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2015-03-25

Blessings to you! This past Saturday we celebrated the first vows of four of our brothers. The senior of the group is Brother Dominic Paulraj from Tamil Nadu in southern India. He was also the youngest of the group at age twenty-eight. The second monk to make vows was Father Simeon Cook, from Rifle, Colorado, and a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Father Simeon was a novice here some forty years ago, left, because a diocesan priest, founded Wyoming Catholic College, was its first president, retired, returned to Christ in the Desert and made his first vows at the age of seventy-four. The third brother to make vows was Brother Noah Enzor, whose family lives in Colorado. Brother Noah was born in Maryland but has lived much of his life in Colorado. He is thirty-seven years old. The last of the group was Brother Juan Diego Quijada Perez from El Salvador. One of his sisters came from Australia to be present for his profession. Brother Juan Diego is also thirty-seven years old and a very strong worker. For the moment, he has a problem with his back but is recovering from it.

The profession of these four men gives us now a total of eight temporary professed monks and thirteen novices. We incredibly blessed with the men who come to our community and even more blessed when some make vows and persevere. We never expect everyone to persevere. Living at Christ in the Desert is a discernment process and in time it becomes clear who is called to our life. We are grateful even for those who do not persevere but who have lived with us for various periods of time and have contributed in so many ways to forming this community.

Last week a young man from Nicaragua came to join our community, Nestor José Gaitan Barberena. He is our first vocation from Nicaragua. So we have men from thirteen countries in our community and a visiting monk from yet another country. This is part of the witness that our community gives: the capacity for people from various cultures to live together in peace and seek a common life together.

Recently I received a letter from a person who had been diagnosed with an incurable but treatable form of a virulent cancer. This person was telling me of failures to transform the conditionings and thoughtless reactions of life into a selfless being with understanding, love and compassion. This person is in the face of death every day and is preparing for the actual experience of death.

We can all understand that it is one thing to think intellectually about our death and another to be living in the face of death each day. For some people there is a gradual decline into old age and then death. For others, there is this possibility of a terminal disease that hastens death. For others a sudden accident or unforeseen event ends their life. It is not as though we get a choice in the manner of our death, although many modern people would opt to terminate their lives on their own terms.

Is there really anything we can do to prepare for death? Of course! The best advice that I have been given so far about preparing for death was this: Live your life as fully as possible right now.

For me, living means seeking God. It does not mean that I spend every moment in prayer or with an inflexible focus on the world to come. It does mean that I must seek to live with some awareness of the divine in every moment of my life right now. I don't do that consistently, but it is one of the guiding thoughts of my life. Seek the face of the Lord! That face is found in every other human being and in every situation of my life. Sometimes I am lazy and don't use my energy to seek the Lord. Sometimes I am cranky and out of sorts and don't want to look for God.

Our failures should not dismay us. If we listen to the Gospel of John where we are told clearly that God sent Jesus not to condemn the world but to save it. In the Gospel of Luke and that of Mark, Jesus Himself tells us that He came not to call the righteous but sinners.

I am always careful not to use the words of the Bible as sort of proof texts to bolster my own arguments. On the other hand, if we are followers of Jesus, we listen to His words and we even form a relationship with Him over many years. That is part of living unto death as well. There are times when I wonder if I have any relationship with Jesus as my Lord because I am so inconsistent in my relationship with Him. At other times, I sense in some vague way that this relationship is the only relationship that really means anything in life.

While thinking of death, we should also remember some of the great English martyrs. I don't even remember their names, but their stories always impressed me. One of them was asked what he would like to do before dying and he replied that he wanted to smoke his pipe! Another had a good drink! These were people who knew that God has to be touched in our everyday life, not as something special outside of our life.

How to prepare for death: live as intensely as possible in all that we do. We want to love intensely, always in God as much as possible; we want to eat with joy, again in God; we want to sleep as well as possible, for the kingdom; we want to work with energy when that is possible. And, of course, always pray with fervor. So often we can bring to mind that phrase of the Scripture: God sent His Son not to condemn but to save. Ultimately, we cast ourselves entirely on the mercy of God because He loves us.

Today I ask your prayers for all of those like this person who wrote to me: those who live each day with the knowledge that soon they will die. Let us also live that way as much as possible because none of us knows the day nor the hour.

I ask your prayers for me and for all of the nuns and monks of our communities. I promise to celebrate a Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. Let us seek the face of the Lord and rejoice in Him. I send you my love and prayers.

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