The Abbot’s Notebook for May 23, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  This week I have been challenged to write because my mind seems caught up with other things.  That does not happen often to me.  Usually I can just sit down and write a letter to you and it just sort of writes itself.  Because I write every week, I am accustomed to being able to produce a letter.  And indeed, I will produce a letter now, even if it does not quite flow out of me in the normal way.

Our Father Andrew had been in the hospital for over ten days and finally came home.  He had an open heart surgery to repair the mitral valve of his heart.  I don’t know much about it yet, but hope to learn more.  His incision looks just as mine did last year–and he has a pillow to help him when he coughs.  He will have a long recovery but should be fine.  Our Father Thomas-Benedict was admitted to the hospital yesterday with a persistent lung infection and will be there some days as the doctors work to get him well again.  Please pray for both of our brothers!

Father Mayeul now needs oxygen regularly and so walks about with a tank on wheels, but comes to everything.

We are truly blessed in our community to have wonderful seniors in the community and also lots of young monks who can help the seniors when they need it.  When I was young I never gave much thought to getting old.  I remember when Brother Christopher fell and broke his foot.  Then another monk fell and broke a leg.  Then another monk fell and broke a hip.  That was enough to tell me that our buildings need to be only on one floor as much as possible so that our seniors can get around without problems.

Even with everything on one floor, pretty much, the seniors are still challenged at times and the young monks are here to help them.  When I was sick last year, I was cared for very well by the younger monks of the community.  Even now the younger monks watch out for me and make sure that I don’t have to do anything that requires much physical effort.  On the other hand, I sometimes tell them that I prefer to carry things myself in order to have some normal exercise!

Health and well-being are important in the monastic life—and for everyone.  Here in our monastery, the layout is such that all of us do a good bit of walking each day:  from cell to Church, from Church to refectory, back to Church, off to work—and that is our life:  always returning to Church!

Our spiritual lives have to be somewhat the same:  always returning to the Lord with our hearts.  It is easy, even in a monastery, to forget about the Lord and to live without staying aware of His presence always.  This is the challenge of living an authentic spiritual life:  remain in His presence and remain aware of His presence.  It sounds easy enough but just try it!

For many of us who strive to live this way, the challenges become stronger as the day goes on.  This is normal because we usually wake up with energy and set about doing what we know we should do.  As the day wears on, we meet more and more challenges and our energies start to fail and far too often we begin to forget about God and His presence in our lives.

For me, what has helped most is to stop in the afternoons and take time just to be with the Lord.  That renews my spirit and I am much more able to remember God and His presence in my life.  Do I always remember to stop?  No.  Far too often I just keep on going, oblivious of the presence of God.  Sometimes I may remember Him in the evening and others times I don’t.  I find myself pretty unfaithful in my life in the sense of not spending time with this God who loves me so much.

Is that a cause for despair?  No, rather it is a cause for spending more time with the Lord and asking Him to help me.  By myself, I am incapable of changing my ways.  I try and try and try, but never succeed.  But with God all things are possible and there are days when I am so aware of His love that I need not think of my own failing and my own sinfulness.  God wants all of us to enjoy His love and to live in that love.  There is a time for repentance and a time just to trust completely that His love will save me.

It is not easy to convince others that God does love all of us.  Only when a person has actually encountered the love of God does a person become completely aware that God is love and that God loves me personally and is present now and always.  That encounter with the living God can come in anyone’s life and at any time.  Some people seem to know God from their childhood and always trust in Him.  Others, like myself, only come to a deep trust in God in our senior years, even if we have spent all of our life looking for Him.  Now I know that He is with me and I trust in Him.  I still go through doubts at times, but there is a deeper conviction:  He is here, He loves me and all is well.

As I do every week, I will celebrate a Holy Mass this week for you and for your needs and intentions.  Please keep me in your prayers and pray for all the sisters and brothers of our communities.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip