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Blessings to you! I am in Rome today. Our Pilgrimage in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of Christ in the Desert arrived here yesterday and we started our pilgrimage immediately, so we were very tired last night. We will be adjusting to this time zone by the time we head home. This is the way of modern travel. The pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales had a much slower pace in their pilgrimage. Of course, it took years rather than days.

Back at Christ in the Desert, we have been working to get all the brothers up to date with flu shots and with medical appointments. For us, this is part of the preparation for winter. We have quite a few brothers who think that it is already cold. We have the possibility of getting about 50 degrees colder than we are now in the mornings! Once a brother has been with us for a couple of winters, then he is able to understand what cold means for us. The joy, of course, is that we have heating! In the early years of our community, there was not much heating but now we can live fairly comfortably, even if we have to go outside to get from one building to another.

We continue to have men arrive to try out our monastic way of life. For many years we have had a steady stream of men asking to try our way of life. Most don't stay, but enough have stayed so that our community continues to grow. We are now thirty-six monks of our own house living here, plus one monk from another community and one layman living with us. We have six monks who are not living in the community for various reasons. So we are actually forty-two monks at the moment, which is a good sized community today. Our average age is only about 47 and we have lots of young men in formation. At present there are five simply professed, nine novices and six postulants. I get embarrassed telling others about these numbers!

On this pilgrimage I have many intentions to pray for, so please assist me with your prayers. I will also be praying for you.

A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, often made with some goal in mind or heart. For me, I have chosen to pray this pilgrimage in thanksgiving for God's goodness to our Monastery of Christ in the Desert for these past fifty years and to ask God to bless the many people who have helped our community in any way in these years. Surely our community would never have been possible without all of these people. I think of our founder and the first monks and then of all the monks who have been in our community over these years. I pray for those who have lived our life and left it and those who still persevere. I pray for all those who have helped us with their love and friendship over these years, those have helped us with their gifts of goods and of money, those who have helped us by correcting us, those who have helped us by pushing us in one direction or another.

A monastery is a miracle, as is any human family. Today both families and monasteries are more endangered than in my youth. So many families fail to day and so also many monasteries fail and are closed.

What do I pray for my community? Always that the heart of each brother is set on seeking the Lord above all things, that each brother will recognize God's call within Him and begin to the work of spiritual conversion.

For all of these years that I have been here, I have prayed for the physical well-being of the monastery and that seems in order. I have shared with many of my friends that when we began fundraising to construct our present monastery, I put the fundraising under the protection of Padre Pio. Padre Pio was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002. Every time I wrote to someone for a donation and was going to meet with someone and ask for help, I prayed to Padre Pio. Now I give thanks to Padre Pio for all that has been given to us.

I pray for my parents on this pilgrimage and for my sisters and brothers. It was the family that formed me as a child and in early adulthood. My family was filled with problems and at this point in life I can see so many blessings that came from all of the disasters of my childhood. God truly is present in all that happens and with faith it is possible to see that and acknowledge that.

During this pilgrimage lots of memories come to me of my early years and the first Catholic sisters that I met and then a Catholic school in The Dalles, Oregon, and then Mount Angel Seminary and then Mount Angel Abbey where I was a monk for ten years before I came to Christ in the Desert forty years ago. So I pray for all of these influences in my life as well.

I could go on and on. That is the way of memories of a senior! All of this helps me realize again that there is a Divine Plan and that nothing happens by accident. God has been so very good to me in my life and this pilgrimage renews that inner sense of gratitude and joy for His presence.

One of the challenges of a pilgrimage to Italy is to control my eating! So don't think that pilgrimage is all joy and delight. I love Italian food and always my tendency is to eat too much. Even though I am walking a lot every day, there is still the challenge to be moderate in my eating in order to give glory to the Lord.

As always, I send my love and prayers for you. I am remembering you in Mass every day on this pilgrimage. May the Lord send you special blessings in these days. Please remember to pray for me and for all of us on this pilgrimage and for the monks and nuns associated with Christ in the Desert and the associated monasteries.


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