Do I Truly Seek God?

August 27, 2016 | Reflections From Sr Mary

“Does she truly seek God?”

This is a question we all know well for we find it in the Rule and we could say that it is our reason for being contemplative Monastics.

Benedictines throughout the centuries have always been known as “Seekers of God”. St Benedict in RB58:7 tells us that he looks for this in the one who is discerning a vocation to the monastery. “Does she truly seek God?”

Yes, he has other criteria for a vocation: love for the Opus Dei, eagerness for Obedience, seeking to walk in the ways of Humility etc. However, the first and most important thing he asks is “Do they truly seek God?” If we truly seek God then all else will fall into place.

The Church through its latest document Vultum Dei Quaerere is bringing us back to this defining call. It tells us to “exclusively seek the face of God”, and “to find and contemplate God in the heart of the world” and how better to do this than during this time of deeper solitude and silence.

What does it mean to “truly seek God”? How do we know that we are truly seeking God and not our own will?

To begin with I think a good way is to simply just do a little stocktake at the beginning of our retreat. As we look back over the recent days and weeks, we could look for a pattern to our lives. We could ask ourselves: Have I been seeking God in all the events of my life recently?

How many times during the day do I…….
Seek to prefer my own will to that of another?
Seek to get upset and angry when someone disagrees with me or is abrupt with me?
Seek to do something for myself rather than something for another?
Seek to stay in bed rather than join the community in the church at 4.30 in the morning?
Seek to catch up on work, read a novel rather than do extra lectio divina?
We could go on and on and you can add your own questions to the list.

Having asked ourselves these questions, the first thing that will probably hit is, “Oh how I have failed!” That’s if we are really honest with ourselves. But, the important thing about doing any kind of examen, especially during a time of retreat and deeper rest and refection, is to not get stuck on the failures but to re-commit ourselves to our deepest desires, to recharge our batteries for a greater commitment to the person I am called to be as a Benedictine nun, to the person I want to be as a follower of Christ and a seeker of God.

The reality is that we seek God in the nitty gritty of life. Yes we seek Him in the big events of life too. Sometimes it is easier to seek God in the big things that are asked of us but most of the time we are not asked to do big things but small things with the “greatest patience” and love. As Mother Teresa said: “Do the small things with great love.”

What does SEEKING GOD lead to?
It leads to many things but I think there are two which are most characteristic of a life lived for and with God: Holiness and Happiness.

In seeking the face of God and not our own face then we are leaving all negativity, darkness and despair behind and embracing the light which will take us into the realms of holiness and happiness.

I want to ask all of us during this retreat to read the Rule of St Benedict from beginning to end and hear the call to Seek God in all that he talks about in the Rule. Start at the beginning and read a number of chapters each day. So, as you go through the Rule, take note again of that first word: “Listen with the ear of your heart”. Listen again and hear St Benedict calling us to “truly seek God” – not just in Chapter 58 but in every Chapter of the Rule. Pick out the parts in which you hear him speaking of the seeking of God… particularly in the nitty gritty, the small things of our life together.

So, as we embark upon our Annual Retreat, I wish you all a time of deep silence and an intensified time of listening and seeking God. It is important that we all provide the atmosphere of silence for this deeper seeking for ourselves and for each other. There will, of course, be the need for tasks to continue in the kitchen, the wash up rooms and the guestry but please allow the sisters doing these tasks to do so in silence and service. If you are not required to be in these places, please do not go into them. Likewise, those sisters doing the tasks, please try to do them gently and steadily with a minimum of noise.

I want to also ask you to choose activities in your free time during retreat which you really love to do and which will bring refreshment and life to your spirit and your body. That might be to draw or paint, to write in your journals, to garden, to listen to music, to sit in the sun… anything that you can do quietly and peacefully in the context of the retreat. And to each and every one of us, including and especially myself, please let’s try to get out for some form of exercise each day… even if it is only for 10 or 15 minutes. You don’t have to go overboard trying to get fit! It can be a gentle walk but to get out and breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on our skin and allow the blood to circulate through our bodies is a great way to help us feel more alive and indeed to be in touch with our Creator God. The days are getting warmer and spring is popping up everywhere so there is beauty all around us. Let’s take it in. It would be a great shame if we missed out on this beauty and spent the time vegetating on our beds or surfing the internet.

One morning recently I was standing down beside the glass wall here, during Mass, with the warmth of the sun on my back. Paul came over at the Sign of Peace and said to me: “Are you taking your place in the sun?” I thought it such a beautiful and meaningful question. Am I taking my place in the sun? Let us all take our place in the sun/Son during this retreat, seeking our God, and drinking in His warmth and new life.

May each moment of this time for all of us be marked by a really positive, warm, gentle and silent atmosphere throughout the house. As the American poet Mary Oliver reminds us, let us “never hurry through the world but walk slowly and bow often” this week. Let us also pray for one another that as we seek our God with all our hearts, we will be blessed with every good gift, pressed down and running over…… running over out into the whole world.