Today, I find myself reflecting on the components that have brought me to this place of holding space in which Contemplative Community may emerge.
My first recollection is that of attending mass as a child. I have to humbly admit, that I was one of those weird kids that actually liked going to mass. And in the parish where I grew up, a contemporary building that held 900, it was not about the majesty of the place – there was no stained glass, gothic arches or statues of saints to draw me into a state of rapt wonder. Instead, it seems it was about having a quiet place to simply be with God. Attending mass was an opportunity for my naturally introverted self to embrace my truth and retreat inward to a place where I could silently and privately commune with God, with my private hopes, prayers and dreams. In this place of silent communion, I was oblivious to the scripture, preaching, music and ritual that were going on around me. This silent communion afforded me one hour a week to escape the chaos of my everyday life. Attending mass, I found peace.
While I currently find myself fasting from the Eucharist, I cannot but remember fondly the times I experienced peace through the liturgy. This time of innocent wonder provided the cornerstone for my adult searching. I think I was always seeking to recreate the peace I had come to know in those weekly encounters with God. This search eventually led me to Sr. Marie Schwan, one of my instructors in the Lay Ministry program I attended. Through Marie, I learned the deeply held practices of Christian Mystical prayer. Meditation and Contemplation became vehicles through which I was able to rediscover the “peace that surpasseth all understanding.” While liturgy no longer provided the vehicle through which I could enjoy private communion with God, contemplation and meditation did. I was shocked that in all those years of Catholic schooling, I had never been exposed to these profoundly enriching practices. I was determined to share this knowledge with as many men and women who would care to learn.
While I have had many opportunities, through many ministries, to share these practices, there still seemed to be something missing – or not yet complete. While content to maintain my affiliation with the Catholic faith in which I was raised, I felt like my spirituality was beginning to outgrow the constrictions of Catholic doctrine. Having opportunities to explore the practices and beliefs of many of the world religions, I was confirmed in my suspicion that there is only ONE God and that the paths to God are many. Truth, it seemed, was not contained within doctrine, ritual or beliefs, but in a deeply, intimate, personal experience of the Divine – by whatever name we call it! This awareness became the driving force of my spiritual practice, my ministry and my everyday life. While Catholicism provided the framework for these spiritual experiences, it is God’s unlimited freedom that lives within.
Now, the question is, what in the heck does this have to do with Contemplative Community. In a nutshell, I do not believe I am alone in these experiences. I sense there are others out there, like me, who long for something bigger, an experience of truth, of God that transcends the limitations of religious structures. Perhaps they are looking for a complement to their existing religious practices. Maybe they are looking for affirmation of experiences they have already cultivated. Maybe they are looking for people with whom they can share these experiences – free of judgment. I just know that I’m not the only person who has found comfort in contemplation and I know there are folks out there still seeking in quiet desperation for the peace that seems to elude them. Maybe it is for these people that Contemplative Community will emerge. I guess in the end, only time will tell. In the meantime, I continue to hold space, wondering and waiting to see what God has in store.