[The latest reflection on Franciscan virtues by Friar Pete, O.F.A. of St. Michael's Hermitage, Regina SK]
I’ve been practicing Centering Prayer now for just a little over a year. So when detachment came up, my first impulse was to write about how focal detachment is to the practice of Centering Prayer. The idea is to, while sitting quietly, to enter into a period of interior silence. This silence isn’t supposed to be a blank mind! More, it’s about allowing your brain to function in the same way that your heart functions, your lungs function, your kidney functions. Hearts pump, lungs process air, kidneys purify the blood, and brains think. You detach from your thoughts and allow the silence of your spirit to exist in the same place that God exists. It’s a quiet prayerful period, a communion.
And in practicing Centering Prayer, what I’ve noticed is that when I slipped from a twice a day routine to a once a day routine, to a once a day except for the week-end routine, I had a harder time detaching from arguments, from attitudes, from emotions. When I walked away from the practice because I didn’t have the time for the practice, my ability to become involved with worldly concerns increased and my ability to remain in a spiritually fueled attitude decreased. Which translates into more fights, more arguments, an easier way of slipping into totally useless social media debates!
As a gardener (let’s bring this to the garden right?), you plant seeds with the faith that they will eventually produce and contribute to the function of your garden. Because the hermitage garden is designed to not only produce fruits of the earth but a space of fruitfulness for contemplation and prayer, I’m even more reliant on the successful propagation of flowers, plants, and the wild grasses and herbs that crop up all throughout the space. When weather happens, and boy does it happen in Saskatchewan, everything that you saw growing tall, strong, and potentially beautiful in blooms and glory can be mowed down to nothing. You have to have faith, and that having faith, is a form of detachment.
With the season of Lent approaching, I can’t help but think of Jesus’s entire life, a life of service, a life of miracles, a life that gave people absolute joy and absolute hope, and a life wherein at every moment was the looming of Good Friday. Every miracle, every moment of ministry was shrouded by that moment, that knowing the sound of a hammer pounding into wood, that every cut and sliver, every ache and pain, a foreshadow of scourging, of thorns, of heavy weight pressing down on the shoulder that had been scoured, of the long suffering agony that was about to happen. And even in knowing that, knowing the pain that was coming, Jesus pushed through. He detached.
Detachment isn’t about pretending something isn’t going to happen. It’s knowing something is going to happen, knowing something *is* happening, and carrying forward with what you know to be the right thing *anyway*. It’s something that requires hard practice, and people stumble! I stumble regularly! I know that I’m supposed to live the model that St. Francis gave us, and yet I have days where I indulge myself in physical pleasure, or indulge myself in self pity, or excessive drama, or gossip.
But of all these things, the hardest thing to detach from is the idea that our suffering gives us entitlement. We’ve come to know pain in the LGBTQI community, but the fear I have is that in being activists, we may become attached to that pain as a way of empowering ourselves. When we do this, when we choose that route, we actually end up in the same place of uninformed righteousness that we have been struggling against. We have to move beyond the modality we have come from and move instead into a modality of forgiveness and acceptance that will frighten us! Because transcending identity is frightening! Letting go of those things which have empowered and limited, even crippled us spiritually for so long is a supreme act of faith that I think a lot of people will have trouble doing, or just outright not do because it is easier to hold onto the anger.
Poverty is an act of detachment from an idea of ownership of things and of emotions. It is a hard, hard thing that requires practice every waking moment. Lent isn’t so much then a time of letting go as much as it is an engagement with those things we treasure so much that may in fact get in the way of our touching the ethereal. When you think about abstaining during Lent, think of it less about what you’re giving up and instead about what it is that gets in the way of being a better person.
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