Prior to entering the monastery, I lived my life between the extremes of constant motion and exhaustion. Life always seemed to be demanding more. Perhaps you can relate to this? As I entered the monastery I was thrust into the depths of community and the vast expanse of the desert. These two poles – community and the desert – are the scouring pads that continue to form me in the Carmelite life of prayer. Both are equally important, one is not to be sought or revered over the other. In many respects, this change of landscape brought new challenges, a certain unease, and a few insights.
Having recently completed the novitiate, I learned about the importance of cultivating a disposition of interior silence and being able to carry it into the busyness of each day, which at first seemed like a paradox. Doesn’t interior silence demand exterior silence? Of course, it does, but it can’t end there. Yes, it is crucial to spend time in the desert – to unplug, to disconnect, and to simply be with God in the silence. And as romantic as that may sound, it’s hard and at times it can be downright uncomfortable. But I want to encourage you to persevere because the time will come when the silence gives way to stillness and the presence of God will be so palpable that you won’t want to do anything but rest in God’s love.
I have come to learn that these moments are pure gift and the challenge is not to cling to these moments, but to let go and allow the experience of the desert to form your inmost being, to carve out a space where you can carry God with you into the demands and the noise of your day.
The three lessons I learned in the desert are: Be open, stay close to Christ, and never let an opportunity to practice charity pass you by.