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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Solitude


The church is quiet. The candle is lit. A fresh cup of coffee is on my warmer near me. The phone has not rung yet. For the last hour-and-a-half I have had the luxury of reading Shane Clairborne's new book "Jesus for President", Henri Nouwen's 1981 classic "The Genesee Diary" and praying through Psalm 90. The solitude is so sweet. My heart gets really still and focussed.
But Nouwen's reflections on his adventure into solitude in a Trappist Monastery clarified the purpose of pastoral solitude. He quoted the writings of Thomas Merton in "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander":
"My solitude , however,is not my own, for I see how much it belong to them (both world around him and parish he serves)-and that I have a responsibility for their regard, not just my own. It is because I am one of them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone, they are not 'they' but my own self. There are no strangers."
Pastoral Solitude is not a perk or a luxury, but an absolute necessity for the parishes we serve. Solitude deepens my own well so that I might serve and love God's people without distraction and dissolution. Solitude is the furnace that re-clarifies my energies and opens my heart to love and not resent. Solitude reminds me of what the realities are as opposed to all the illusions that distract me. Solitude sustains like nothing else.

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