Last September, I commenced a year of discernment toward profession as an Oblate of Blue Cloud Abbey. (Hmm, wonder if I can work any more confusing church vocabulary into one sentence?)
Let me say some "nots" first:
- - I am not taking up the Papal offer of Roman Catholic oversight.
- - I am not becoming a monk.
What am I doing?
- + Anchoring my life in disciplines of prayer and spiritual reflection that can get swept away by the "normal" busyness of life.
- + Surrendering more time, thought and conduct to some significant renewal that God is doing in my life.
- + Getting back to who God made me to be - a man acting from a foundation of prayer and study.
- + Reconnecting with an important source of Anglican spirituality. The Benedictine way of life flows directly into The Book of Common Prayer with its sanctification of time and the normal routines of human life.
- + A bit of personal identification. Gregory, who preferred the life of peaceful contemplation, was called to Christian leadership in a time of dizzying social upheaval. Folks who know me will be L-ingOL at that similarity of situation (except Gregory seems to have been competent).
- + Gregory holds a special place for Anglicans. He launched a significant missionary endeavor to England, which resulted in the rise of Canterbury as the seat of Anglican Christian identity.
- + In our polarized world, Gregory is an attractive figure toward Christian unity. Theodosia Tomkinson calls Gregory "the Dialogist, Pope of Rome and Apostle to the English" - an expression of his value to Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Christians. His devotion to Scripture as the source of teaching and his understanding of Peter's authority flowing from the right confession of faith resonate with ideas of the Protestant Reformation as well. No less than John Calvin spoke well of Gregory.
- + I started my discernment year last September and Gregory's commemoration on the Roman and Church of England calendars is September 3rd.
How am I going about this?
- + Through my established discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. My evening devotions now include reading a chapter from The Rule of St. Benedict.
- + Adding prayerful structure to the working day. At Noon, I read a Psalm, a selection from one of Gregory's sermons, and say the Lord's Prayer.
- + I am taking blocks of time to read Gregory's Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. (Thanks sweet wife for this and several other Benedictine books under the Christmas tree!)
- + I am being more attentive to Christian community, both in family life and by participating in a parish small group study of the Psalms, and seeking to apply ideas from Benedict's rule.
- + Inflicting quotes from Gregory on my blog readers.
As you can imagine, I fall short in all of these efforts, but that is part of growing up in Christ. Even in failure, I am discovering more about God's grace and power to restore and renew - and even to transform.
Your prayers are appreciated. I don't think we pray enough for the most important things in Christian life. In fact, Benedict's writings on the role of the Abbott and Gregory's views on preaching and pastoring are making me much more of an intercessor for my parish. Not just praying reactively to problems, but really asking God to bring the people "to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).