Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2008
Musician Talbot sits and waits for God to come
After 50 CDs, he hears God’s word: ‘John Michael Talbot must die’
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
“Life is like a pond that is very agitated.”
While he tussles with this spiritual dilemma, Talbot hops on his bus and tours, returning to his hermitage for periods of reclusion. (Reclusion, he explains, is where one lives alone and avoids mixing with others. It is an ancient tradition.)
Tours remain part of his future. Talbot begins a string of concerts across Alberta and Saskatchewan, May 8 in Red Deer.
"After the western Canada tour, I'll be going to Ireland in November, India in January. A couple of U.S. legs here in the midst of all that."
Talking with this Christian musician always makes its way back to . . .
The Little Portion Hermitage. The Catholic-based community is an integrated monastic expression of celibate brothers and sisters, families and singles, and an expression of those who live throughout the world in their own homes. Talbot has lived there since 1982.
"We share common work and recreation areas while retaining appropriate separate cloistered areas for each expression," says Talbot. "My solitude is sharing a two-and-one-half room cottage with my wife (Viola) and her job is to keep me in line. She keeps me honest."
As spiritual father to the community, Talbot easily slips into teacher mode as he explains, "Hermitages are often places where they go where they live a very secluded life, but they still enjoy the benefits of community - prayer times together, work times together and meals together as well as meals on your own."
He explains the potential outcomes from this being alone.
"The positive reason is to be with God - so you can quiet all the distractions of a normal daily life," says Talbot, "to focus more intently on the word of God, the lives of the saints in the Catholic and Orthodox tradition."
“My self identity is just who I am before God.”
As one journeys in the depths of their relationship of God, one can reach a place where "those are things that are beyond words, beyond ideas , beyond our emotions, beyond our senses and that encounter with the very essence of God comes most intensely."
But why go there?
"Because then you have cleared the clutter," says an emphatic Talbot. "It (life) is like a pond that is very agitated. When I go out into the world, even as a Christian, even as a Brother of Charity, the pond gets pretty turbulent at times.
"Touring on a tour bus shakes the water a little bit. And when the water is turbulent, you can't see into it. Silence and solitude are a way for that pond to settle. The sediment goes to the bottom and the water becomes clear."
Given our human frailities, looking at who we really are can be more than unsettling. Talbot agrees, "Sometimes when you look into your own soul you don't necessarily like what you see. You find things that need to be dealt with."
So he recommends shorter experiences - a few days, a week - for westerners who will find it "a positive experience, a relief."
"Then they are able to go back out into society, and take care of their families, their jobs, in a more healthy way."
He enthuses when he tells of the growing monastic communities evolving in various churches. "Folks are feeling the need to unplug.'
But living such a life is in no way easy.
"Community is exceedingly difficult for western people," he explains. "We are kind of good at solitude and good at relationships that don't require much. But a community relationship requires everything you've got.
"Community has a way of burning off the dross. You don't just go to work with these people and go home. You work with these people, you eat with them. You pray with them, and there's a radical reality you find out about yourself.
"People become better in community. People become worse in community at the same time and it is very hard to start bringing those things to the Lord."
A rigorous life, but Little Portion has received religious acknowledgment.
At a congress in Rome on new religious communities, Little Portion was described as one of the successful ones. "So something is working."
Still, he quickly assures, "My self identity is not wrapped up in being the founder of this community. My self identity is just who I am before God."
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