December 17, 2012

Phase Change Idea

After nearly seven months in Italy, I have to confess that I'm still not used to the differences in the horarium of Capuchin life here. 6:30 for the beginning of prayers in the morning, though not so early as to be unheard of at home, is still earlier than I've been used to for most of my religious life. Not that I have any trouble being up by then; I've just been long-accustomed to more morning solitude and quiet time before the beginning of the formal schedule. Getting up even earlier for this purpose is out of the question, because chapel in the evening doesn't start until 7:15, and supper isn't until after that at 8. That's the part I'm really not used to; at home supper might be as early as 5:30 in a parish setting, where the brothers have to get to evening activities. Of course the sort of schedule they have here presumes that you take some of your daily sleep in the afternoon. This, though I have tried, I haven't really accomplished yet. I can usually go to sleep, but only for a few minutes. And for some reason I always wake up with a craving for Coca-Cola.

Reflecting on this situation in an idle moment, it occurred to me that all I would have to do to make it more like what I am used to would be to phase-shift myself and turn the day around. I could start the day with Evening Prayer at 7:15 p.m., having been up for a couple of hours enjoying my prayerful solitude, then go to the friar's supper and have a little breakfast. Around 8:30 or 9 p.m. I would get to my desk and go to work, finishing up about 5 a.m., such that I had some moments to clear my mind before Morning Prayer and Mass started at 6:30 a.m. I could have a little supper at the brothers' breakfast table, have some 'evening' quiet time, and then get to sleep around 10 a.m. or so. It's not an exact fit, but the schedule thus turned around would be closer to what I am used to from home.

I foresee, however, a couple of problems with this plan. First, Sext and Compline would, in practical terms, take each other's place in my liturgical day. I fear that it would seem weird. Nevertheless, in seeking strategies against this trouble, I thought I could consult some spiritual person accustomed to praying through the liturgical year in the southern hemisphere, where the year's ebb and flow of light and darkness metaphors are not matched by the astronomical circumstances as they are here in the north. Perhaps whatever works for praying in that particular dissonance could, mutatis mutandis, be useful for me in turning my liturgical day around.

The second trouble I think of is that I'm not sure if the brothers might not notice my permanent absence from the midday meal (which is the principal one here in Italy), and wonder if something was wrong. I'm not sure what to do about this one. Sometimes, however, it's best not to test such things, because one is better off not realizing that nobody notices.


James said...

I can't exactly be sure if you're serious about his plan or half-joking, but from somebody who worked 3rd shift for a while, let me strongly caution you against this. When I was in graduate school, I worked overnight for a year, and I thought it would be great: it would free me from having to talk to people, and it would leave me lots of time to do work. I never got used to it, and was constantly tired, thus making my work that much harder to do. I also almost lost my ability to make conversation. I was on my way to becoming like one of those ferral children you hear about from time to time.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Australia, well and truly in the southern hemisphere. (but whether I'm much of a spiritual person - that's a question for God). I can tell you that the seasonal symbolism of the liturgical year is really just lost down here.

Placing Lent and Easter where they are seems totally arbitrary. It only really made sense to me when I spent a spring in Ireland some years ago.

In Advent, the symbolism around light is equally lost on short summer nights. A couple of years ago my parish organised compline on Mondays during Advent. By 9.30pm, it was dark enough to work. A real treat.

Rarely, there is something appropriate for the season. Today's Benedictus antiphon (for 19 December) is probably the most striking I've ever seen: "The Saviour of the world will rise like the sun: and he will come down into the womb of the Virgin like rain gently falling on the earth". Now that says something when the flush of spring green has left and the grass has all turned a summer brown.