Friday, July 18, 2008

A Rule of Life

Today in his retreat addresses to the Bishops, Rowan Williams really seemed to put his cards on the table. He spoke about how important it is to listen to each other and to God, noting that obedience is to listen closely or attentively. [The sisters are taking their prayer time in the garden at Canterbury in this picture.] This connection between listening and obedience is one I make whenever I lead a drum circle, that community life, be it drumming or religious life or any kind of community requires that we listen carefully to each other. Every voice is important and if we are pounding too hard, shouting our opinions, we don’t hear most of the most interesting stuff around us and don’t know how to contribute most effectively. Living obediently, living and acting as a part of a larger whole, listening for and pointing to Jesus Christ in all things were the themes of his retreat address today. He suggested that the Bishops do a couple of things. One was to seek out a Bishop they were most unhappy to see at the conference and ask to pray with them, and another was to find two or three others around the Anglican Communion with whom they could agree with for a common rule of life.

It was very interesting to hear him talk about a common rule of life. I live under a Rule, along with the other 178 First Order Brothers, plus the Sisters. The Rule of Life for the Third Order is very, very similar. Our rule includes the Principles and an outline of the expectations for our life, providing for, among other things: regular prayer, study, work, rest, retreat and recreation and builds in accountability to the Guardian in matters such as fasting, so nobody endangers their health. It is intriguing to think this might be a way forward for the bishops. It certainly is more exciting than a covenant-cum-treaty. “Are you okay?” we ask each other if we miss a prayer service. “Here’s a book I think you’ll love,” we say to encourage each other to take time to study in the midst of other duties. “And when are you taking your vacation this year?” I used to ask the brothers when I was Guardian of Little Portion Friary. I learned to take care of myself spiritually, physically and socially: my prayer life has grown deeper, I take better care of myself physically and I grow more and more grateful for the other brothers in my life. The longer I live with them I find their foibles which used to enrage me still enrage me, and yet when I am on the road I think of the quirkiest with the most longing.

My brothers give me different perspectives on life and this is a good thing for me. In his book The Art of Travel (a topic of consuming interest to me!) Alain de Botton makes an arresting observation: [speaking about William Wordsworth’s convictions about the salutary effects of appreciating landscapes] “he invited his readers to abandon their usual perspectives and to shuttle between the human and he natural perspective. Why might this be interesting, or even inspiring? Perhaps because unhappiness can stem from having only one perspective to play with.” These different perspectives are surely a consequence of living with a Rule of Life in community with others.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Thank you for your reflections. I am a postulant in the third order in the UK who stumbled across your blog a couple of days ago and am finding it very inspiring. It is great to read your thoughtful reflections (particularly this one, which really chimes with me as I prepare to write a rule of life for my novicing) and to hear news from my brothers and sisters all over the world.

Pax et bonum