January 5, 2010

The Blogging Ascesis

I love this blog, and it's good for me on a number of levels. But blogging demands a certain ascesis of me, and I have to be faithful to it. Most of my posts appear in the morning. Early writing was one of the first functions of this blog for me; it provided a warm-up when I was hacking together my licentiate thesis. (And a hack, or even a kludge, it turned out to be.)

Each morning, though, I have to be careful not to permit myself thoughts about what I'm going to blog about that day. I have more important things to keep track of in the morning. On the spiritual level, I have to pray my Office of Readings, either go to Morning Prayer or offer it privately (it depends on the day), prepare to offer Mass and preach on most days, as well as make my personal meditation. On the physical level, I have to make sure I wash, put coffee into myself, and have some shredded wheat and soy milk. (I am nagged by the worry that consuming dairy products, deriving as they do from the commodification of someone else's reproductive faculties, is against chastity on some level.)

All of these things are more important than blogging, and I have to make sure I remember this each morning. So sometimes I have to practice the ascesis of letting go of musings about what I'm going to write about that day. The connection between Christmas and sacramental absolution? The post I've been trying to formulate about drugs, violence, and promiscuity producing the large part of the misery I encounter in ministry? Today these were suggesting themselves to me as I was trying to pray in the back of the church before Morning Prayer. I had to let go. If the Holy Spirit wants me to blog, I say to myself, He will give me the inspiration to write something at a moment when I have a few moments to do it. Thus far in my life as a blogger I have been able to keep to this ascesis and not the let the blog interfere with my prayer and ordinary discipline. If that stops being the case, I suppose I will have to quit, just like I had to quit Plurk and Twitter.


pennyante said...

Good morning... I'm wondering, does the good you do for us, your readers, fit into the picture at all? It would seem that you have a regular "parish" of readers. I, personally, appreciate your blog over other priests because you never seem to have an axe to grind. Instead you nudge us into thoughtful reflection.

You also have allowed us to see you as you struggle as we all do to try to advance in holiness and to live as Jesus did. You have a brutal honesty that doesn't allow you to paint the beautiful picture of what you do and are when it doesn't warrant it.

I read you blog every day and am thankful for it... My original question is an important one...

Karinann said...

Brother Charles,
I imagine these concerns are more so for religious and clergy, but they are concerns all of us who blog should have to some degree. Blogging can become an occasion of sin if we are not careful.
Thanks for sharing your personal experience on this.
I too quit Twitter.
God Bless!

ben in denver said...

Your parenthetical statement on dairy products fascinates me.

What about Ex. 3:8? It rather seems that the Father Himself provides milk for Israel to drink.

Now this does not deny that milk is intrinsically related to fecundity. It may even be a sign of the marriage between God and His people, but if that is the case, then surely it would not be an act against chastity to drink it. It might even be a sign of a more intimate union with God the Father.

Brother Charles said...


That's the best part! I am so grateful for the friendships I've made in the Lord through blogging. You and many others are a great encouragement to me.


I haven't tried to post on that question precisely because I don't feel as if I developed enough of a sense about the relationships of such questions to revelation, natural law, etc.

4narnia said...

Fr. C-i agree with Pennyante that your blogging as a "minor friar" does a lot of good for us, your friends/sisters & brothers in the Lord. you do give us a lot of good topics to reflect on that are leading us closer to God. it's not reslly about the quantity of times you blog and it doesn't even have to be everyday-just blog when the Holy Spirit inspires you and that would be appreciated by us. you don't have to totally "quit." i felt like i would never get started with my blog. i, too, use my blog page when inspired to write something, which is only occasionally, because like you say, "we all have important things to keep track of, like our ordinary life." on a personal note, i don't like milk or dairy products, either-soy milk is great! PEACE! ~tara t~

Terry Nelson said...

With all due respect, I wonder if your ascesis might be better concentrated upon the blogs you choose to read. I find that surfing the net absorbs a great deal of time which ought to be devoted to other more important things.

Devoting oneself to writing a post one senses the Holy Spirit is urging one towards is one thing - looking for comments, approval, or links is quite another. It always trips me up and I waste a great deal of time checking back. I suspect the real ascesis is detachment from this form of popularity and acceptance, fleeting as it may be.

God bless you!

Brother Charles said...

Terry: You are quite right!

MikeF said...

As an ex-dairyman myself, I've participated in many many discussions about the ethics of dairying, the economics of dairying, the [fill in the blank] of dairying... but "the commodification of someone else's reproductive faculties" being somehow against chastity is a wholly new angle, especially when the someone else in question is one of my old friends.

You may well have a point... but that phrase will stay with me, I fear!

terry said...

"I am nagged by the worry that consuming dairy products, deriving as they do from the commodification of someone else's reproductive faculties, is against chastity on some level."

Brother Charles,
I have no idea whether you meant this seriously or not but when I read it I laughed out loud. And I needed a laugh at the time. Priceless! Thank you.

Brother Charles said...

I am very serious! I don't write about such things here because I don't have all of the questions worked out for myself.

qualcosa di bello said...

i was praying for you on the way to mass this morning. this post prompted much thought from me because i have felt the "call" to stop blogging over the last few months & your words helped clarify that a bit. but...my first thought when i read your post was "NO"!!!! i want you to know how much i (& many others) appreciate your spiritual boosts & keen insights. i can't tell you how many times i have been ruminating over an issue & then you blog it!

all that personal wanting aside, i went deeper on this topic. i, like you, have been wondering if those 'partially written posts' that crop up during vigils or morning prayer are a distraction & if they were signs that i should not blog anymore. after reading your words & praying for you, it came to me that i was clearly being 'told' not to blog anymore in other ways. these were not temptations that cropped up during times of prayer, but rather times when things 'broke through' because i was attentive. while i am praying the Hours i have also experienced additions to my day's 'to-do' list, changes to that list, letters that need to be written, calls that need to be made. i truly believe that God knows i am a captive audience at that time & He is glad to let me know bits of His will for that day. so why not blog post snippets during that time too?

but all that aside, i cannot presume what God speaks to you. it is just that as i was praying, He clearly directed me to write you on this post. whatever you need to do, God bless!!!! i pray that you hear His words & give Him gratitude that you have been His conduit here in this way!