Random thoughts before a trip...

We are heading to Canada this morning for a short week of quiet, visiting, talking and reading - probably some bicycling in wine country, too.  It is both our planned end of the summer respite before the fullness of the fall; but also an unexpected blessing in time after enduring a variety of personal hardships this summer.  It is, you might say, our mini-retreat for reflection and renewal.

At some point I hope we can visit the Abbaye de Saint Benoit-du-Lac - a 100 year old Benedictine abbey - as I have long been drawn to the balanced spiritual order Benedict offers to those exploring spirituality.  Their wisdom is a part of what I sense is needed at this moment in time - not the totality - but a key part as they stay grounded in prayer and service amidst the busyness of contemporary culture.

Writing about the evolving nature of the Rule of the Community of Iona - another important witness - Norman Shanks observes that once our culture was grounded in church going:

Today it sometimes seems that shopping malls are the modern cathedrals and shopping is the focus, even the basic purpose, of life. Pubs and clubs are the meeting places for music and dance, while football and rugby stadiums see the enthusiasm of the masses. The majority of people are no longer in our churches.  So the challenge for all Christians is to get out into the marketplace and raise the cross where the people are...

... the challenge is to find a way of focusing our attention outside the institution and to resist the temptation to become preoccupied with the insistent, internal demands for more money, new roofs, more clergy, more children in the Sunday school and more young families in the pews. Journeying out requires the capacity to rise above the anxiety associated with encountering and embracing a potentially overwhelming outside world.

I would also add it requires being nourished from the inside out by a deep walk with God and community - both for encouragement and grounding - because most of us simply cannot sustain ministry in the world on our own.  The Benedictine rhythm suggests engagement and reflection - action and reflection - service on behalf of others and then love of self and God in solitude.

Being alone in the car with Di is a type of solitude:  sometimes we listen to music, other times there are pod casts (this trip will include a variety of French conversation lessons) and often there is both silence and conversation.  It isn't quiet the same as walking the road to Emmaus, but it is five hours of unfocused time.  And that is a gift that will be revealed as this trip unfolds.

...et maintenant il est temps de ranger la voiture!


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