by Deacon Charles Rohrbacher
Sharpening The Tools
But yesterday afternoon while I was sharpening my woodcut tools, I thought about the way in which the tools of the spiritual life, get dull and need to be honed and sharpened. Some of the carving tools I was sharpening only needed to be honed to cut properly. Others were dull from long years of use, which required sharpening them with a whetstone. But there were a few that were (I’m ashamed to admit) so neglected and rusty that I needed to grind out the damaged sections of the blade and put an entirely new edge on the tool.
So I’m inspecting the condition of what St.Benedict speaks of as the “tools of the spiritual life.” In the Latin of the Holy Rule, he employs the word used for iron tools — shovels, hoes, chisels and knives. Which require constant care to keep them sharp and clean of rust. I think in the spiritual life, keeping the tools clean and begins and ends with the daily practice of charity. That is, I think, the purpose of the spiritual life, to become more and more an instrument of the charity of God, who is Love.
But at the end of the day, just as a tools needs to be cleaned, sharpened and put away, in readiness for the next day’s work, there is the need, the necessity, really, for recollection. Without recollection, without solitude, silence, reflection and prayer, at least for me, the tools of the spiritual life get dull and rusty. It is easy for me to somehow see recollection as something to engage in when I have the leisure time for it, when in fact, it is a daily discipline that I neglect at my own peril.