franciscan - May 1999
© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999
Reading, Writing, Praying
by Ramon SSF
Thomas Merton once said that there is a danger of people thinking they had received certain spiritual experiences simply because they had read about them in books! As I am aware of that danger in my readers, so I am aware, for myself, of writing books about prayer and spirituality instead of living the life of prayer in solitude which is the centre of my vocation and life.
I write this on Ash Wednesday, and have just begun to accompany people reading my Lent book The Way of Love, which was published in 1994. Each year, hundreds of people read, pray and live along with me through the days of Lent, with mutual intercession. Among the individuals, parishes and groups this year is an enthusiastic and loving gathering of Cornish Tertiaries who have prayed me through my recent illness, and who know me very well because they are reading my books, although I have not met any of them.
There is, of course, a novelty factor for some who read me, because of my hermit exploration since 1990. But I began writing before such exploration and my books have both widened and deepened in their context over the last years. They are basically concerned with an ecumenical spirituality in which conversion, and love of Christ, are basic, with attendance to scripture and sacrament. From that base, the horizon is widened to the great treasures of the Christian and wider mystical and contemplative traditions, and the clear call to social and political compassion in an unjust and violent world.
Over the last two years, I have been on the team of The Bible Reading Fellowship, and this has opened up a further reading public for my other books, including the Prison Phoenix Trust. One of the prisoners in HMP Exeter was welcomed as a Companion recently through my writings, and he is now one of my most avid readers and critics!
I am not primarily an author and I sense that, one of these days, the Lord will tell me to stop. And I shall. But I love communicating the love and joy of Christ who is the centre of my life. Because I have been caught up in the experience of a full-blooded, trinitarian faith, it has led me to hear and obey an interior call to prayer in solitude, and this my SSF community enables me to do. And I am grateful.
Yet from such a centre of stillness and joy, there is an overflow of sharing. I am constantly amazed at it all and, through recent illness and vulnerability, the light has shone even brighter, and the love has been experienced in an even deeper enfolding. §
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