Caring For Our Living Sanctuary
“Care for our living sanctuary is the first duty of every person involved in ministry or in contemplative living.” adapted from Evelyn Underhill’s letter to Bishop Lang
Several days a week after forty-five minutes of morning prayer I layer up according to the weather and head out onto the four acres of hill country paths behind our home. I choose to walk where I can feel the roots and rocks. It also requires a heightened attentiveness on my part. When I wander off in my head I find myself rolling on the ground with a twisted ankle and days of tenderness to follow. Because there are limited paths to follow I become aware of subtle changes in the surroundings. I can walk past the same cactus three times and on the fourth time become aware of new fruit forming on its outer branch. To help me with the length of time spent on the paths I pick up a small stone at the same place on the path with each passing. When six rocks (forty-five minutes) have been accumulated I open my hand, let the rocks fall back to where I picked them up and return home. On arriving home I peel away the layers of coats, scarves and gloves and leave on only what is necessary for where I am now. This practice reminds me of the desert tradition where a person of prayer would weave mats, sell the mats to sustain their bodily needs and what did not sell at the end of the day they would burn. This practice was inspired by the first Beatitude, poverty of spirit, not holding on to anything of their own, for God’s love is their life. Moving on and beginning again, every day and in every way, we must choose to live in love. We must be eager to learn the ever-deeper ways of love which follow from every decision to love. To desire and choose to try again and again and again and again.
What is the length of time you spend in activity? In interiority? Six rocks? forty-five minutes?
Are you able to let go of what you gathered during the day? Rocks? Mats? Resentment? Envy?
What is essential and what is superfluous in your life? What do you hold on to that takes God’s place?
What are the layers of protection you have that are no longer needed? Avoidance? Aggression?
Pray for the grace of caring for your living sanctuary, your heart, your soul, and your mind.
"Come abide within me, let my soul, like Mary's, be thine earthly sanctuary."
This year I have been following the compassion beads created by Dr. James Doty. Compassion, Dignity, Equanimity, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Humility, Integrity, Justice, Kindness and ending with Love. This articles focuses on Integrity.
Recently I went on retreat into the high desert of New Mexico and in the journey I came upon adobe churches. Each year the worshiping community comes together to re-surface the church by hand and trowel using mud, straw and water. What moved me is the adobe mud, a straw mixture, so impermanent, being used to create a semi-permanent structure, a chapel. We too are semi-permanent chapels and in need of reshaping by the holy spirit, leaving everything in search of knowing Jesus Christ and making the Gospels absolutely integral to our daily life. Practicing integrity of character takes unrelenting courage. It requires your whole being to remain in the state of constant humility that comes from knowing that you are loved by God. It is living in a state of gentleness and patience towards other disciples and also visitors who come seeking an understanding of the essence of spiritual life. Most of all integrity is seeking and experiencing union with God in the silence of your heart.
Reflect and Journal:
Suzanne Broussard is a certified spiritual director with 25 years of experience in clinical settings; religious education, spiritual and retreat ministries with a focus on the holistic development of adult spiritual formation, ecumenical and interfaith, individuals and groups.