Six days a week at 6:50am the chapel bell rings.
Sometimes I roll over and groan, especially if I’ve been up late working on something. I am not naturally an early riser, nor am I used to the practice of morning prayer with others.
But ever since I moved to the monastery in October, how I start my day has been decided. When I hear that bell, whether tired or awake, energized or sore, I get out of bed and walk upstairs to Matins, our morning service of prayer.
There we chant the Psalms, sing a Canticle, and hear the scriptures. We pray the Lord’s Prayer and the Benedictus. We bow in unison and bask in the first light of day shining through the chapel windows.
I am one of the few people in this country, and perhaps the world, who’s had the privilege of attending communal worship throughout Covid-19 quarantine. And I don’t take that lightly.
Attending daily prayer has been a lifeline, anchoring me to the community and the wider body of Christians. Like many of you, this time for me has been one of uncertainty, new questions about my purpose, and practical concerns of finances and future.
Recently Brother Josép, one of the brothers here, shared about a guest who seemed perplexed by the monks’ five daily offices of prayer. He asked one of the brothers, “What have you gained, with all this constant prayer?”
The monk replied, “Nothing.”
“But this is what I’ve lost,” he said. “Anger. Fear. Resentment. Depression. Anxiety.”
Brother Josép notes, “Life is becoming more individualistic, more materialistic. Consumerism everywhere. People need a space to breathe. To contemplate. To be silent.”
During this time of quarantine, when the guest house is closed, the monastic community is asking new questions about their call and purpose. We have actively engaged in conversations around how God is leading us to respond to white supremacy and racial injustice. This is not a place where we escape from the world, but one in which we frame our day in prayer, that we might act with faithfulness and courage.
Some have asked what I’ve gained from hiking the Appalachian Trail.
I don’t think I’d say “Nothing.”
But I’ll tell you what I’ve lost.
The need to prove myself. The drive for comfort. The sense that I will drown from past losses. The feeling of separateness from others. The self-doubt that I don’t have what it takes or that I’m not able to cope with challenge.
On the trail and in the monastery, I have listened to stories. I have hiked alongside people who appear to have different lives from my own, and found striking commonalities. I have learned that we need one another, we need nature, and we need God. We all long to be loved and known.
During this uniquely unsettling spring, what have you gained?
Or maybe more so, what have you lost?
Cari Pattison is a minister member-at-large of the Hudson River Presbytery, currently serving as Clergy in Residence at Holy Cross Monastery. Holy Cross is an Episcopal Benedictine community of brothers in West Park, NY, and Cari has long enjoyed attending and leading retreats there. After 12 years as a pastor at The Reformed Church of Bronxville in southern Westchester (serving in the Formula of Agreement), Cari felt a call to hike the Appalachian Trail. She completed over half of it last year, before an injury took her off trail. She is currently in the process of seeking a new call in the mid-Hudson valley, and plans to finish hiking the AT when opportunity affords.
A Curious Faith will be on its usual summer hiatus, but will be back with more thought-provoking posts from members and friends of Hudson River Presbytery. In the meantime, peace be with you.