This is a 7 Quick Takes post — thanks to Jennifer our host at her blog, Conversion Diary.
Since the return from New Camaldoli, I’ve been reading a book by the new Prior there, Fr. Cyprian Consiglio, Prayer in the Cave of the Heart. I picked up this copy in the Hermitage bookstore but it’s published by Liturgical Press and should be easily available on Amazon. Anyway. The book deals with incorporating prayer practice from many different traditions, especially from the Hindu and Buddhist, into Christian prayer and meditation. Unlike my impression of Merton, Fr Cyprian is very clear that he’s not taking a syncretistic view of the matter; Catholic teaching is, in many cases quite different from both Hindu and Buddhist belief. He sees that, in both Christian and, say Hindu, spirituality, the divine is sought interiorly, not by seeking God outside ourselves. He thinks that, from the Christian point of view, that idea is lost and it explains why so many Christians leave their faith to see something in Eastern practices, such as meditation; he thinks that’s a dreadful mistake. The book is worth the read if only to see that truth can be found in sources from every faith tradition.
Fr. Cyprian made a couple of interesting side points in the book. First, he thinks that language makes a difference in our prayer and devotional lives and that something was lost when the Church abandoned Latin as the liturgical language. I agree with that. Next, in discussing St. Paul’s teaching on unceasing prayer, he mentioned that he takes that dictum literally. You don’t see many authors these days saying that. Again, I think he’s right.
The study on Francis continues. The course makes an interesting point in discussing the reason the Franciscan order spread so quickly — society was changing, rural to urban, people were forming guilds to protect their business interests, even beginning the practice of lending money at interest. The “old” ways, such as monastic practices, etc. were no longer seen as relevant to every day life. I’m not sure I buy that reasoning, although I don’t reject it either. I do find it interesting that monasticism is making something of a resurgence in a society that has changed even more drastically in the last 40 years than ever imagined in Francis’ time. It seems people want to find a place and time of peace to explore their faith instead of trying to adapt their faith to busy lives. I think that’s a good trend.
While driving to the retreat in Big Sur, we happened to hit the “world’s most expensive traffic jam” as Dan Neil, automotive editor for the Wall Street Journal, described it this week. That weekend, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was in full swing as we tried to navigate through Monterey, CA. I’ve never, ever seen so many Ferraris, not just old used ones, but brand new ones, not to mention all sorts of rare collectible cars, some so rare I was amazed anyone would drive them on the street, and even several brand new Rolls Royces, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. One of the monks told me that he had heard there was $1 billion worth of cars there. I have always been a bit of a car nut, but I felt, seeing all those pricey autos, that something was just a bit out of proportion.
It also struck me as a bit ironic that all this show of wealth and power was on conspicuous display in California, a state where I thought it was power to the people, etc. Just sayin’
I’ve volunteered to be a sponsor in our parish RCIA program this year. I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. I felt I had to do it, though, since they made the announcement before Mass that they had more non-baptized catechumens joining the program than ever before. They said they’ve never had so many people who came to them saying, “I just can’t wait to become Catholic.” A good sign that maybe all is not lost in society after all.
Did you know monks LOVE ice cream? I am now a witness to the fact and can attest it’s truth. Following the oblate path, I guess I’ll have to change my dietary habits a little; wouldn’t want to be out of sync with the monastery, you know.
I’m already seeing signs of fall in the air. In Colorado, as fall approaches and with the changing position of the sun in the sky, the sky takes on the most beautiful deep blue color. I could sit and watch it all day. Of course, there are other signs of the changing season; at least 3 weeks ago, Costco began selling Halloween costumes and decorations. On Wednesday of this week, I saw Christmas decorations for sale in the same store. This moves seems a little beyond normal commercial practices and I’m wondering if we’re not so habitually in a hurry, impatient in all things, that this isn’t really what’s driving this speeding of the experience of the seasons?