Long before I was baptized in the church, I deeply wanted to follow the saints that I read about in my books–St. Catherine of Siena, St. Hildegard of Bingen, Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi–by living into a monastic lifestyle. I had no idea what that meant or how to do it, but this life was calling to me in a very deep way. As my life went on, I heard a call to the priesthood: to serve the people of God and to bring the light of God more into this world. I remember talking to my first priest about my call at the age of 19, and saying that I wanted to be a mirror reflecting the light of Christ. I wanted people to look at me and to see God in some way. Years after this, I became a priest and began serving those God sent to me. Now, I find myself at the edge of the beginning of a new path: the contemplative path.
Silence, solitude, prayer, contemplation, reading, and work are very much the most important things in my life. A few years ago, I struggled to get up early to work (even though I worked in education), and now I find myself desiring to wake up at 5:00 am, 4:30 am, or 3:00 am just to have silence and stillness with God while the world is still asleep. I find myself desiring to sit with God, and to come to know God better through contemplative prayer, meditation, reading, and even watching videos; God has become the obsession of my spirit. My spirit longs to return to God and to live in Love.
My ministry as a priest has begun to wane as I live into this call of solitude and silence. While I will always be a priest, I find it is becoming less and less my identity. My priesthood is a call to serve God’s people, and to bring God’s presence into the world in tangible ways, and through teaching. And now that call is being extended through contemplative living. While I will always be available for others, and desire to always walk with people through their life journeys, I feel called more to solitude and the Monastic/Contemplative Eremitical life–at least at this stage in my journey. My hearts desire is to cease to exist, to let everything go, and to be absorbed into God. I pray that the fruits of my prayer, solitude, and contemplation will aid my teaching and the lives of my students, as well as the lives of all beings in this universe. I pray that love will be able to enter into this world more and more through my privilege of sacrifice.
Please pray for me as I continue this discernment, and as I continue to walk the path of love.
Through Christ, With Christ, and In Christ,
Fr. Austin, AOJN+