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Blessings to you! This has been a very strong week for us here at Christ in the Desert. Our Brother Benedict was ordained a deacon this past Sunday by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe. We spent lots and lots of time preparing for the ceremony. We worried about the roads because we had had a lot of snow and when it melts, the roads are really a challenge. But all turned out and we had a wonderful ceremony and a rich, festive banquet afterwards.

Brother Martin McNamara left our community this past Friday. He will go to our Monastery of Thien Tam to live out his simple vows there. Please pray for him.

Brother Noah tried to drive out in the snow with Brother Gabriel. They were in a pickup without four-wheel drive and went off the road and had to hike back part of the way before someone picked them up. Then they went out again, this time in a four wheel drive vehicle!

About half of the community has been sick over the past week. Sometimes one or the other brother improves and come back to the common life. Then someone else gets sick and goes to bed. There seem to be two types of illness going around in the community. One is flu, which is fairly normal and not a virulent strain of the flu. The other is a throat and chest infection that causes brothers to lose their voices and to have congestion deep in their lungs. Slowly it is all clearing up. Some brothers haven't gotten either of these illnesses. Others have had one or the other. Some have had both. And so our winter goes on.

One of the great challenges of spiritual life is consistency. It is a great challenge also in human relationships. None of us is ever entirely consistent. Yet in a community or a in a marrige, there has to be a deep element of consistency that allows people to relate, to have confidence and to grow in trust. This consistently does not rule out creativity or spontaneity. Rather is the the true basis for any creativity and spontaneity.

We Benedictines take a vow of stability. That mean that we promise to stay in the same community all of our lives. That does not always work out, but it is the ideal. In the past, regulations always allowed a religious to move from a less contemplative to a more contemplative religious community. This was to recognize that value of the contemplative life. Again, it was not seen against stability, but recognized that the deepest stability is in God and in doing His holy will.

If we think of a person who seems always to change his or her mind, we usually think of someone who is unable to make a deep commitment to anything. When I was young, I had a friend who would agree to meet at a certain time, and then very often never show up. Well, that kind of friendship is not going to very far because it leads to broken expectations, to one person planning to get together and then having the the expection unfulfilled time after time. Can you imagine the results in a marriage? It is the same in a monastery.

Here in our community, we have a practice called making culpaI which is done every night. Any brother who has not been present when he should be, who has not fulfilled his assigned duties during the day, who has broken anything, or who has done other things like these, comes in front of the whole community, kneels, states what he did, and asks pardon of the community. This is a practice that is not meant to demean anyone, but to inculcate honesty in the community and acknowledge of our failures to live up to our responsibilities in the community.

Sometime I comment after the Culpa, stating that the faults are common in every community and we don't confess them for any other reasons than to acknowledge our responsibility, each one of us, for striving to build up our community by being faithful to the life we have promised. You can also imagine what it would be like if no one showed up for Vigils, if the cook did not show up for his assigned task, if no one washed dishes, etc. Every social community has responsibilities: families, religious communities, social groups, etc. When people fail to live up to their commitments in such groups, the group eventually falls apart.

This again comes back to a consistent living of my resonsibilties in the groups to which I belong. Because we are human, we fail in these responsibilities. We then find ways to ask pardon of those who relied on us and were disappointed in our faithfulness. At times, there are graver faults. For instance, we have had a thief in our community. That thief has gone into rooms of guests and visitors, even visiting monks, and taken their money. This is a not normal thing in a monastic community. It has happened twice in the forty years that I have been here. But it does happen. Those more serious situations need also to be addressed in a community.

Part of the consistency in our monastic life, which helps us live in peace, is to state such problems publicly, so that all are aware. Sometimes it is a scandal to the new and the young, but they also must learn that we are simply a human community, striving to live a holy life. I remember one in my own family there was a thief. It was not a happy time! But it had to be faced and dealt with.

Real spirituality deals with real problems and tries to solve them so that all can live in peace and focus their energies on prayer and on loving others. The more that each one of us is consistent in virtue, seeking God's will, seeking faithfully to love and serve all others, no matter how difficult, the stronger our communities can become. Such communities and families become places of trust and confidence in one another, place of pardon for the failures and place that deal with larger problems in an honest way.

As always I promise my prayers for you and promise to celebrate a Holy Mass for you and for all of your needs and intentions. I send you my love and prayers and ask your prayers for me and for all of our sisters and brothers.


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