Retreat and Lectio

I am not sure what effect, if any,
our online retreat from last week had on anyone else, but it frankly has had rather a powerful effect on me, most particularly the “3 PM Wonder Hours” of which Gerard Vanderleun’s “Frame Up” was the clear highlight, and if you missed it I urge you to read it. For me it brought the whole retreat together and helped me to understand that perfection is a natural state, and that we so often skew the trajectories of our lives by fighting the landing. On some level I “knew” that before, but on the retreat it really hit home.

Now, everything is different for me. I don’t know what to do with the blog, now – I feel like carrying on about politics is simply not where I’m being led…I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something different, not just going back to the same old political/religion thing. It feels like I’ve been standing in very bright light, and have come back into the house to find that the ordinary things – the politics and such – are simply cast in shadows and both invisible and uninteresting to me.

I mean, really, do I care what Keith Olbermann is shrieking? No. Do I care about anything Nancy Pelosi is saying right now? No. Do I care, really care, what new battle is being fomented and engaged in between teh feuding right and left, when I know – when I have always known, but had forgotten – that so much of it is illusory and the rest of it is as meaningful as a passing storm?

So, I don’t know when or if the blog will be returning to politics, or if it will return to it but differently. This feels like transitioning nudge from the Holy Spirit…but I don’t know yet, into what!

Not only am I disinclined to step back into my old blogging habits of too-much-everything, especially-politics, but I am thinking I need to go on a retreat away from the house and the computer, altogether. I’m thinking of heading to this retreat house, run by the Sisters of Life, come perhaps October. Although, I am also looking for an icon-writing retreat, so…who knows where I’ll end up.

Meanwhile, I’ve come to like this newish blog by the Benedictine Monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, and encourage you – if you are looking to make your spiritual reading more meaningful, to read this very interesting and inspiring post on the practice of Lectio Divina (or, “holy reading”). An excerpt:

The usual starting point is a text of Sacred Scripture. The approach to the biblical text in lectio divina presupposes faith that God is sacramentally present in the text to speak in a personal way. If one can say “Thanks be to God” to the affirmation “This is the Word of God,” one can do lectio divina. More broadly, in terms of experiencing any moment of creation, if one can say, “It is the Lord,” one can do lectio divina. The assent of faith makes the difference between reading a letter received from a loved one, and reading the same letter by someone to whom the letter is not addressed.

The structure of lectio divina is simple: lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio. The order, much like Gadamer’s levels of knowledge, should be imagined as circular, not as a linear, chronological progression. One may begin anywhere…perhaps the gift of experiencing the divine presence in a moment of silence may begin a lifetime of study and prayer. One aspect may predominate during one period of life, less so in another. To pray, whatever the way, is always a divine gift.

Perhaps I will do a Vespers Podcast tonight.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • ViolaJ.

    Dear Anchoress, I feel your heart. When God pulls on our hearts, all else in this world seems to lack meaning and purpose. I have so often felt that way and yet, knowing God’s perfect will often seems hard to know. Perhaps, I have always made it hard. :-)

    I will hold you in my prayers that you will receive a clearer feel of what you might do.

  • vanderleun

    Thank you for the kind words and for the opportunity to write The Frame-Up. It was a concept I’d taken as writ for years but never put it to what the cyberoids call “proof of concept.”

    As to where to go and what to turn to I’ve always felt that a nudge is usually a welling-up of the spirit and the first hint of the coming message.

    “But it isn’t just a matter of faith, but of faith and works. Each is necessary. For the demons also believe –you heard the apostle- and tremble (Jas 2:19); but their believing doesn’t do them any good. Faith alone is not enough, unless works too are joined to it: Faith working through love (Gal 5:6), says the apostle.” — St. Augustine

  • steve lowe

    I consider your political and cultural insights a wonder but if you can help us grow in our love of Christ- that would be a blessing! I am grateful for all your musings.

  • Mutnodjmet

    Anchoress: Let me chime in with my 2 cents from a more secular-minded Episcopalian. In my day job, I serve as a link between the highly scientific personnel and the regulatory/support staff. Basically, I translate the science into something meaningful to one group of people and the regulations/corporate requirements to another group of people. I can do so because I have a gift to translate technical ideas/jargon into non-technical words/actions/and ideas.

    You have a similar gift — connecting the spiritual to the political/current event realm. This is not am inconsequential talent. I think I speak for many here when I say that we NEED your insigt during this time of grand transitions. Additionally, I am learning many new things about Catholicism that I would not have otherwise known.

    My prayers are with you, and the retreat you may go to in October seems ideal (especially in the fall). I hope you decide to keep up with this, and I promise to throw a few dollars in the kitty tomorrow so you can have a pint of Guiness on me.

  • BackwardsBoy

    May God show you your new path with a shining light. Although I wasn’t able have my own retreat with you, I greatly enjoyed the “Happy Feet” image and have taken several of those pix myself while on vacation. Please keep your thoughts available online for those of us who appreciate your insight, even if it’s not political. The unusual thing is, I have been contemplating starting a political opinion web site recently. With your kind permission, I might pick up where you leave off.

  • sarahrolph

    Do as you wish, Anchoress. We will eagerly read anything you are willing to share with us.

    I remember when Glenn Reynolds was feeling funny about taking a vacation a few years ago, since so many of us had become so dependent on him for our headlines. He wondered aloud if it was okay to take a break. James Lileks issued a very spirited reply including the immortal words (in the context of, Well if you don’t feel like blogging:) “Blog not! You are not a public utility!”

    Your words are a great gift to us. We have already received so much from you: your wonderful prose, brilliant analysis, kind heart, memorable personal anecdotes, great music, poetic thoughts, informative and inspiring religious and social commentary, and yes, great political commentary as well.

    Thank you for these gifts. Thank you for shining your light on us! Your life and energy are yours to do as you wish. If you continue to blog in any way at all, we will be fully grateful for that!

  • Hermione

    Anchoress, I so understand how you’re feeling. I run a very small, not very well-known blog, myself, dealing mostly with politics and culture. About two years ago, I returned to the church after years and years of careless agnosticism. As I become more immersed in my spiritual pursuit, I find myself less and less interested in politics, per se, and am somewhat conflicted about being just one more “pot-stirrer” out there disturbing the peace. Having said all that, I strongly concur with the writer who says how gifted you are at connecting the spiritual to the political/cultural… and how much we need (I need!) your very special voice at this time of transition. If you feel you must stop writing about politics, I completely understand and you have my full support. But please, please, don’t stop writing! You have a wondrous gift and you touch many lives through that gift. Your blog is a daily part of my faith journey, and will continue to be so as long as you continue to share yourself with us. Thank you.

  • Hantchu

    Let’s hear it for Lectio Divina. This is what we Jews mean when we talk about “learning Torah” too, and without it I just dry up.

    I wanted to recommend a book to you and your readers that I found particularly fruitful and which may clarify why this Nice Jewish Religious Lady was doing hanging out on your blog during the retreat. “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for G-d with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land”, by Yossi Klein Halevi. Halevi, a resident of Jerusalem, seeks common experience with various Christian communities in Israel (several monasteries, a Melkite commuity, Armenian priests), and prays with Sufi sheikhs at a zikhr in search of spiritual and possibly political peace.

    He’s honest about who he is and his feelings of fear and anger as a Jew and comes away with something that is not a religious mish-mosh but is very deeply moving. Ironically, since the book was published, the political situation has become, if anything, even worse, but the sprouts of spiritual connnection are oddly some of the most hopeful and refreshing encounters I have ever witnessed. He introduces us to some wonderful teachers and individuals along the way.

    I’m nothing of the spiritual exhibitionist myself, and I’m not likely to show up at a monastery or zikhr any time soon, but as a nurse in a Jerusalem hospital, I am priviledged to many profound encounters with Christians and Moslems that I find expand me as a religious Jew and as a spiritual person. It’s no accident that great teachers of all religious traditions have advocated working with the sick as a means to spiritual growth.

    I talk too much, though. Read the book.

  • expat

    Not singing with the choir: Padre Pio said it best: “News is the Devil’s gospel.”

    I am an occasional reader of your blog; occasional, because I only read the posts that are not politically related.

    I don’t know who Keith Oblermann is, I barely know who Nancy Pelosi is; I had heard of Tim Russert, but never had watched his program.

    Many might think that’s pathetic, but it’s liberating to me. Especially since moving to Europe, I’ve discovered how freeing it is not to have to care about what the American media dictates. Politicians come and go, empires rise and fall. It’s just Caesar, just chaff — it’s not going to last or even matter in the long run. When was the last time you or anyone thought about the news items that passionately engaged you this time last year? Does anyone even remember what they were?

    I keep coming back to your blog, hoping that, maybe today, there will be a morsel of meat for me, because for me, the real food in your blog is when you aren’t writing about politics. It’s all too seldom for my taste, and I often leave starving, but it’s the promise of delicious food that keeps me coming back.

    My two cents is this: your non-political writing is just too inspiring and powerful to leave it for the random post like cold left-over.

    If you abandon the political focus, you will be losing something but you also may be gaining something far greater. I pray that the Lord gives you discernment and peace with whatever path you are shown.

  • saveliberty


    Whatever you choose to write, we will read gladly.