The Abbot’s Notebook for May 10, 2017

Blessings to you!  Easter Season continues and is fill with Alleluia.  Here in the community it is a time of joy and peace.  Father Benedict has been named Prior and now functions as the superior of the community so that I can have time simply to work on recovering my health.

Last Thursday Father Prior Benedict and Brother Leander went to Costa Rica to represent our community there for the vows of Brother Santiago Guzman Loría and Brother Martin Sanabria Obando.  Although this monastery is not canonically dependent on ours, the Abbey of Guatapé in Colombia and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert are helping the community to grow as a Benedictine monastery.

The mother of our Father Joseph Kuchta Chylinski died in Poland late last week and so Father Joseph has gone for the funeral.  He had spent some month with her just recently.  May she rest in peace!

My health continues to be a concern but is slowly improving.  Most of the physical pain has gone, although I still get occasional pains here and there from one or the other of the infirmities that visited me!  Now I am preparing for a surgery to remove the tumor on June 1st.  Please keep me in your prayers.

One of the great challenges of going through any kind of suffering is to seek the deepest meanings in the suffering rather than simply trying to get out of the suffering.  There is meaning in all that happens and part of our task as humans is to seek meaning.  Sometimes we humans are so convinced that the meanings that we give to the happenings in our lives are the right ones.  I have never seen life that way.

Rather, I think that as we live, we keep adding to meaning.  For instance, if I had a very difficult childhood, I can blame it all on my parents and be angry.  That is one way of looking at the meaning of my childhood.  Or I can look and see how the challenges and difficulties of my childhood have helped me be able to face the challenges and difficulties in my life as an adult.  That is another way to look at the same reality.  For me, it is always a challenge to see positive meaning in all that happens and to relate happening in my own experience in such a way as to keep forming an integrated view of life that sees life as mystery and constantly in process.

Saint Irenaeus said something like this:  “the glory of God is the living human.”  Sometimes this is quoted as: “the glory of God is man fully alive.”  The second translation is more widely quoted but is not as accurate as the first.  We living humans are God’s glory.  Yet it is up to us to find out what that might mean in our personal lives.  We Catholics believe that God’s creates each person individually and gives that person some mystery to live.  Most of the time, I believe that my “personal” mystery is simply to love God and others and nothing at all special.  As I have grown through life, I continue to see that loving God and loving others is a universal calling, but is also completely special in each live.  The way that I love God and love others is a mystery of my life.  Each person has this mystery.

Once I began to see that I am mystery, then life is an adventure and I can truly become a living human, one who is living toward God and who sees that the only meaning in life is becoming one with God and living that out here and now.  This kind of inner realization is not going to make me look different from anyone else.  I am still just my ordinary self—but I see an incredible meaning in life which gives me direction in all that I do.  My life has been about striving to integrate this meaning and live it in all that I do.

All of this is another way of saying that spirituality is about seeking God and focusing my whole life on seeking God.  This is why Saint Benedict asks about the one who comes to be a monk:  “Does he truly seek God?”

It is not easy to keep our focus in life.  In my own life, even though I have had this basic “seeking God” as part of my life since I was young, that does not mean that I have even yet managed to integrate every action, thought and word of my life in this way.  It is a struggle and that is why it is called “spiritual combat.”

Flannery O’Connor, in one of her stories, tells us that our virtues must be burned away before we can enter heaven.  Our spiritual life is not so much about developing virtues as it is a clinging to our relationship with the Lord Jesus.  We are never redeemed or saved by the Lord Jesus because we are good.  Instead, the Lord Jesus, our friend, our beloved, comes to save us because we are sinners.  It takes a whole lifetime before we come anywhere near to understanding that Jesus loves us as we are, as sinners, as broken people, as those who have nothing to offer of themselves.  All is mercy.

As always I promise to pray for you and for all of your needs and intentions.  I will offer Holy Mass once this week for you.  Please continue to pray for me and for all of my needs at this time.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip