Ronald Rolheiser who wrote “The Shattered Lantern” has it right, “Distraction is normal in our culture. Contemplativeness, solitude and prayer are not.” Busyness and restlessness are our drugs of choice.
“One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like over-packed suitcases bursting at the seams. In fact, we are almost always aware of being behind schedule.” Henri Nouwen
I look at my life, and everyone around me, and I have grown sick of hearing people say, “I’m busy.” I am ready for a contemplative backlash to this in my own life and my Church.
There is a nineteenth-century religious classic called “The Way of a Pilgrim” whose time has come, again. The anonymous wandering Orthodox Christian pilgrim has suffered the loss of his wife and business and roams the country seeking direction on how to pray ceaselessly. The book is a teaching on the Jesus Prayer. Readers are often struck by the simple encouragement they feel to begin praying the Jesus Prayer. But that is not all that the book is about. The narrator is a wanderer, a pilgrim whose life is an example of those who give up everything to live the spiritual life.
Here is what is fueling my thoughts: I know a man who is consciously attempting a personal spiritual experiment. He is a man who previously spent a little time in an Orthodox monastery. Today he finds himself unemployed and has decided, before he moves in order to reenter to workforce, to try on the life of a ‘strannik’ (Russian for ‘wandering pilgrim’). And while he might prefer to live in a monastic community again; his debt, poor health and other commitments keep him in the world. But he wants to practice interior prayer. He wakes up, prays his prayers, reads a little, and then, on some days, he leaves the house with a backpack on and tries to pray The Jesus Prayer wandering around his town. He handles whatever comes his way and tries to return to the Prayer. That’s it.
Here is what I am wondering (and would like your thoughts on), is the life of a wandering pilgrim a possibility for today?
This attempt is so non-controlling, non-practical and contemplative. I wonder, in response to the speed at which we are traveling and the distractions we are experiencing if the time has come for day-long prayer pilgrimages.