The Abbot’s Notebook for April 26, 2017

Blessings to you!  Christ is risen!  Alleluia!  Still we celebrate Holy Easter and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus our Lord!  What a wonderful celebration of life and of joy!  And I am still here at my own desk in my office at Christ in the Desert.  Alleluia!

On April 18th I was supposed to have the biopsy of the tumor in my chest.  For many reasons, that did not happen.  It did happen yesterday, April 25th, but I don’t have any results yet.  At the moment, I am still completely peaceful about whatever the results will show.

Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay spent a few days with us.  He had visited here in the late 1970s when he was still a student.  It was a special joy to have him return and spend these days with us.

We also received two Jesuit novices.  Neither of them knew that the other would be here and they are from separate Jesuit provinces.  Over the years we have received many Jesuit novices when they go on pilgrimage.  Always they are a good element!

Several of our monks went to the Monastery of Saint Michael, a nearby Orthodox monastery, to celebrate with them.

One of the great joys of our brothers from other countries is when they can obtain an American driver’s license.  This is a great achievement for them and a great help for the community.  We are usually almost 45 monks at home these days and that means that there are many trips to doctors for various reasons:  general health, eyes, teeth, etc.  When we have to supply a driver, then more people are missing on a given day.  So we encourage brothers to learn how to drive.

Part of the spirituality of Easter is learning to believe in the presence of God in all that happens.  All we need do is think of the earlier followers of Jesus who were so discouraged and disheartened when He was crucified.  From a human point of view, that was the end.  All of the hopes of His followers were dashed and broken.  So a challenge of spirituality is to believe that God is always present and always bringing about a good in every situation.  We don’t always see the good.  Perhaps even often we don’t see the good.  Yet we are called to believe.

At the heart of all spirituality is this deep and unfailing belief that God is God, that God is present and that God is involved in all that happens.  Immediately this takes us to a different level of belief.  Our world today, to an enormous extent, believes that there is nothing after death.  So many Christians even believe that now.  Jesus is a good figure and a good man, but surely Jesus was not God!  Once a Christian no longer believes that Jesus is God, then such a person really can no longer be called a Christian.  Such a person may well live in a way that brings him or her to heaven, but in this life there is a huge lack of faith.

How different our lives are when we believe that there is another life after death!  In the past, of course, some would say that we Christians use the idea or even the reality of heaven to avoid living the realities of this life!  For sure, when we believe that this life is not the whole meaning of human reality, then our understanding of how to live changes incredibly.  It is more important to be good than to achieve a lot of money or have a lot of sexual relationships or to have power over others.  What matters is living in Jesus Christ, living as He did and trying to love others and serve others.

Today so many parents want their children to be worldly successes and don’t worry much about their children being good human beings.  What a change of values this represents for many.  On the other hand, that is just how we humans are.  The Scriptures are full of stories like that.  Even in the Gospels the mother of James and John wanted to make sure that her sons had really good places in the Kingdom.  We should never think badly about those kinds of values.  That is how we humans are.  Even for myself I encounter the fact that I am worldly and want things to succeed.  I want this monastery to be successful in a way that others can see that it is successful.  I want to be thought well of by others.  I want us to have enough money.  I want us to have buildings that really are adequate.  And on and on and on.  I am just as worldly as anyone else!

Recently, because of the illnesses I have been going through, I have realized how cranky I can be.  I want everything to work the way that I think that it should work!  When it does not, I can have pretty sharp and nasty thoughts about others, judging them when the problem is really in me!

The greatest joy of my life is that I know that God forgives me, that the Lord Jesus is always with me—and that I am invited to conversion and to a deeper faith.  No matter how often I fail, God still loves me and forgives me and invites me to a life in Him.  Jesus does not get too concerned that I am petty, that I am judgmental, that I am cranky, etc.  Rather, Jesus sees me as He has created me:  a human who needs the love of God and who rejoices when that love is present.

So please keep praying for me and for my conversion.  I promise to keep praying for you and for all of your needs and intentions.  I will offer a Holy Mass for you and for your intentions this week.  Please also pray for the women and men of our communities.  We all need your prayers.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip