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2015-07-01

Blessings to you! Another week at home and all is well. It has been such a wonderful week, beginning with the profession of the two brothers on June 24th and then a volleyball Sunday on June 28th and a free day, more or less on June 29th. Summers are sometimes absolutely idyllic!

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we used to play volleyball every Sunday in the summer. It was a wonderful way to play together, to shout together and to laugh together. Then in the later 2000s, we did not have enough monks interested in volleyball and so we quit playing. Now we have enough once more and so it is great fun to divide into two teams and spend an hour or two playing in the hot sun. We bought a small plastic wading poor and we all go jump in that afterwards. Then back to our rooms to clean up for the main Sunday meal. It is great fun!

On the less happy side, but still pretty happy, Father Simeon had to have emergency eye surgery on Saturday morning, June 27th. He had gone to the eye doctor because of broken glasses and the need to have a new prescription. In the process the doctor discovered an incipient detached retina. Then when more studies were done, there was a hole in the retina already and so the need for immediate surgery. The next day he was able to resume full and normal activities in the monastery. Such is the wonder of modern eye surgery!!

Prior Christian has gone to Kerala in India with our Brother Philip, whose parents will be celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary. They have arrived safely there in Kerala and are adjusting to the jetlag and to the change in climate.

Here at home a stray dog named Katie showed up on Sunday and we have been trying to find out where she belongs. She has a tag on her and I have been able to leave a message for her owner. I am not sure that it is true, but sometimes it feels as if all stray dogs come to my door!

Spiritually, there are always challenges in life. How to deal with others in the community, how to help others make good decisions about their vocations, how to deal with stray dogs, how to get enough sleep, how to help brothers reconcile with one another after some conflict, etc. So of that is how my day is passed: dealing with others and in the process also learning very slowly how to deal with my own personal challenges.

Saint Benedict refers to this in his Rule of Monks when he tells the abbot in Chapter, verse 40: while helping others to amend by his warnings, he achieves the amendment of his own faults.

You would think that after so many years as superior, I would have amended my faults by now, but that is not yet the case. I still have faults and will probably have them until my dying day. One of the faults that I have is that of responding (perhaps even reacting) too quickly. There are times, of course, when a situation requires an immediate response. But most of the time, it is better to see, hear or encounter a situation, then take time to pray about it and finally come to a decision about what to do.

As I reflect back over my years serving the brothers, I can see so often that a too quick response does not help most situations. Rather, when I have had the grace of not responding too quickly, the situation is usually much better in just about every way.

Part of my own personality is a deep insecurity when things are not clear and when decisions are not made promptly. I accept that this defect of insecurity is also a great gift because it moves things along rather than just letting them be. On the other hand, growth in grace for me has meant struggling not to respond too quickly so that I have time to listen, to think and to pray before responding.

Sometimes it is better for me if I have to deal with things through e-mail or regular correspondence because that gives me time to stop and think and pray. Occasionally I am given the grace in an immediate situation to be able to say: let me think about it and pray a bit. Sometimes I sound a bit pompous to myself when I actually say that, but it has had good effects for the most part.

So what I want to share with you this week is the immense value of never reacting to situations and of trying to listen and understand a situation as completely as possible before responding to it. This is a weakness in my own character and because of that I can see so clearly its importance in living a good and strong spiritual life.

How well I remember a mother telling me one time that sometimes she had to wait a whole year, thinking about how to say a particular thing to one of her children. She knew that until the timing was just right, what she wanted to say could not be heard. I don't think that I have ever had to wait a whole year, but there are times when I have waited for several months in order to find the right opportunity to say something.

Psalm 37 tells us: Be still before the Lord and wait in patience. Maybe it is that lesson that I must struggle to learn. At the heart of spiritual life is the stillness before the Lord so that we can allow the Lord to speak to us. It is the same with one another: we must be still in order to listen to the other person and truly hear what that person is saying.

Enough for this week. I send you my love and prayers as always. I will celebrate Holy Mass for you and for your intentions this week. Please pray a lot for me and for the monks and nuns of our communities. Let us rejoice in the Lord!

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