I have written a lot lately about the difficulties and interior trials of my transition from parish ministry back to full-time study. Indeed, these have occupied a lot of my prayer in these days. On the other hand, in light of this, I have also found it to be an important spiritual practice to recall and meditate on some of the good and sweet aspects of the transition.
For one thing, the change in lifestyle has permitted me to recover my natural daily rhythm. The hours were one of the hardest aspects of the parish for me. It's basically a bi-phasic job; most of the work clusters around early to mid-morning and early to mid-evening. In the morning you have regular Masses, funerals, and attendant chores to take care of. Evening brings committee meetings, work with couples preparing for marriage, etc. Religion in our culture is an elective activity, and so those who form its customer service must be available to the customers at the times when ordinary folks have free time, namely early morning, evenings, and weekends. I know that the analogy is a little crass, but it carries some truth. Of course I didn't begrudge any of this, and the blessings and graces of the saints with whom it was my privilege to work more than made up for any temptations to laziness I had to suffer. But the parish did upset for me the fundamental model of prayer on which I had always built my spiritual practice previously: get up early and pray before the day begins and anyone or anything exterior has to be dealt with. It's just the time at which my mind is least distracted and the spirit and body are most willing. At the parish this just wasn't possible in the way to which I had become accustomed; you just couldn't end the day early enough to start it again a couple hours before you had to open the church again.
So it's good to be back getting up early and having my core prayer time at the time of day at which it seems to occur naturally for me. The other day I laughed to myself when I realized that I was well into my reading and note-taking when I had to pause to go offer the parish Mass at 9 am.
Another aspect of the transition I have been enjoying is cooking for the brothers. In the parish we had a cook each day, and one who didn't really appreciate the brothers cooking in her kitchen when she wasn't there. I enjoy trying to cook and learning new things, but most of all I find it to be a spiritually healthy act of charity and nurturance in community life. It's also an act of healthy vulnerability.
There are lots more examples, but all this is just to say that, as I go through this transition, it is good for me to notice the easy and the sweet as well as praying through the difficult and the challenging.