Reasons for Writing

Reasons for Writing

3 November 2015

I have written 'The Abbot's Shoes' for two main reasons.  To say
"Thank you" to the house of prayer that took me in during the early
1970s.  And to offer a helping hand to any younger person who may be
feeling called to "live to pray" today.

"The church was humble and not at all the great cathedral-like
structure many might have expected.  The atmosphere was unexpectedly
cosy and intimate.  A few lights made the bare wooden floor glow
golden, and the air always smelt faintly and pleasantly of polish,
beeswax and incense ... I honestly doubt I would have lived very long
into my twenties had I not been received, 'hidden' and nourished by my
Trappist fathers within their sanctuary."

I do absolutely believe that the contemplative-monastic vocation is as
real and valid as the call to live out one's Christian life and
service in a local church or out on the mission field.  But my
conviction is not necessarily widely shared or strongly supported ...
especially within Protestantism.  This can make life even more of a
struggle than usual, especially for younger people who truly love
Jesus of Nazareth, want to live lives of prayer, but who don't
identify with or belong to a particular Church or Christian movement.
Lacking any kind of paradigm or context, such (sometimes intuitive and
sensitive) people are vulnerable to feelings of disorientation,
marginalisation and frustration.  I am hoping that 'The Abbot's Shoes'
will contain sufficient hints and clues, navigation lights and
handholds for such as may be experiencing the ancient and ever-new
"allure into the desert".  Perhaps they will make their own
beginnings, either alone or with a handful of friends?

"I am led by the 'perpetual Psalter' , which allows these holy songs
to unfold in the successive order and plan determined by Another.
Thus, I am in one sense cast adrift, but always on the ancient and
irresistible draughts and tides of the River of prayer ... I am
dreaming of many tiny monasteries, 'invisible' in urban and rural
wildernesses, where young and old, married and single can together
'live to pray'."

But what is of course more important than my writing, is the fact that
I am now sincerely trying to learn to "live to pray" myself, and in
surroundings which are as unremarkable and provisional as one could
ever imagine.  And this is no "flash in the pan", overnight
undertaking. It is a life begun and laid to one side in the early
1970s, to be picked up again 10 years ago.  Slowly but surely I have
begun "upon my knees, to inch cautiously back into the currents of
God's contemplative stream".

"The house of prayer in which I now sit is only a few feet square ...
Although I am by myself here, it is impossible to be alone.  The most
solitary Psalm singer is nevertheless part of an immense choir that
enfolds and subsumes all who have ever and will ever tell and chant
them.  At every moment of every day there will be some, somewhere
rendering up these everlasting songs of contrition, spiritual poverty
and adoration."

"The Abbot's Shoes - Seeking a Contemplative Life", Revival Streams,
2015, Aotearoa-New Zealand.