Ghosts of the past
On Holy Week and learning gently
Today I find myself sitting in a monastery.
I’ve been here since the end of last week, taking an annual quasi-break to recharge and spend time worshipping with my favorite religious community. Once upon a time, I lived here as an intern, during the year between undergrad and seminary. The first half of that year involved almost-daily tears, and wondering if I should leave. The second half felt steadier, and by the end, I didn’t want to leave.
There’s something grounding about one’s work being continually punctuated by the daily offices and meals. Compared to my office days, when I often eat while working on admin, or WFH days, when I sometimes miss meals entirely, the rhythm of self-care here really truly makes a difference. As much as I wish I said the offices throughout the day, I typically don’t, and so reminding myself that taking a moment to breathe and pray is as much a part of my work/life/being as everything else is, is a needed reminder.
When I was an intern, these pauses, and the work of the day, made me feel like I was drowning—too much church, too much silence, too much (etc)—but now I welcome this hourly reorientation with open arms. I’m not sure that this means I am much more mature than I was, but as I visit my past self here, I feel different. I’m not sure I’ve learned much, but I think what I have learned is a kind of gentleness with myself that I didn’t have as a 21 year old. Now, a handful of years later, I smile back upon the girl who wanted to write important things, and move on to seminary quickly. That girl did end up writing things and going to seminary, but I’m not sure she could have imagined what they’d lead to. I feel much more hope-filled and less anxious than I was at 21, but I also feel like I know less, and am more content to befriend simplicity rather than ambition.
I don’t know about you, but something about the rituals of Holy Week always make me think about my past selves—where I have been for each Triduum, and how much has changed each year since. Last year I was in the throes of burnout post-parish, and now I find myself more settled career-wise (though still in transition, as I will one day soon elaborate on). I’m not sure what it is about this week, except perhaps that we meet Jesus each year, remembering these holy days… and each year, I feel as if I am offering up a different version of myself, reaching out to steady myself on the Christ who is always the same.
If Holy Week brings up things for you—similarly, or differently—perhaps you’ll join me in taking some deep breaths this week, and remembering the living Christ who remains there for us through all of the cares and changes of this life. If you are a priest or layperson working long hours this week, please do drop a quick note—I would love to pray for you.
Short & Sweet
Cooking: nothing, thanks to the graciousness and good cooking of the monastery chef
Reading: I just finished A Surfeit of Suspects by George Bellairs (originally pub. 1964), which is a British Crime Classics republished edition. If you’ve talked to me about mysteries, you’ll have heard me RAVE about these editions, which are mostly good (with some excellent) Golden Age murder mysteries, that make for easy light reading.
Preaching: None. I got to crucifer and lector this week, which is a lovely thing to do again. Most of the time I’m presiding/preaching, so it’s nice to be part of a service in other ways every now and then.
Watching: The Repair Shop (BBC), and not much else at the moment.
Listening: Speaking of past selves, I am currently going through a phase of digging out my favorite ‘00s albums—like Kelly Clarkson’s Never Again (which, can I just say, is an excellent dark pop album?!).