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Blessings to you! Well, here I am back at my desk in Christ in the Desert, but not for long. I will be on my way to Mexico tomorrow for the diaconate ordination of our Brother Antonio Abad Ortega Dominguez. He has waited for this day for a long time.

Finally some of the novices and postulants are leaving. I have joked for a long time that the perseverance rates have been too high for us. They are still higher than normal, even with the departures. The postulancy and the novitiate are times for discernment, for trying to figure out if this is really what God wants for a man's life. If everyone who entered stayed, I would wonder about the discernment. If every who entered left, I would also question what is happening. But there are always a percentage who leave.

Brother Jordan is not sure what God is calling him to, but he needs to look at other possibilities. Brother Jay was with us only a short time but feels called back to his more eremitical life. Brother Lawrence will be going to seminary for a diocese. That will leave us with only ten novices and two postulants. Others will be coming to join fairly soon and fill up the ranks once more. I ask your prayers for those who are leaving. May God shower them with blessings.

Prior Christian and Father Simeon had been in New York City for various activities to promote the Monastery and they returned home this past Sunday. Father Waldemar has gone to Poland to visit his mother who is old and infirm.

Here in the Monastery we have been blessed with an abundance of rain. It really messes up our road, but the green in the fields and on the trees right now is so wonderful! This is not our rainy season and so the rain has come as a surprise. Always there are surprises, whether they are the results of climate change or just the vagaries of nature.

Spiritually this week I have been thinking about the love that God has for me. For most of my younger years, I did not really believe that God loved me. Rather I used most of my energy trying to do things for the Lord. I tried all kinds of praying, using various methods of prayer and seeking out new ones regularly. I worked at acquiring virtues and doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things in my life. All of that was good, but eventually I could see that this was always me working to please the Lord and not me trying to respond to the Lord.

I am not sure if you can understand what I am saying so I will try to put it another way. Most of my early life was trying to do things for God and trying to keep all the rules that I felt were there. Only after I began to focus on the fact that the Scriptures promise, over and over, that God loves us as we are, as sinners, as broken human beings, did I finally begin to pay attention to this love that God has for me personally. That transformed my life, little by little. It did not transform me into a saint, but it transformed me into someone who trusts in God's mercy and who knows that he is loved with all of his sins by the Lord. As I looked back, I could see that I was trying to earn God's love instead of accepting it as a gift. What a difference it makes in my life even now. I still tend to fall back into trying to earn His love instead of rejoicing in His love and trying to respond to His love.

I did not grow up with any great fear of God and I don't think that I have ever seriously considered that I might go to Hell. Somehow there was always deep in me a sense of salvation, even though I still tried to earn His love.

Life for me has been a process of learning freedom because I am loved. My parents always loved me and I have always been aware of what a gift that is. My parents, humanly, were truly messed up and my childhood was never even close to ideal. But I knew that they loved me. As I reflect on that, it helps me to understand that I also can love God even in my own broken and incomplete way. His love for me is creative and pardoning and strengthening. My love for Him is broken and incomplete and childish--and yet is still love.

If I can at some level understand the love my parents had for me, surely God understands the love that I have for Him. My life is not an attempt to make myself perfect for God. My life is an attempt to know His love and to respond to His love more and more as I age and as I live out this mortal life.

Some of these reflections came to me as I was reading the First Letter of John. This letter tells us that if we love one another, God remains in us and His love is brought to perfection in us. If we love one another! Again this whole idea of love can become idealized and become a stumbling block rather than a deep desire of our hearts. I am not speaking here about a saint who might be able to love more and more perfectly. I am talking instead about most of us who have fairly imperfect love and yet keep trying to love. If we love one another!

Love in a monastery as in any human life is always imperfect. There are times when there are conflicts with others and yet we persevere in trying to love others. There are times when there are incredible clashes and yet we keep trying to love one another. If we look at the conflicts and the clashes, we can lose sight of the reality of persevering in trying to love. Real love is in that persevering and trying to love.

The only way that I have been able to persevere in trying to love has been by spending time in the presence of God and knowing that I am loved by God in ways that are so incredible and creative and new every day. I don't always experience that, of course, but when I reflect on it, I do see it and rejoice in His love for me. That gives me courage and energy to keep on trying to love others.

Enough for this week. Please continue to pray for me and for all of our sisters and brothers. I will celebrate Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. I send you my love and prayers.


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