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

2014-04-16

Blessings to you! It has been a relatively quiet week, although we had another power outage on Palm Sunday morning. The men who work on our power systems believe that they have found the problem now and can fix it. We did not go without electricity for almost three days like the last time.

Our new choir stalls for the Church arrived on Friday and we were able to celebrate First Vespers of Palm Sunday in the new choir stalls. We are delighted with these new choir stalls. They change the feeling of the Church, for sure, and they also change the acoustics of the Church. It is easier to sing now. When I arrived here almost 40 years ago, I would never have imagined having choir stalls in our adobe Church. Of course, I never would have imagined having a community of almost 40 monks here either.

One of the challenges of the spiritual life is to adjust to changes in life and to keep on changing. Years ago a married couple, both anthropologists, were complaining to me about the many changes that had happened since they were last here. Later that same day they came to me to apologize. They had realized that only dead communities no longer change. Living communities are always in a process of change.

In our personal spiritual lives, if there is no change, we are surely deteriorating. There is no static moment in the spiritual struggle. Sometimes we long for such moments, when there are no challenges and we can just relax. The reality, however, is that we are constantly in movement: toward God or away from God.

It came to mind after last week's letter that I should also have given the advice that Barsanuphius and John gave to the monk Andrew many centuries ago: when you feel badly or when things are going wrong, stop to think about others who are worse off then you are. Pray for them. Your own problems will then be seen in perspective.

This is the Wednesday of Holy Week. Surely all of us can think of and pray for those who are worse off than we are. We can unite ourselves with others during this Holy Week, as we remember how Jesus gave Himself up for us. The spirituality of Jesus is always about caring for one another and especially about caring for those who have been rejected, those who are hungry, those who don't have enough, etc.

Sometimes in a Monastery, people think that we never relate to those who are rejected, those who are poor or those who are hungry. The truth is that our community has always given 10% to 25% of our income away in any year to others who are in need, often in other countries but sometimes here in our own country. I encourage the brothers to make sacrifices in their own lives so that we can have funds to give to others. Saint Augustine said in one of his writing that we should always desire to have less so that others can have more.

One time a benefactor objected to me that I gave money away and yet others had given the funds to me. My response is always the same: if you help our Monastery, you can be sure that you will be helping people all over the world in ways that you cannot even imagine.

That is the material side of loving others. In any monastery, every brother is needy in one way or another. Some brothers have a gift in one area but a lack in another. Some brothers need more help, especially those who are senior in age. Some brothers need help in doing the various tasks that are necessary in the monastery. We have been praying every day in Lent that we will always be generous to our brothers and help one another.

There is no one in the community who is without various defects of personality or of body or of character. The heart of monastic life is living the Gospel with one another and striving to love one another, especially when we find that difficult. Perhaps too often men come to the Monastery, presuming that contemplative monastic life is about having a lot of time to oneself to read and pray. That is not how real monastic life works in our community. Instead, there is constant insistence to be present for all of the community activities--and those activities take up almost all of the day.

For sure we have bits and pieces of time which we can use for ourselves. On the other hand, the focus of this life is on praying continually. Saint Benedict himself tells us that idleness is the enemy of the soul. That does not mean that we are frantically doing something all of the time. It does mean that a monk of our community must learn to use all of his time for the Lord. When we work, we must give ourselves completely to working. When we pray, we must give ourselves completely to the praying. When we read, we must focus on the reading. When we sleep, we must sleep as well as we can.

Monastic life here at Christ in the Desert is about living each day completely and fully, for the Lord and for one another.

By the time I write to you again, Easter will have come. May this Holy Week and especially the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday bring you an incredible awareness of God's love for us in Christ Jesus. May we walk with him each day, sharing in His sufferings and death but always knowing the glory of the Resurrection!

I send you my love and prayers and ask your prayers for me and for the sisters and brothers of our communities. I promise to pray much for you in these days of Holy Week. I will celebrate Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions.

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