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

2014-12-17

Blessings to you! What a different kind of week this has been for me. I began at home, in my own cell, and am back there now. But in between all kinds of things have happened in the quiet life of a monk!

Thank you for helping me with the problem of the return ticket of our Brother John Baptist. That situation has been resolved and the ticket is now back in place as it should have been. The whole experience was, in general, quite unsatisfactory, and taught me a lot about customer service and large corporations and care for others.

There were am incredible amount of untruths told to us by the airline customer service agents. Sometimes they contradicted themselves. I am sure that not of that was intentional on their part, or at least I hope that it was not. It is clear to me in this digital age that there are many levels of security and that they do not all interact with one another. They are all meant to protect again fraud, but not meant to protect the client. That is where the difficulty lies.

When I look at what happened with the airline from the perspective of spirituality, some things seem to reflect back to me. First, we must always love one another and strive to live in peace and tranquility. I repeat this peace and tranquility all of the time, both for my own sake and for the sake of the community. The airline might get a 50% rating on this virtue.

Secondly, we cannot tell lies or untruths which only serve to cover up our own negligence. Lots of us tell little white lies now and then and most of the time no one catches us out with them. This is not a good way to live, but it happens. On the other hand, public statements, statements that can be checked out fairly easily, need to reflect the truth, even when it is not flattering to ourselves. In this, the airline scored maybe 40%.

Thirdly, we should not pass the fault which is ours on to another person or entity. We see this already in the Book of Genesis when Adam does not want to take responsibility nor does Eve. It is deeply engrained in our humanity and yet in order for a world to live in peace or a community to live in peace, this type of behavior must not be condoned. Here the airline scored about 30%.

In a community, we don't throw away monks because they score low in things such as this. On the other hand, if a community does not insist on right behavior, it will eventually fall on bad days and probably cease to be a community.

Companies need also to look at these values or they too can cease to exist. The airlines are already an endangered kind of service. Monastic life is also in troubles in many parts of the world. For monks, the only solution is a strong life of prayer and a strong monastic life in general. For airlines, not religious entities, a focus on service is surely something that helps an airline. For monasteries, it is difficult for outsiders to be able to give feedback unless the monastic community is open to it. It is even more difficult for an airline. Sure, there are websites and phone calls and ways to try to send a message to an airline but unless there is some listening, then such actions are futile and just waste our time.

My own sense of the airline with which we were dealing with this problem is that feedback is futile and a waste of my time. Everything was our fault from their point of view and I know that this does not reflect the truth. The airline also tried to blame our credit card company and that also was false. The airline tried to tell us that we had not been in contact with our credit card company and that also was not true.

While it is not easy to avoid doing business with a specific airline, especially when they are principal carriers to parts of the world, one can avoid them as much as possible. This is the way business works: if we are not given good service, then we cannot recommend a business. If we are given bad service, then we begin even to avoid doing business with the company. And the same is true of monasteries. If a monastery is not living a true monastic life, people begin to sense that and even begin to avoid such a monastery. If a monastery treats people badly, then they stop going to that monastery.

So I have learned a lot about one airline carrier through all of this but also see the truth of the situation reflected in our world, in the Church, in dioceses, in religious communities. All of us live public lives in the present age and good or less than good behavior becomes quickly know.

Also through this experience I see the real power of the social media. I had heard before that through five people, we will know the whole world. That is why I sent a distress message on my notebook mailing list. What an incredible response! Thanks for all who prayed, who offered tickets, who offered connections, who offered love and support. This was a tremendously positive experience for me from those on the mailing list.

Now I can be still and prepare my heart to celebrate the last days of Advent and prepare for the Birth of the Lord. I know that our brother will be able to come home now and hopefully without any further problems. I know that the monastery and I are loved and that brings me incredible joy in these last days of Advent.

Be assured of my love and prayers for you. I will celebrate Holy Mass for you and for your needs and intentions. May the Lord unite us all and with all others in a love which can change our world so that it is truly the dwelling of the Lord in every aspect. I send my love and prayers.

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