The Abbot’s Notebook for May 24, 2017

Blessings to you!  Spring seems to come and go this year.  There are days which are almost hot and yet not quite.  Other days, it seems like it might snow again.  We have had snow this late in May before so it is possible that it could still snow—but not likely.

Last week I asked prayers for the mother of our Brother Dominic.  She died that same day and so now I ask your prayers for the repose of her soul.  Her name was Josephine Jeyarani.  May she rest in peace.  Brother Dominic immediately left to be with his family.

Again I would ask your prayers for a young man named Anthony.  He is going through a particularly difficult time.

My own niece, Olga, is battling Stage 4 cancer.  That makes me so sad because she has two young sons and a loving husband.  May she succeed in overcoming the odds and have healing.

So often people have complained to me about this God who allows people to suffer.  The mystery of suffering is beyond me.  I do know that if we accept everything that happens to us with gratitude and trust, it allows us to live in a very different way.  Yes, of course, I pray that suffering be taken away.  For me, it is much worse for a young girl or boy to have to battle some strong illness than it is for me.  I have had a good and long life already.  Nevertheless, if a serious illness takes the life of a young person, I also accept that.  God is not a God who punishes or tries to make life difficult for anyone.  God is a God of love and mercy who always invites us to share His life.

For me, it took many, many years to come to believe that God really loves us ad loves me personally.  It was a real struggle because deep within me was a sense of being no good and a sense that God could not love me.  Now I can say with total confidence:  I am no good and God loves me immensely and without any conditions.

Why am I no good?  Because the only good that I have comes from God and of myself I have no good.  When I was younger this was a lack of self-esteem but now it is an act of faith.  God loves me just as I am.  God sent Jesus, His Son, to save sinners.  I am a sinner.  When I say that, some people ask what sins I could have that would be so bad.  Probably I don’t have any huge sins at this point in my life and lots of pretty insignificant sins in my youth.  Nevertheless I still can see my unworthiness and it does not matter:  God loves me and He loves me always.

At the heart of my personal spiritual is this deep and intimate knowledge that HE loves me and that my life is only a small attempt to respond to HIS love.  I can never repay HIS goodness to me.  Yet I can try to live my life according to His word.  I find His words in the Scriptures and in the Church and in obedience to my superiors.  His words give me life and give me joy.  And His words always challenge me.

If someone treats me wrongly, I still try to love that person and to pray for his or her good and I ask God’s blessings on that person.  If a person threatens me, I still try to love and to return good for evil.  If a person wants to destroy me, then I seek to return only love and goodness.  Don’t think for even one minute that this is easy.  It is not easy, it is difficult.  Yet it is what God asks of me.

If a person treats me wrongly, or threatens me or seeks to destroy me, the Scriptures, the Church and my superiors always tell me the same thing:  Love and do good to those who seek to harm you.

Can I defend myself?  No, I cannot!  Can I seek to wrong the other person, seek to harm the other person, seek to destroy the other person?  No!  That is not following the Lord Jesus.  Instead I must wait in patience and God will show the way of love and the way of mercy.

For me, quite often, spirituality is simply clinging to God, trusting in God and believing and knowing that God loves me.  It is no longer a question of whether God loves me, but a deep and abiding certainly that God loves me, no matter what is happening around me.  God will take care of me and God does take care of me.

Everyone who knows me, knows that this is true regarding my physical health but also true regarding whatever difficulties come into my life.  God will show me a way to love others and to be faithful.  Most of my life, I have had very few difficulties.  Now there are some difficulties.  My only prayer is that God will keep me faithful to Him and hold me in His love according to His promise.

Every week I try to celebrate one Holy Mass for you and for your intentions.  This week I will continue that practice.  I always ask you to pray for me and this week I ask again for those prayers.  When we come to the Lord at the end of our lives, for sure we shall see that it was prayer that was most important.  Please pray for me and for all the men and women in communities associated to ours.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip