Occupy where you live, it is the place that you have been given.
The cell is a center of the Carmelite Way of Life. While there are many other ways of living in allegiance to Christ: through missions, evangelization, centered in ministry, this particular Way is founded on silence and solitude, on seeking God and discovering intimate moments with Him in the quietness of prayer. For this, the cell is our center; that it is our daily shelter and retreat where we find God as our close and personal friend. It will be from here that we venture out each day to go forth to serve, to evangelize and to minister to those in need. It is not that in choosing this particular way of life, or to be inspired by its model, that we abandon these things--no one can truly live a life in allegiance to Christ without being with Christ who dwells in the people and also lives in the world beyond our cells and homes. But the cell, silence and solitude from the noise of our daily world, is our center where we pray in intimate conversation with the One we love; our home is our center, silent from the noise and bustle of daily life were we come to be attentive to those we love, to spend significant time with them, and to give ourselves wholly into it.
There are often tomes when you may return home from work and your mind continues to be on the events of the day, or possibly on work that you were not able to finish; you may be thinking about news and tragic events from around the world; of come home to watch television, movies, or play video games as a way to escape--but in coming home you have already escaped, you have already left the outside concerns and cares behind. In todays digital age, you may even spend your time at home engaged in social media, texting, making phone calls or spending time on the internet, and so having come in the retreat of your home, we reach out again to the world that often causes us so much tension, stress and worry. We need time to relax and unwind--this is a real need. But most of these things can be done outside of your home and we know that if what we are truly doing is to relax and give our bodies the rest that it needs, or if we are taking our minds and attention elsewhere. In other words, our conscience knows if what we are doing is being attentive to our home and our body’s needs, or if we are trying to find some escape and ignore the people, or the chores, or the work that our home requires.
To occupy where you live means that you are attentive and present to the home where you live; you are present and attentive to the others who live in your home; you are present and attentive to the condition of your home, to the chores that may need to be done and repairs that may need to be kept up with. To occupy where you live means that you keep attentive to the conditions and be fully present wherever you may be, rather than putting our minds elsewhere through digital media, through constantly watching shows and movies, or even getting so caught up in another hobby so much that we ignore the people and our home that is around us. In this way, your home becomes like the cell where the monk lives: It is the place where you retreat when not at work to share intimate conversations with the ones you live; to spend time studying in getting to know more about them; and to find some time in personal silence, free of the fears, pressures, stresses and concerns of the world.
As with all things, we need to keep common sense in mind. Our home may not be completed isolated and cut off from the entire world such that we would never answer a phone call, or respond to emails, or read a newspaper, or never watch a television program. It would not be good for a parent to ignore their child’s phone call, for a professor to ignore the needs of her student, or to completely shut off our awareness of important news and events. The Rule does not call for us to shut ourselves off from all connections, as though we become an intransigent island--in adapting the Rule we are not becoming hermits--but when it reminds us to occupy the place that we have been given, it is reminding us to be present, attentive and allow ourselves to accept the benefits that our home can offer us.