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About Us > Abbot's and Prior's Pages > Abbot's Notebook

2014-09-24

Blessings to you! I am still in Costa Rica and return home tomorrow. The visit here has been truly good and helpful, both for me and for the new community of the Monastery of San José. I have come to know the monks and the bishop and his delegate better and this makes it easier for me to be of assistance to all of the people involved in the new monastery.

One of the challenges in my life is to give sound advice to communities just beginning monastic life and also to the bishops who have allowed monastic life to begin in their dioceses. This sounds easy, at one level, but as in any human endeavor, there can be people at various levels threatened by something new happening. As in any new beginning, people are involved and people have their own ways of looking at the human situation. My way may not be better than theirs in many cases, but I have to offer a perspective from an experience of lived monastic life.

Part of the spiritual life is relating to others and trying to love others at all times. That is easy enough as long as there are no conflicts among or between the other people in one's life. As anyone can imagine, however, conflicts arise and love means trying to respect and love those who are in conflict. These conflicts can be small and insignificant or they can be large an clearly important. In both cases and in all other cases, the challenge is to love all people.

This type of love can be seen as a necessity in the monastery but also in civil life. How do we love those whose values are in conflict with our own? How do we even love those in our own Church who have radically different ways of thinking about the Church? How do I love monks whose way of thinking about and living out monastic life is radically different from my own?

For me, personally, there are so many times when I wish I were not involved in anything. My life would be so much simpler! Instead, I find myself involved in situations which require me to negotiate and to mediate and to try to seek ways of living together that affect myself and others. It is so obvious to me that my life would be so much more serene if I did not become involved in situations outside of the life of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

For most people, getting involved outside of their families or of their normal work or living situations is the same: complicating their lives. Yet there are times in our lives when it is clear that is what we are supposed to do. It is not clear that we are always supposed to do that, but at times it seems clearly to be God's will. When it is clearly God's will, then we must act.

Christian life is about seeking God's will, wherever we find it. Christian life is not about avoiding any involvements outside of our own normal life. For sure, it is God who must make His will known to us. We don't have to be looking around us always to see if we are supposed to go out of our way. Yes, we have to be cautious about strange situations. If I see a car off the road, I can phone the police rather than investigate the situation myself. If I am in a dangerous area of a large city, there are ways to get others involved rather than myself directly. Involvement demands prudence.

We must also be aware of our own personalities. Some of us are prone to get involved and some of us are prone to keep a safe distance. We need to know ourselves and to accept ourselves. Our personalities are part of the gift of God to us and give us energy along certain paths of our lives. If we are prone to get involved, that is a gift, and it must be used with prudence. If we are prone to stay distant from involvements, that also is a gift and must be used with prudence. So much of evaluating a situation is looking at the opposite of what we are inclined to do by nature.

In a monastic community, as in a good marriage, we learn much by taking council of others. If we are married, we should be listening to the wisdom of our spouses. If we are monks or nuns, we need to listen to the wisdom of our sisters or brothers. Part of spiritual wisdom in any life is taking counsel, listening to others and especially listening to that which is opposed to what we want to do or feel called to do.

Listening to others is not meant to put us in a position where we never act for fear of doing something that might not be the very best thing. Counsel is meant to help us, not hinder us from acting. Some people can become unable to act because after hearing counsel they become uncertain. Sometimes this happens in vocational discernment and at other times it happens in the fairly normal, larger decisions of one's life: a fear of making a mistake.

For most of us, our ordinary lives are not all that complicated. We get up, we do what we must do in order to live, we eat, we relate to others, we rest and life goes on. It is not every day that we are faced with major decisions in our lives or with new situations that require some kind of profound discernment. Thanks be to God! Daily life for most of us in just that: daily life.

Just because daily life is so ordinary, God sometimes has to send angels among us or disasters or completely unusual situations in order to gain our attention. Let us be attentive!

As always I send you my love and prayers. I will celebrate Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. Please continue to pray for me and for all of the situations in which I find myself. May God give us all spiritual wisdom..

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