"Yes, Father. This is what we covered last year. But I am still having a hard time. I am still searching for, longing for balance. The busy-ness of the church so often invades my space - the space that should be saved and protected for God. The church so often comes first - long before prayer, reading, rest, confession, solitude," I shared.
"Humm," Father Mark replied. "A priest was just here last week with the exact same problem. I told him he needed to get help - to get an associate. But, let me share something else with you."
Father Mark continued, "When I was about to graduate from medical school (Father Mark was a doctor for 5 years before becoming a monk) and start my practice as an obstetrician, I knew the hard, long hours that were about to invade my life. The one thing I asked my family for graduation was season tickets to the Boston Symphony. I knew that the week would be long, hard, and beautiful. And, I wanted something to look forward to every week. Every Saturday night, I knew that my soul would find rest and renewal. I knew that I would find joy in that space."
"What is it that gives you joy?" Father Mark asked. "If you are making space for joy, then I believe you will also be naturally more inclined to turn to God - to give God thanks and to be in a more intentional relationship with God."
These morsels of wisdom arrived on day three of my retreat at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia last week. It was my second visit to Holy Cross - the second time I would spend the week before Holy Week in solitude, silence, prayer, praise, and contemplation. My nights last week were filled with long hours of sleep - going to bed early and rising early. My days were spent taking long walks along the sides of pastures where cattle graze, eating simple meals, reading some six different books, going to any of the five services that happen in the daily life of the abbey, listening to the monks chant back and forth, hearing the voice of birds and crickets, praying, writing, and discovering more about myself and my relationship with God.
When I got back to my room, I made a list of the things that give me joy. This is what I wrote, unedited, "Manicures, Bill's exercise classes at the gym, Craig, a good sermon, a good book, a good movie, coffee with newcomers, people from Hendersonville, Mary Elizabeth, the Thursday Bible study, good food, tulips or fresh flowers, grocery shopping, buying cards, family, long walks, blogging."
I then added in my journal, "When I am making time for these things, then I will be more likely to also make time for God."
What gives you joy? What's on your list?
May we find - discover - make time for joy and for God this week.