experience. I'm getting bogged down, not living in the moment, which interferes with the openness that contemplation requires. I'm always evaluating myself, not just in relation to God and our relationship, but to try to express my truth to the outside world. It just doesn't work for me, for this contemplative life.  I have always thought that introspective writing is much more useful when it is about lessons learned in the past. Experiences need to be gotten through, reflected on, and seen from the perspective of their longer-term effects. But I'm still in the first stage of the ere

Holy leisure vs. unholy sloth

"Idleness is the enemy of the soul." Thus begins Chapter 48 of the Rule of St. Benedict, in which he lays out a schedule balancing manual and intellectual labor. Yes, we think with a private groan, we should  keep busy. We should be productive ! But wait -- that same schedule, that same paragraph in the Rule, also has time for a daily nap! St. Benedict's monastery was in Italy, after all. And then, there's my favorite commandment, the one about resting on the Sabbath. Idleness is the enemy of the soul, but rest  is holy, and it is mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. America is a workaholic country. At every economic level, we suck at rest and relaxation. But before you tell me that you don't have time to rest, or before you accuse me of blind privilege, be honest: how much time do you spend watching TV/YouTube/Netflix (etc.)? How much time do you spend playing solitaire or Candy Crush (etc.)? It's a paradox: most Americans spend hours every day goof

Practical Asceticism: Get Bored

One of the quickest triggers for compulsive behavior, in my experience, is boredom . Learning to do absolutely nothing, even for a few seconds, is one of the hardest and yet most important lessons for me in the hermitage. It is also a very, very common challenge in our modern times, when we've all got a perfect little rectangle of constant distraction in the form of a smartphone.  I'm 53 years old; I grew to adulthood without a PC, let alone a smartphone. We used to use phone books, big, thick, paper phone books. We used to buy maps at the gas station to figure out how to get where we wanted to go. If we got lost, we'd have to pull off the road to look at the map again, and if a road was closed for construction or the map was out of date, we'd have to find a pay phone to call for directions. If we had car trouble, we'd have to get out and hike to the next rest stop on foot to call AAA from a pay phone. We had a complete set of Encyclopedia Brittanica at home, a 3&qu