The Call to Sabbath

Apr 6, 2020

In addition to serving as the Director of the Associates for the Sisters of Bon Secours, Amy Kulesa also leads some of our retreats at the Retreat & Conference Center. She oversees and often facilitates our weekly Centering Prayer sessions and this December she’ll be leading a Centering Prayer weekend retreat during the Advent season. You can click here to learn more about her.

Let’s take a quiet moment to read this reflection by Amy.

The Call to Sabbath

In March, I was scheduled to lead two Sabbath retreat days of prayer at the Retreat & Conference Center, one at the beginning of the month, and one the last Sunday of March. I did not anticipate these days being cancelled and then, instead, being given several months of extended Sabbath rest due to the Covid-19 quarantine! In conversation with others, I am realizing that, despite the anxiety and uncertainty of these times, for many of us, these days of quarantine have turned out to be an unexpected gift of rest and quiet.

Many people are finding in the solitude dimensions of their lives needing renewed attention. A priest I am acquainted with shared that, in the silence, he has discerned that he needs to draw in his energies a bit more. Once life returns to ‘normal,” he will more regularly limit his weekend commitments to the local parish at which he assists, rather than going far afield to celebrate Mass. I, similarly, have heard in the quiet and stillness, a call to reflect on the truth that “less is more.” Less is more in terms of material goods. Less is more in terms of commitments. Less is more in terms of every kind of activity that I now see can become out of balance when overdone. And how much in our over-stimulated society is overdone?! I recognize gratefully that I am blessed with abundance, both materially and vocationally. Perhaps you can see this about your life as well. I am blessed with many, many meaningful activities and commitments, all life-giving in themselves and things I enjoy. What I have discovered in this socially isolated quiet-time, is that too much of a good thing, in my case scheduled ministry commitments, can start to crowd out the quality engagement that characterizes “Kairos Time”. Kairos time is the Greek term for time spent connected with God, others and self in the fullness of Presence. This is, my friends, the call to Sabbath rest. I find it serendipitously fitting that while I was preparing retreat days of Sabbath, I have been shown the inner meaning of Sabbath and my need for it, through the measures taken to meet this global crisis, including the cancellation of my retreats. Philosopher Simone Weil once said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Yet, how can I generously offer clear and loving attention to others, when I am divided and distracted by my pursuits and possessions? It is time, I have decided, to scale back and enjoy the moment, every moment and every person, more intentionally and lovingly.

For those willing to listen to the silence and solitude of these days, it invites deep reflection on the state of our culture and world. We can reflect on abundance and the lack of it, in so many places. We can reflect on the abundance of some, while others languish; on reflex reactions to this emergency, like hoarding toilet paper, as if the lack of toilet paper will mean great suffering, while those among us who have lost jobs and exist homeless on our streets without the protection of secure refuge, are experiencing real suffering.

As I have refrained from most kinds of shopping during Lent and now during quarantine, I have gratefully experienced a spaciousness that comes from enjoying what I have without needing to acquire more, another aspect of Sabbath rest. God invites us into Sabbath to remind us that we can trust that it is okay to rest, knowing that God’s grace and provision are enough. If we cease from compulsivity in our labors and our consumption, we learn that we will not go without. We will find, instead, an actual expansion of qualities that really matter: peace, enjoyment with our loved ones and deepened appreciation for our lives as they are.

In the midst of all our abundance, this pandemic has taken the United States by surprise. We find that we are not as much in control as we thought we were, nor are we immune from the difficulties that plague others around the world. We are discovering oneness within the human family as never before, and the need to trust in a reality way beyond what money can buy. It is in the midst of trial and trouble that we are invited into a deepened place of rest, trust, interdependence and appreciation for the present moment: the call to Sabbath.