The Abbot’s Notebook for March 29, 2017

Blessings to you! As you can guess, I am still home, in my own room and working in my own office. I don’t have any trips planned for a while! The challenge is simply to recover from the surgery on the appendix, from the blood clots in the legs and from the shingles. Once that is fairly stable, then it will be possible to start planning for the biopsy of the tumor in my chest. So, like all spiritual life, I take just small steps one at a time!

This week it was the turn of our Father Simeon to go to the hospital. First he went to the emergency room in Española and later in the week to the emergency room in Santa Fe. Finally it was found that, for some reason, he is producing blood clots and one of them killed part of his spleen. This is why he had a lot of pain. So he will go back in the coming week to work with a primary care doctor to do various tests to see what might be causing these blood clots. Please keep him in your prayers. Father Simeon is four years older than I, both of us in our 70s, and so health challenges seem to be a part of our lives for the moment!

Last Thursday we were informed that our backup generator for the north power system (which provides the power for most of where the monks live, for our telephone system and for the internet) would have to be turned off completely because it was in danger of serious damage. On sunny days, we could survive this kind of limit without too much problem. But, of course, the first day was not sunny, but cloudy! Eventually on Saturday a rented generator was brought in and we are now using that as our backup—and there is sun now! Our own generator is being repaired. People who live completely off the normal electric grid have problems such as this from time to time!

Our Brother Caedmon Eco, who had come home from our Monastery of Thien Tam, has now gone to the Philippines and then will return permanently to the Monastery of Thien Tam. We really miss his wonderful singing voice here!

We are nearing the completion of the first addition to our novitiate buildings. This addition will eventually be used for craft work and will be only temporarily used to house novices. As soon as we finish this addition, we hope to start another, more permanent, addition to the novitiate. At the moment, we have a large challenge to house the men who want to join our community. So we keep adjusting ourselves to less space almost everywhere.

This week, spiritually, I have been thinking about patience and about waiting on the Lord. It is not always easy just to wait and to trust completely that what is happening now is for our good. This is even more difficult if we know that something is not entirely right and yet we are unable to get answers immediately. Just wait in patience!

Wait in patience? How is that possible? Today we want instant answers and instant solutions. No one wants to be told to wait. And if a company does something that people disagree with, then it goes all over the social media. Recently I took down my Facebook Page because it was all too much for me. People expected me to read what they posted and to respond immediately and to like or dislike what they put on their own pages. I see a value in having a Facebook Page but also lots of disvalues. Right now I have no patience with that page and so deleted it.

So I am not always a model of patience! But so often in my life, I have found out that if I can wait in patience, most problems and difficulties are overcome without much help on my part—and most often better than I could have done if I tried to deal with the problems and difficulties on my own.

There are times when I am dealing with others, trying to listen and don’t have much patience, trying to understand and don’t have much patience—and then I have to fight my lack of patience. There are times when I can find myself cranky inside with others, even though I try not to show it. Again I have to fight myself.

Lots of people think of me and always kind and gentle. Those who live with me know that is not the truth. Particularly right now, when I have lots of physical pains, I find myself short-tempered and it is easy to make a response to others that does not come from love.

So I have found, not just now but over many years, that quite often I must just keep my mouth shut and try to be still inside and wait for grace and spirit. Sometimes I actually succeed. But not always. All of this has shown me that my life is a spiritual struggle and probably will remain that way until I die. I have come to accept that I must struggle, even though I fail. Pope Francis said of himself: I am a sinner who has encountered the mercy of God.

That should be a description for all of us! We are sinners who have encountered the mercy of God. Because we have encountered mercy, we are called to share that mercy with others. First we must recognize the mercy given us in our lives. For me, when I look back, I see that mercy at work in my family of origin—which was a great mess and slowly sorted itself out. Then I see that mercy at work in all the crazy things I did as a young monk! Then in the crazy things I did later, even as superior of the community. And even now I see that mercy helping me in my brokenness.

God has truly loved me over and over and over. And yet, even today, I struggle with faith and with faithfulness.

As always I send my love and prayers for you and for your needs and intentions. Please continue to pray for me and for the sisters and brothers of all our communities. May the Lord draw us all to Himself, especially in this time of Lent.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip