religious life?

I have been returning to an older theme: religious life. And I have been thinking about two quotes in particular that, I think, say the same thing.

Life in Religion is the ultimate wager on the existence of God. The Church should always be engaged in doing things that make no sense if God does not exist. This is the reason why I hold the Religious life in the highest esteem … the monastic life models for all Christians what it means to live fully and abundantly, with and for Christ.

The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Foreword to: Anglican Religious Life 2016-17

Of this there is no doubt, our age and Protestantism in general may need the monastery again, or wish it were there. The “monastery” is an essential dialectical element in Christianity. We therefore need it out there like a navigation buoy at sea in order to see where we are, even though I myself would not enter it. But if there really is true Christianity in every generation, there must also be individuals who have this need.

Kierkegaard, Nov 1847

I am always amazed that Kierkegaard, living in 1800s Lutheran Denmark, writes at length about “the monastery” in his journals. What experience would he have had of religious life? What books would he have read? And, in some ways, his very life is an example of what he said above – even if he does not want to enter a monastery.

To put it another way: people need to take the “single individual” to the extreme to show other people what it means to be the “single individual” – “dare to desire Jesus alone”. I am seeing that reality more and more. Like yeast in the dough, individuals need to place all their eggs in the one basket (sorry!) and say, “what if all of this stuff about God is true?”. And much more: let’s take Jesus seriously and actually follow Him alone, pick up our cross and live a life of love.

I think both of these quotes call us to “new monasticism” (to introduce yet another person’s quote). Not looking to the past alone but using the past to live today for Jesus alone. Yes, the church as a community and especially individuals within the Church need to do things that make no sense if God does not exist. Individuals need to take Jesus seriously.

So …

I thought I should update on the “goings-on”, especially after I wrote about my anxieties in the previous post.

Of course, everything happened as it should. So I am now officially a member of the Anglican Church of Australia. And, of course, I feel completely different than I did before!!!!

I am not sure that external membership says anything about an individual. Maybe of a group that is socially unacceptable?! If I had joined the cricket club, would people think different of me? Would I be different?

With hindsight, I can see why I ended up here. I can even guess why God placed me here. But in the end, all I know is that I am here.


So today I move from “wannabe Anglican” to a member of the Anglican Church of Australia. I guess I am really only becoming a member of the parish which is part of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. With the numerous lockdowns, this has been some time in coming. I am anxious about the physical side of things – getting there, setting up, meeting people. I am meeting a person, a bishop of the diocese, whom I have not met before. I have worn masks for so long I sometimes forget the real me.

This is the first religious decision I have made on my own. The previous ones have been made with a community (family) around me to support me. This one is me alone before God. So I am extremely anxious about it all. I guess I feel quite silly for doing this again. And I worry that this is yet another temporary fix for the problem that is “me”. I guess (lots of guessing) that, in the end, I belong nowhere. People will wake up to me and that will be the end of another chapter,

It is bringing up the same monologue that I struggled with earlier in the year. My counsellor calls it the “monster within”. To be honest, the “monster” has simply become not as loud but it is always there. The last two weeks have been full of instances where I feel like an “alien in this world”. I simply do not connect and, to be honest, do not have the energy to connect. Conversations have become exhausting and people are wearisome. I have become more aware of my own emotions and how I basically run on them. I love the people in my life but my darkside wonders if that is enough. (And whether loving Jesus is enough.)

Sorry, that is a very depressing post! I rejoice in the small glimpses of love I feel from others and from Jesus. But the monster simply double guesses everything and everybody. I am just going to try to not overthink today. Go with the flow. But I know that will be hard! Life is such a balancing act.

I am going to try to say the various offices in the car at their normal time. I am hoping that some rhythm to the day will help, And, of course, that the prayer itself will change me – bring light to the darkness.

naked intent

You only need a naked intent for God. When you long for him, that’s enough.

I have been reading The Cloud of Unknowing which I have not really read previously. I think there are books that I am aware exist and have some idea about their content but that I have never really read.

So two things: there is such a thing as really reading something. Slowly and with intent. Allowing the words to penetrate and feed your inward person. I know that is true with the Scriptures but it is also true with other literature. And the difference, between reading for information and reading to be fed, is in the intent. A relationship is much more than information and hits the very centre of what it means to be “me”. It is this centre that reads with intent.

Second: “a naked intent”! A longing for God in every aspect of my life. Putting time aside is very much part of it. But every moment of my day (and night) is a continual longing for God. My intent today is for Jesus.

I think I like The Cloud of Unknowing. It is simple in its language but deep in its ideas.

Jesus began to weep

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

John 11:28-37

Until very recently, I have never really understood (intellectually) what it means that Jesus wept. I guess I still do not understand it!? There is an awful lot of crying happening in the above text.

In weeping Jesus is truly human – the Incarnate Word is emotionally moved by the pain and suffering of others to tears. Something in his very core is moved, he has “compassion” for people. He truly suffers with individuals – he truly feels my pain and hurt.

I remember a preacher, when I was growing up, who used to cry during his sermons. I have often thought about that and dismissed it as “emotional manipulation”. But of all the preachers I have heard in my life, why do I remember that particular one?

I pray for the gift of tears! For my sins. But most of all: for the pure love that God is showing to me in Jesus. I am not sure any of that makes sense.

carthusian wisdom

I have been reading a book of devotions to the Sacred Heart written by Carthusians. Some of it is dated – and the language is a little old fashioned. But it is often filled with deep insight growing from solitude and silence. So here is the introduction to a Month with the Sacred Heart:

And, by the way, the devotions in this particular book often speak about “weeping” and “tears”. And, yes, I grew up in a culture that does not cry, especially for men, but I am starting to reconsider that from a spiritual point of view.


I have had a late start today. Nothing in particular just struggled to get going. So I have said Morning Prayer later than usual. The reading was from Matthew 12 and ended with these verses:

I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:36-37

At what point does silence become a vocation versus a form of escapism? When is it a psychological problem and when is it a calling from God? Sometimes, I think, it is extremely hard to tell. And if it is a personal preference, did God put it there for Him?

I read the Cloud of Unknowing yesterday and it repeats a simple theme:

This work is fundamentally a naked intent, none other than the single-minded intention of our spirit directed to God himself alone.

So can we speak of a general vocation that is worked out in a particular context? I desire Jesus alone and He calls me to solitude and silence? The context may change but the “desire” is always the same.

living with depression

I have not written on this subject for a little while. In fact, life is okay. I think I am learning to “live with it” rather than fight it. But today I found an image that I think describes what it feels like to me.

I am not much of a “gym-type person”. In fact … let’s not go there! So I was thinking that living with depression, for me, is like living on a “balance-ball”. Depression is not always about being sad – it is not always about feelings. The smallest thing, when the core strength is not there, can upset you and make you fall off. Sometimes life can seem pretty normal. But something insignificant comes along – a comment, a letter, a look – and life is out of balance and I am chasing myself.

Sometimes I am working so hard trying to stay on the ball that I cannot do anything else. I need all my energy simply to stand upright. Sometimes the ball is pretty flat and it is easier to stand – sometimes it is very full and it is hard to get any balance.

It is nice when I have people standing with me who help. It is nice to have people get me back on the ball when I fall off. But in the end, this is my life – even with medication and great counselling. Hopefully I can get some core strength!!!

relationship and affections

I think this is the principal reason why the invisible God willed to be seen in the flesh and to converse with people as a person. He wanted to recapture the affections of carnal humanity who were unable to love in any other way, by first drawing them to the salutary love of his own humanity, and then gradually to raise them to a spiritual love.

St Bernard of Clairvaux

In Michael Casey’s book on Lectio Divina, Sacred Reading, he makes the point that relationships and bonds between persons are emotional in nature. I have never really thought about that but I suspect it is very true. (Yes, very true!) In a modern context, maybe we are tempted to intellectualize relationships into common aims and common beliefs. But what bonds me to you is my feelings for you.

The above from St Bernard reminds me of Kierkegaard’s story of the king who falls in love with his servant. Love should be freely given and not forced. The Incarnation is an invitation to love on “my level”. Jesus does not force love but offers it.