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Blessings to you! I am still in Mexico at the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, on the last day of the retreat that I am giving here. Honestly, a retreat for others always gives me a chance to rest, to think and most of all, to pray. Even though I have to work to give the retreat, I always gain more from the retreat than anyone else and am refreshed.

During a retreat, I have a chance to look at my own life and to see where various elements of life have become unbalanced. At home, I am always living strongly but often without much time of reflection. Even when we have our own community retreat at home, I am often too occupied with the various tasks at home to spend a lot of time in reflection.

When I give a retreat outside of our monastery, then I am free to sleep at times I would not be able to sleep at home. I am free to exercise much more than I am able to do so at home. There is generally a lot more time for me to read than I have at home. These reasons are why people go away to have retreats and why, for me, giving a retreat away from home is a very different experience, and a very pleasant experience most of the time.

Spiritual life is the life that we live every day. It is not something apart from our daily lives. Jesus told us in the Gospels that it is not what goes into a person that defiles a person, but that which comes out of the heart. He was talking about food taboos in His own time but the words help us understand that we must live from the heart and be aware of what comes forth from our hearts.

In some traditions, the heart is the place of feelings. In other traditions the heart is the place where feelings and thoughts come together. It is this meaning that I use. We can call this place the heart, the center of our being, our soul--or whatever. In each of us there is a center from which we live. Part of growing up is discovering that center and learning how to live from the center of our being.

As we grow, we can come to recognize that not all feelings help us live well and neither do all thoughts. We recognize that actions have results and that not all the results of our actions help us live well. Some of us come to a point where we have to look for the meaning of our existence. Others never question that there is such a meaning. Each of us is unique and yet we share so much in common.

For myself, I am interested in what happens outside of the monastery. I like to know what is happening in our world. When I was young, that meant reading the newspaper regularly. That did not take much time in the day. Today I have access to the internet and can access news every minute--and for me I find that I spend too much time looking at news, reading about what is happening the world. This time of retreat helps me look again and to decide that I will read less news and yet still stay informed.
At home I have consistent access to the internet but when I am traveling or when I am in a situation without regular access to the internet, I find that I use my time in better way than reading lots of news. Reading less news gives me more time to read other things that interest me, such a monastic writings and even a novel now and then.

Many years ago I discovered that I love detective novels and was willing even to lose sleep so that I could finish a good novel. Losing sleep did not help my daily life at all! But how I loved the detective novels! Eventually I had to decide not to read detective novels. Now, occasionally, I take one with me when I travel and I enjoy it immensely.

Spiritual life is about making these kinds of decisions: the decisions that help us live better and allow to do both the things we have to do and the things that we want to do, presuming that they are all good things to do. When we do too much of a good thing, it often no longer is good for us! I say this in reference to my reading novels or to my reading the news on the internet. Objectively both are good things to do. The challenge is in looking at our overall life and seeing what effects our actions have on our overall life.

After I tore my calf muscle last year, I began to walk like an old man! Now, almost a year later, that muscle is almost back in good shape and I find that I enjoy walking again. All my life I have enjoyed good health and have done daily exercise--although sometimes not much! How much better I feel and how much better I live when I do regular exercise! How much better I feel and how much better I live when I eat moderately!

Thus I try to live a moderate life, doing well all that I must do and doing well the things that I want to do and which contribute to a balanced an enjoyable life. Occasionally I still enjoy spending time with a novel. Occasionally I still love eating until I can't eat any more! Very rarely I get to sleep as much as I want and that is a delight!

What about praying? Do I like to pray? Sometimes. There are times when I love reading the Scriptures or reading books that inspire me religiously. My personal experience is that if I am leading a fairly good and balanced life, this desire for more time with the Lord becomes stronger--and that is one of the motivations that keeps me striving to lead a good life. This good and balanced life seems to sharpen all my senses and my awareness of God as well.

Is the spiritual life, then, just looking for this equilibrium? This good and balanced life? No, of course not. This equilibrium, this good and balanced life is only there to allow my spirit the freedom to live in God and to delight in His presence and to love others. It all works together, however, and it is important to see the various aspects of our life so that we can make the choices that help us life.

As always, I promise my prayers for you and will celebrate a Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. Please continue to pray for me and for all of the nuns and monks of our houses.


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