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

2014-11-19

Blessings to you! Still home and in my own office and my own cell! Praise God. We have just finished hosting our Abbot President and the Visitors of the various Provinces of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation. We did this as a way of continuing to celebrate our 50th Anniversary of Foundation. It was a good experience for us and we learned quite a bit about our Congregation because we had each of the participants speak to the community. We had one most nights but some nights two and one night we had three!

Now we are in the time of our annual retreat, which is being given by Father Simeon, a Trappist monk from Spencer, Massachusetts. He is excellent and I believe that most of the monks are enjoying Father Simeon and his conferences.

Rogelio Juarez Garcia has arrived to begin his monastic life with us. We are always grateful to have new vocations.

Gratitude! I remember some years ago hearing about Thanksgiving Square in Dallas, Texas. This is a place which was created in order to encourage people to give thanks. I also remember reading in the early monks the importance of gratitude. My early life was not a time of gratitude, but a time of trying to figure out what life meant and how to live it. There were lots of conflicts and lots of desires, but little gratitude.

As I began to embrace my monastic vocation, I could understand in my head the need for gratitude even if I could not feel it in my being, in my heart. When my father finally began recovering from his alcoholism, I felt some gratitude. When I cam to Christ in the Desert, I felt some gratitude. When my Mom and I had a talk about my childhood, I touched on gratitude.

Gratitude was like a small seed growing within me, even though I still could not experience it consistently. Little by little. One monk here gave a series of homilies on God's love for us and it was that which finally triggered something within me and I begin to sense and feel and know gratitude fairly regularly.

The real test of gratitude for me is when a situation is really awful and negative and even actively against me--and I can be still and know some gratitude for the situation. This involves me acknowledging that Jesus is the Lord of my live and that all that happens to me and around me will be a blessing if I let it be.

We can all understand that such a consistent awareness of seeking to be grateful will transform a life completely, even if not all at once. If my basic attitude toward life is negative, complaining, angery, etc., life will just be that way. If my basic attitude to life is gratitude, then I can begin to see all the good things at are present and which can help me live well and with joy.

Of course, sometimes people tell me that I am polyannaish. They mean that I always see the good in things, that I am an optimist, etc. When people come to know me, they realize that I am not that way, but I choose to see good. The saying is that when we look only for the bad in life, we will surely find it. The opposite is just as true: if we look only for the good in life, we will surely find it. For myself, I like to see both the bad and the good--and in the midst of that see the hand of God at work, forming me in His image and helping me grow into the person that He wants me to be.

I have met people who claim always to see the good and yet whose way of seeing the good seems not so very good. That does not draw me. On the other hand I have met people who are clear that they see both good and bad and choose for the good. That really draws me. That is how I want to be, even when I am not that way.

Why do I want to be grateful? Because it changes the way I live my life completely. For me, personally, it was like seeing things that I had never seen before. I had been blinded by the other passions. Anger, lust, jealousy, etc., all blind us. To be grateful, we must become free of the other passions and see the hand of God at work in all that is around us and in every situation.

Again, I want to emphasize that gratitude never means ignoring the negative aspects that are always present in every life. It does mean looking at those aspects from a different point of view and relating to those aspects in a different way. I can choose to see myself as a victim of life, and this is popular today, or as someone whom God is creating here and now through all that has been, all that is and all that will be.

It is not easy to think of God forming me if I am being attacked by someone else, physically, intellectually or emotionally. Yet when I am able to keep a good balance in my emotions and able to be aware of God's presence, then I have been able to recognize that God is asking something of me and forming me in such difficult situations. In order to do that, I have to practice inner peace and silence daily, in every situation.

So we are back at two of the values that I always see as necessary in any spiritual life: inner silnce and and peace.

I would be lying if I told you that I have achieved this inner silence and peace in all situations. No, it is still a struggle for me. But at least I now see the goal fairly consistently and actually struggle for inner silence and peace most of time when I find myself in difficult situations. How I wish that it were automatic, but then I would be static and no longer being formed. All of this life is about being formed and about responding to the Lord.

As always I send you my love and prayers. I will celebrate a Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. Please pray for me personally and also for the monks and nuns of our communities.

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