Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ 27 So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ 29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

Genesis 32

So just some random thoughts:

  • Jacob is alone before … Maybe Jacob has to be alone to wrestle with God? Sometimes we need to be alone with God.
  • God changes Jacob’s name to Israel to indicate a vocation “for you have striven with God”. In baptism, God gives us a name (and a vocation), we just need to listen for it.
  • God blesses Israel after they wrestle.

I really like this passage as an illustration of the solitary life. Being alone for Jesus. Being called by name. Being blessed. (And, maybe, being a blessing.)


I have been thinking about the various words that describe solitary life. So I looked up solitude. And it has this to say about the positive effects of being alone:

Freedom is considered to be one of the benefits of solitude; the constraints of others will not have any effect on a person who is spending time in solitude, therefore giving the person more latitude in their actions. With increased freedom, a person’s choices are less likely to be affected by exchanges with others.

That sounds like a description of the monastic enclosure and of solitude in a religious sense. In the end, it is all about freedom.

This morning I was thinking about silence. In particular, how the modern mind sees silence in terms of what I do. It is easy to see solitude and silence in a mechanical way: the absence of people and noise. But, in the spiritual sense, one can be in solitude and still have contact with people: “less likely to be affected by exchanges with others”.

The end of both solitude and silence is greater freedom to be with Jesus. They are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

4am start

So I started my day at 4am. I had the most beautiful time of meditation and then said Morning Prayer. I watched the sunrise across the Bay. But now, at 10am, I am ready for lunch!

I really like an early start to the day. By nature, I am an early bird. The great thing about being solitary is that I get to organise my day my way. So lunch at 11am is ok. And, btw, I have a rest after lunch.

religious life

Fr Henry Power Bull was Superior General of the Society of St John the Evangelist and the following is from the First Anglo-Catholic Congress:

The Religious Life is that state, or form, of life in which, obediently to the inspiration or call of God, a soul is consecrated to God in Jesus Christ under perpetual vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. There are many forms of this consecration, as there are also many objects with which is it is undertaken; and the Church has need of all. But strictly for the Religious state, as it exists in the Catholic Church, there is required the entire and permanent surrender of self, according to some fixed and recognised rule based upon the Evangelical Counsels, that is, upon the observance of a real spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.

And about the enclosed life from the Cowley Evangelist:

It is no self-centred idle life, no dream of prayer, or following of self-will. It is a burning desire of love to die to self and to live to God, in great humility, and with an ever increasing intensity of worship and self-oblation.


The hole was a trip. They threw me in a six-foot-by-nine-foot room with just a mattress on the floor and a toilet. During the day they would remove the mattress and make me sleep on the concrete floor because they didn’t want me to be comfortable. It was pretty inhumane to be in a room twenty-three hours a day with the light always on, but you get used to it. You become your own best company. In a weird way, you get your freedom in the hole.

Mike Tyson

In antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages there was an awareness of this longing for solitude and a respect for what it means; whereas in the constant sociality of our day we shrink from solitude to the point (what a capital epigram!) that no use for it is known other than as a punishment for criminals. But since it is a crime in our day to have spirit, it is indeed quite in order to classify such people, lovers of solitude, with criminals.


contemplative life?

I have been thinking of how to “define” the contemplative life. And I stumbled across this:

Contemplation in this context does not mean contemplative prayer as such, but a quality of life that is contemplative: one that is lived vertically in relationship to God rather than horizontally in relationship to time and those around us.

SLG, Sisters of the Love of God. Monastic Vocation (p. 54). SLG Press. Kindle Edition.

The “context” is the enclosure. But the definition works well for the solitary life.

The Anchorage

Write about your dream home.

The house I live in right now! I know that is a little boring but it is actually true. And it is not about the physical side of the house. It has a place to pray, a useful kitchen, and a place to sleep. It also has room for my books. What makes it a home is the connection to the community of faith – past, present, and future – that it proclaims to me and to the community that walks past the front door.

While I do not see or interact with a lot of people, I know I am part of a community. And that is what moves it from a physical house to a home. Yes, the community stresses me (“me” as a particular individual with their own problems) but it also protects me and helps me to truly find myself.

I am truly in love with this place. It is also a house that is set aside by the faith community for prayer and solitude. It is a liminal space – in the world but not of the world. In fact, I am very much hoping to end my days living here in this community.


Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore?

Ok, I’ll bite – what am I too old to do anymore? People! Not that people are “wrong” or I am a misanthropist. I like people. But only in small amounts.

I find an “encounter” with a person very draining. That is a real interaction which is not transactional. To put it another way, to see a person as an end in themselves and not a means to an end for me. Not what I can get out of the interaction but what I can give to the other person as a person and not an object. Yes, I can transact business with people – I can go to the shops or get a coffee and not freak out. But I do not want to transact with people, I want to encounter people. And that means I can only take so much!

That sounds like a backhanded compliment to myself!? It has taken me a long time to work all of that out. Aloness, for me, is not about the evil of people but rather about being ready for the goodness of people.

Sorry if that makes no sense.