Thursday, 28 December 2006

Returning from the Redemptorists

I recently spent the greater part of a week at the Redemptorist house, situated in the exquisite surroundings of the Natal midlands, amidst valleys and waterfalls. It is a region blessed with frequent delicate showers and enveloping mist. I spent some time there at the respectful request of a saintly Redemptorist priest (he will no doubt cringe when he reads the word 'saintly') who thought it would assist me in discerning where God is leading me.

He was, of course, right, for the week's stay did just that, but not in any way I expected. This requires some explanation. I am in the process of discerning a vocation to the cloistered religious life; More specifically, the Carthusian Order. However, when I was told of an upcoming Redemptorist vocations workshop led by the aforementioned priest, I decided to attend: My justification being that the priest in question had evidenced a curious receptivity to the Spirit. Duly having told the Carthusian vocations director of my intentions, I left lightheartedly for Natal.

The drive down (about five hours if taken leisurely) was exquisite, and punctuated by showers and ended in a delightful gift of thick mist. That evening started with the celebration of Mass, which moved me with a startling profundity. The devotion of the Redemptorists was deep, and almost palpable in the sparse chapel (which nonetheless contained three excellent stained glass windows, the most beautiful being that of St. Alphonsus himself). So even amidst a wholly unexpected number of liturgical abuses, the Liturgy set a devout precedent of recollection that continued almost unabated until the end of my time there.

Two great graces came from this time. First, through the regular communal recitation of the Hours in which I found such delight and nourishment, I am quite certain now that I am indeed called to a religious life in which the Hours form the center of devotion. Secondly, through the ministrations of a Carthusian book called The Wound of Love: A Carthusian Miscellany, I am convinced that the interior struggles, the Inner Passion, as 't were, will find me wherever I go. My anxieties about the interior aspects of the Carthusian desert cannot, then, be resolved by mere avoidance of the charterhouse; These struggles are universal among those who intend to live a life of contemplation. The aforementioned book was lent to me by the priest who led the workshop. Whether this was planned or incidental is of little matter, since the contents were exactly what I needed at this stage of the inner pilgrimage.

By the time I had to depart I was actually somewhat saddened to leave. The community was so welcoming, so gentle in their acceptance, and so sincere in their fraternal charity ... how could one not miss the mediated presence of Christ in such brethren? I think I even lamented a little, in the unknown recesses of the heart, that I am not called to the Redemptorists. Such a vocation would indeed be more of a joy to my parents, who would then have far more opportunities to see me than would be the case at the charterhouse. But let me not oppose the possibility.

Lord, as Thou wilt, and as Thou knowest, have mercy on me. Let me live ever in the Light of Thy Countenance, unto the Ages of Ages. Amen.

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