The Abbot’s Notebook for April 12, 2017

Blessings to you!  Most likely I will be writing to you from here in the Monastery for many, many months, since I won’t be doing any traveling away from the Monastery except for day visits to doctors!  God has His own ways of keeping me home with the community where I should be….

Father Gregory and Father Joseph have returned to the community in this past week.  Another postulant has arrived.  We should be about 45 monks at home for Holy Week and Easter.  Our Prior Caedmon, who is also a retired abbot, will preside at the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter because I don’t have the energy yet to do that.  I will be leading the music this year in any case because Father Christian always did that and he is now in Rome!

The ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter are always wonderful and strong and compelling, especially when they are relatively well done.  I often remind the brothers that if everything is perfect, then something is wrong!  We are humans and are not perfect.  Always there are glitches in the ceremonies, things that are forgotten, things that should have been done another way, etc.  For me, there is nothing worse than an uptight and rigid ceremony.  On the other hand, if we pay no attention to the ways of doing things, the ceremonies don’t work well either.

It is always dangerous to trust in weather forecasts but, for what it is worth, we are supposed to have pretty good weather all the way through Easter into the Easter Week.  This is unusual for us.  Quite often we have storms in Holy Week and particularly on Good Friday.  The weather really changes the way that we celebrate because there are processions outside and on Easter we begin with a fire in the cemetery at 3:00 am.

Sometimes for us monks, spirituality is simply showing up on time and doing what we are supposed to do!  There is nothing flashy about that but it is the basis of our life together.  It would be like a family counting on the mother or the father to be present.  It is easy for people outside of a monastery to think that the monastery is simply housing for a group of bachelors who happen to live together.  And monks also can begin to think that way.  That way of thinking leads to the end of monastic life

During Holy Week and Easter, it would a disaster if the celebrant didn’t show up, if the choir did not show up, if the various servers and ministers did not show up.  Monastic life is about working together to form community.

This is true also in a parish.  If the people of the parish don’t work together, then the parish simply never comes to life.  It can be a place where people go to Mass or go to confession, but it is not a living Christian community until the people begin to work together and form a parish community that has a clear direction and an understanding of how to work together for the good of all and for the good of all others who may live in the parish but not belong to the parish because they are not Catholics.

Because we enter into Holy Week with Palm Sunday and then into what we call the Sacred Triduum on the evening of Holy Thursday, these days are filled with a deep awareness that God has become one with us.  God became flesh, human, in Jesus Christ.  God chooses to give His life for us so that we may have His life in us.  These are religious thoughts and sentiments but mean nothing unless they are part of the way that we live.  We are invited to live as Jesus lived:  giving our lives for others.

As I grow older, I recognize every Holy Week and Easter, more and more, that I am truly a sinner in every aspect of my life.  I fail others.  It is not their fault.  It is my fault.  I destroy others with my sins and my sinfulness.  It is not their fault.  It is my fault.  Yes, of course, I go to confession and repent of my sins—but that repentance does not always restore the lives of others whom I have hurt and sinned against.

Both of my parents had challenges with alcohol in their lives.  I lived to see them both sober and filled with the joy of the Lord.  That was a great joy to me.  It did not repair the damage done to me in my youth—but at some point I realized that only I could repair that damage by beginning to see the blessings that the damage to me had brought.  It was as if I had to learn to transform that which was bad into a blessing for me.

This is the story of the Resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus embraced the death that was given to Him and in embracing that death for love of others, the suffering and death were transformed into life-giving graces for all.

For our spirituality this week, we are invited to live deeply the mysteries of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.  This is not about thinking of Jesus, it is about sharing in His life, death and Resurrection.  We can only do that by the way that we live, not just by thinking about it.

As always I send my love and prayers for you!  I will celebrate a Holy Mass this week for you and for your needs and intentions.  Please continue to pray for me and especially that I may recover my health.  Pray also, please, for all the women and men in our communities.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip