Summary: “When are we going to stop rewarding each other for doing too much?”

Marilyn McEntyre said, “At a faculty council meeting a few years back, a colleague raised what I thought was the best question of the year: “When are we going to stop rewarding each other for doing too much?”

“I admired her for asking it,” Marilyn said, “It was rooted in sound theology.”

[source: by Marilyn McEntyre, The Christian Century, July 7, 2015]

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” Jesus says in our Gospel today.

There is evidence to show that wanting solitude doesn’t really hurt one's social life, in fact, it might add to it because solitude helps us regulate our emotions. It has a calming effect that helps us to better engage with others.

Yet, look what happened when Jesus and the Apostles tried for some quiet time. The verse says, “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.

e.g. Father Theophane went on a personal retreat at remote monastery because there was a monk there who was widely respected for his wisdom. Father Theophane had been forewarned that this wise man gave advice only in the form of questions. Father Theophane approached the monk and said:

“I am a parish priest and am here on retreat. Could you give me a question to meditate on?”

“Ah, yes.” The wise man answered. “My question for you is: What do they need?” A little disappointed, Father Theophane thanked him and went away. After a few hours of meditating on the question and feeling as if he were getting nowhere, he decided to go back to the teacher.

“Excuse me,” he began, “Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Your question has been helpful, but I wasn’t so much interested in thinking about my pastoral duties to others. Rather I wanted to think seriously about my own spiritual life. Could you give me a question for my own spiritual life?”

“Ah, I see,” answered the wise man. Then my question is, “What do they really need?”

Father Theophane had assumed that true spiritual reflection focuses on our solitary self. But as the wise man reminded him, our spiritual life is involved with serving others. “What does he or she need?” “What does this person fear?” “What is life like for this person?”

3.However, we still DO need contemplative quiet time daily for the sake of growth--

St. Anthony of Egypt, who spent a lifetime in the solitude of the Egyptian desert, said: "[For the one] who wishes to live in solitude. . . there is only one conflict . . . and that is with the heart."

Yet only solitude gives what the monks called purity of heart, an authentic freedom, and a capacity to stand against and offer critical resistance to the most corrupt values of the prevailing culture.

For the monks who craved solitude, the demonic was "sensed as an extension of the self. A relationship with the demons involved something more intimate than attack from the outside: to be "tried by the demons" meant passing through a stage in the growth of awareness of the lower frontiers of the personality. The demonic stood not merely for all that was hostile to the human person, but they summed up all that was incomplete in us.

This intensely interior understanding of the encounter with the demons is confirmed by the monks' own testimony. They knew full well how intimately bound up the demonic was with their own complex, conflicted inner lives.

One day Abba Abraham asked Abba Poemen: "How do the demons fight against me?" Poemen responded:

"The demons fight against you? . . . Our own wills become the Demons…”

[source: The Work of Loneliness: Solitude, Emptiness, and Compassion by Douglas Burton-Christie, Anglican Theological Review, January 1, 2006]

Wisdom distilled from the Diary of St. Faustina--

Silence is a spiritual defensive weapon.

A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul.


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