A thunder storm roared through here, breaking away weakened tree limbs and turning the leaves backwards on many plants, making them look inside-out. That storm was followed by a couple days of quieter scattered rain.
In the region of the Midwest that I call home, it had been drought. The acres of corn were becoming rigid, the leaves curled in and pointing skyward. Many fields and lawns had yellowed, some browned and burnt.
A spiritual drought had gripped my soul as well, and for several years.
In November of 2017, denied for the third time consecration as a hermit — though I had lived ‘as if’ for nearly 20 years — I moved the Blood of Christ garnet ring from my left hand to my right. When I made the oblation to live an anchoritic life I had purchased the ring as an engagement to Our Lord.
At Mass on that Vocation Sunday in 2017, the hurt of denial was fresh, and I was deeply saddened by what felt like a loss of identity. The priest to whom I had confessed the day before was also dismayed by the news of my again being turned away from my calling. He encouraged me to ask God for trust in him on whatever the path he was calling me towards. Trying to hide my tears all through Mass, I cried out from my heart, “Lord, who am I too you if not that [an anchorite]?”
So began a season of drought, a longing and a seeking for three long years. Many a morning my arms reached up, like drought-stretched leaves of corn, begging for rain on the parched soil of my soul.
I waited, and prayed, and begged.
As a child I loved electrical storms, their power, the smell, and the rushing winds for at that age in them was God. Early in this waiting I dreamt I was running across a corn-stubble field towards a silent electrical storm with roiling dark skies and intense lightning strike. There was a turbulence coming up behind me; another storm, but not in the sky. It was as if heaven and earth had merged and the massive wall was churning everything I knew and would soon overtake.
In obedience to journey a different path, I left behind the security of my rooms, clinging tight to the words of Saint Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing,
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.
Well, try as I might, I was often disturbed and frightened, and yet persevered through the changes and expansion of my soul.
Somewhere I decided to return the engagement ring to my left hand; I was still the Lord’s supplicant if not a consecrated bride.
Then after Christmas a different force came in to play; a new darkness less about growth and more like a battle. Like the struggle of a plant to breath when it leaves are covered in grime, suffocating the stomata.
What my soul needed, like the plants that were suffocating or curled up from drought, was a restorative rain. And it came.
It seemed to begin with a gift of The Word on Fire Bible, which was like a wind before a storm awakening the living to what was coming. Over the next six weeks three different priests were the rains — from Psalms 77:18 “and the skies gave forth their voices” (NAB, St. Joseph Edition, 1970).
From the confessional, each priest gave clear spiritual direction on the path to which I am to return. I am retreating back to a monastic lifestyle — under the Rule of Saint Benedict — to more fully embrace my calling as a supplicant with a refreshed and broader focus.
The storms of the past few years have broken away weakened branches and at times turned me nearly inside-out with their force. But like a tree, the force of the storm strengthened the windward side for deeper roots.
I am eager to return to a beloved anchoritic life of prayer, writing, and painting, that in all things God may be glorified.
Note: I will collect prayer requests from my personal Facebook news feed on Sunday evenings.