How I See My Monastic Solitary Life

By Sarah Swart, St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo

Since my vows at the convention Eucharist, I’ve had some queries about my vocation as a monastic solitary. My call came out of a lot of daily prayer from the day my husband was guided by Jesus into his eternal life. That day and every day after I prayed “Lord guide my life. Let me be what You see for my life.” In my spiritual companionship with Ann Prentice, Order of St. Helena, we prayed and explored Gods call to me. I realized God was waiting for me to be ready!

At first, like a fawn on her first legs, I tried out what later became my vows to see how they felt to me. My grief subsided and my joy sang in my spirit. From November to January I practiced Simplicity, Chastity, and Obedience. By January, I clearly knew God was creating that yearning in my soul.

Living with Simplicity is my most prominent discerning piece still. In our world, living simply, creating a hermitage in my apartment home, spending when I need something but questioning if it is a need or want, shopping in thrift and second hand stores to find my needs first, waiting before buying impulsively are all strategies in living simply.

Being committed to a life of Chastity so I can serve God and put the I-Thou of the Trinity first gives me time to structure a life of prayer. Prayer is both silent and audible. In my silent prayer I feel very drawn into God. My days are a balance of prayer, serving in my church, rest, study, and praising God. I have a “grace day” each week when I do my errands, appointments, and take a break from the daily rhythm of the Offices, prayer, silence, and study.

The Daily Offices are a mix of online and individual. I pray the Offices – Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline using the Daily Office App from the Order of St. Helena, written in inclusive language by OSH. I supplement this with online versions: Tuesday and Thursday Compline with St. Mark’s, Newaygo on their Facebook streaming and Sunday Evening prayer with either Washington National Cathedral or Canterbury Cathedral on YouTube. I’m enjoying singing and chanting hymns from the Offices thanks to the OSH scores and coaching practice from Marilyn Ossentjuk, Minister of Music at St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo.

The vow of Obedience keeps me in touch with my commitments as monastic solitary. I wear my alb to church as a reminder to all to pray without ceasing. My relationships with my friends and acquaintances continue as a way of caring and prayer as they share their joys and concerns with me.

I am currently a student in the diocesan lay preaching program and am taking an online workshop from Berkeley at Yale.

I still pray, “God, guide my life.”

I would love to share with you further if you or your congregation wishes to explore more! You can reach me at or 269-716-1008.