The Abbot’s Notebook for May 9, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  Christ is risen!  Alleluia!  Here I am in Mexico once again.  I came to Mexico City to visit the Sisters of the Monastery of Our Lady of Tepeyac on Monday, May 7th.  I have not been here in almost two years.  It is a wonderful joy to be with these Sisters once again.

Before I left, I had to stay up late to get everything done.  There are so many ways in which I no longer have the energy that I used to have.  In the past, I was able to keep up with so many things and do so many things.  Now there are times when I just say to myself:  “No more!  Go take a nap!”

When I left for Mexico on April 16th, one of the brothers took the dogs for a walk that very day and they were lost.  I could not even write about it because I kept praying that they would return.  Thumper and Benny have done this before and have been gone for a couple of days.  In the past, when Thumper went out alone and was gone, he did a couple of disappearance acts.  Once he jumped in a boat and would not get out and ended up with some people in Santa Fe.  Another time he jumped in a vehicle and would not get out and ended up in Albuquerque.  Thumper seems always on the move.

But Benny just turned one year old on May 7th.  When he and Thumper disappear on April 16th, many of the brothers went looking for them.  The brothers did not want to tell me about it—and I understand that.  When I returned to the monastery on April 23rd and they were still gone, I presumed that they had either gone off with someone else or had died in the wilderness.  Thumper has heart problems and needs medicine both in the morning and in the evening.  And I could not imagine Benny surviving on his own.

Two men who were boating on the Chama River came to the monastery on April 29th to report that they had heard some dogs barking in the cliffs and they were concerned about them.  They knew nothing of our missing dogs.  They had climbed one of the cliffs to see if they could find a dog.  They could see the eyes of a dog trapped on a ledge, but nothing more.  They thought that they heard another dog barking.  These reports were like music to the ears of the monks!

Prior Benedict went immediately with the two men, who were very generous, and drove around the mountains to the top of the cliffs.  He and the men were able to locate Benny and bring him home.  But there was no sign of Thumper.  Benny had lost 16 pounds during the days that he was trapped on the cliffs and looked like a walking skeleton of a dog.  But he was so happy to be home once again.

Prior Benedict and three other brothers went the next day to look again for Thumper but there was no sign of his presence and no barking.  Yet that Monday night, about 7:00 pm, Thumper came walking home on his own, looking like he had been at a spa for a couple of weeks.  Thumper always struggles with being a bit overweight and when he returned he was at a perfect weight and looked wonderful!

So we believe that Thumper stayed on the mountain but was not trapped.  He stayed on the mountain to stay with Benny, who was trapped.  When Benny was rescued, Thumper came home.  What a lovely story.

Often I have thought that I would be better if I could be as good as the dogs!  One of the early monks in the first centuries of Christianity said:  “My dog is better than I because he loves without judging.”  Praise the Lord.  Truly it is a miracle that the dogs are alive.

Why isn’t God that good with all of us?  Why does he allow people to die?  Why does God allow people to be murdered and destroyed?  God mystery is always beyond us and we must come to be like Job:  Blessed be God who gives and who takes away.  Blessed be God, the Lord of life and death.  Blessed be God, whose ways are not our ways.

We can never understand God.  In the world to come we shall see His glory and understand His ways.  In this life, all is shadow.  We want to learn to live in the Lord, trusting Him who is Lord of all, Lord of life and death.

Tomorrow I leave this community and head to the Monastery of Santa María y Todos los Santos.  Our Brother Placido will profess his solemn vows on Saturday and our Brother Pedro Damián will profess his first vows in the same ceremony.

How much traveling I can do and still maintain my health is yet unknown.  This is a longer trip for me to test how it goes.  We shall see.  I am not entirely convinced that I can travel much, no matter how much others want me to travel.  The last trip I ended up losing my voice almost entirely!

Spirituality is about doing what is possible most of the time.  Sometimes it is about doing what seems impossible.  Only when God gives a special call to the impossible should we try that kind of holiness.

As always I send my love and prayers for you.  I will celebrate Holy Mass once this week for your needs and intentions.  Please pray for me and for the women and men in the communities associated with ours.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip