The Abbot’s Notebook for June 20, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  Prior Benedict and I are still in New York.  I return to Christ in the Desert tomorrow and he returns on Saturday.  We came here last Friday in order to have some meetings and to visit some benefactors.

The day that we left to come to New York and Connecticut, Brother Dominic returned from India with a new candidate for our community, Father Subin Thomas.

Four of our brothers attended the ordination of several permanent deacons for our archdiocese this last Saturday and stayed overnight to continue with the celebrations on Sunday.  Father Mayeul, Brother Antoine, Brother John Paul, Brother James and Brother Augustine all returned Sunday night to the monastery.

While in Connecticut, Prior Benedict and I spent a couple of days at the Abbey of Regina Laudis.  I had visited here once before, but just for a couple of hours.  This is a strong community of Benedictine nuns.  When I see all that they have done, sometimes I believe that they are much stronger than we are.  They have their farm, they produce cheese and fruits and grapes.  They work when the weather is hot and humid.  They sing the full Divine Office according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, and in Latin.  They have many highly educated nuns.  It is truly an impressive community.  When I visit communities and find  a thriving, vibrant community with strong monastic observance, I am always impressed!

Many know that we are once again helping Saint Benedict’s Abbey in Polokwane, South Africa.  They have had a sort of meltdown and are struggling, especially financially.  They are now working on seeking ways to recover financially and to go forward.  This small community of monks has had various setbacks over many decades.  This is our second time to walk with them and to help them move forward.  We walked with them from 2006 until 2011.  At that point our Abbot President of that time wanted a different superior and we withdrew, even though we still had one monk there.  After another six years, we have gone back to work again.  Christ in the Desert helps several communities financially at this time and so far, God always sends us the capacity to help these communities and to continue forward.  Sometimes I let our own benefactors know that the help they give us helps also many other communities today.

One aspect of our spiritual life is always to help when possible and sometimes try to help when it seems impossible, trusting in Divine Providence.  What is this Divine Providence?  It is a simple awareness that everything, absolutely everything, is in some mysterious way in the hands of a God who loves us and watches over us with love.  It is Divine Providence that has brought about the Monastery of Christ in the Desert and allowed us to flourish at this time and to help others.  It is Divine Providence at work in the life of each monk that has brought us to Christ in the Desert and has allowed us to live in relatively deep peace and harmony (with occasional clashes!).  It is Divine Providence that always gives our monastery enough resources to continue and to help others.

I try always to be careful in using well what is given to us, but without becoming overly scrupulous.  It is foolish to waste the gifts of God and yet God so often lavishes His gifts upon us, perhaps foolishly to show how much He loves us.  So often in the life at Christ in the Desert, when we are down to practically no resources, God has placed before us the challenge to give away what we have and trust in Him.  For me, at times, it would be much easier to hold onto what we have with a fear about the future.  Instead, God seems always to test my trust in Him.  I have to let go and give away freely, when there is truly a need, and trust that God will continue to send us all that we really need.

Sometimes I think that God has made me foolish.  At other times I see the absolutely generosity to our community and know that God has blessed us with so much that we must share it with others.  There are times when I can see so clearly how foolish God is with me and with others—foolish in the sense of giving everything to me and asking me to trust Him when He asks me to give away all that He has given me.

Part of living is learning wisdom from the Scriptures.  Wisdom is not about academic understanding or even about logic—although wisdom does not exclude academic understanding and logic.  Wisdom is the art of living well and living for God.  So if God asks me to give away everything, and it is really God asking me, then I must give away all and trust that God will give me in turn all that is necessary.  Wisdom is knowing that God is present always and loving and caring for me.  Even when I make bad decision and mess things up, God is present and working to make things right for me and for all others.  Wisdom allows me to trust completely, to do the best I can even when it seems not enough.

Wisdom is together with Divine Providence.  Wisdom is a gift to us and Divine Providence is God’s abiding presence with us, always working for our good.  There is so much to be grateful for in this life, if we open our hearts and our minds in faith to God’s abiding presence.

As always, I will offer a Holy Mass this week for you and for your intentions.  I ask your prayers for me and for the women and men of our communities.  And I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip