The Abbot’s Notebook for July 11, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  I got home just last night, July 10th, and today is the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, the author of the monastic rule that we follow and the Patriarch of Monasticism in the Roman Catholic Church of the west.  Many of our brothers went today to celebrate with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Desert.  Saint Mary Mercy of Our Lady of the Desert is making her first vows today.  Let us all pray for her.

On July 6th our Brother Augustine made his first vows here at Christ in the Desert. Some of his family were able to attend.  We had tried to obtain a tourist visa for his mother, but as usual it was denied.  At this point in time it is practically impossible for us or the families of our brothers to obtain tourist visas to come and visit because there is always an enormous fear that they might stay in the USA.  This is not a President Trump issue because it was the same under President Obama.

In Mexico Abbot President Guillermo and I visited the Benedictine sisters at San Benito Monastery in Mexico City.  This small community has officially asked to be incorporated with the Benedictine sisters of Nuestra Señora del Tepeyac, commonly called Coyoacan.  Both communities are in agreement and now there is simply the matter of discovering the best way to move forward with this project.

From Mexico City we traveled to the State of Veracruz and our Monastery of Santa María y Todos los Santos.  Abbot Guillermo interviewed each of the monks and candidates there and closed their Visitation with a strong report.  He also opened the novitiate once more.  As part of the visit and as the abbot of the community, I appointed Brother Anselmo Gonzalez Gaspar as the Prior.  Brother Antonio Abad Ortega Dominguez will return from his time away from the community and be ordained a priest.   Brother Anselmo will be ordained a deacon.  There were three candidates present and others also, who home to enter the formation program there.  Please pray for this community as it seeks to strengthen its monastic life.

From the Monastery of Santa María y Todos los Santos in the State of Veracruz, we traveled about 8 hours to our Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, also a dependent house of Christ in the Desert.  This monastery is a short distance outside of the city of San Miguel de Allende in the State of Guanajuato.  Here there are three monks in solemn vows, one in simple vows, two novices, one postulant and one aspirant.  It is a very good community but the growth has been very slow over the years.  Abbot Guillermo interviewed of the monks here also so that he could know the community better and thus be better able to help them.

From the Monastery of La Soledad we traveled back to Mexico City, this time to the Monastery of Nuestra Señora del Tepeyac.  Sister Judith was recently named the Administrator of this community.  She will guide the community toward renewing their Constitutions and toward the incorporation of the Monastery of San Benito.  She and both of these communities need our prayers.

While traveling on this trip, I was struck by some of the Mass readings from the Prophet Amos.  Especially strong for me was the reading on Friday, July 6th, from this Prophet, and these two verses, 8:11-12, really touched me:  “Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land:  Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.  Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”

These two verses seem strongly to reflect our own experiences today when no one really wants to listen to the word of the Lord and yet are always looking for something.  God has become so absent in our world, while still being present, that people no longer look to the Scriptures for the word of God but instead invent their own god.  Sometimes I laugh at myself because I sound like a fundamentalist preacher!  Nevertheless, when I look at so much of modern culture and ways of thinking, I see this enormous turning away from Scripture, from the word of God, and this underlying anxiety to find some values that remain strong and constant.  It is as if the eyes of our world are closed to the word of God, always seeking something else because the word of God is no longer convenient.

Many people today just keep hoping that the Catholic Church will be like to many other churches and adopt the values of secular society.  There seems an almost complete lack of awareness that we believe that God has spoken and continues to speak to us in the Scriptures and that His word does not change.  We are supposed to change and be converted to His word.  The world wants us to change that word and adapt it to our times and many churches have done so.  At this point in time the Catholic Church and the Churches in communion with the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches and some few Protestant Churches remain united against this possibility of adapting the word of God.

These Churches remain united in the understanding of the gift of sexuality, in the understanding of the gift of life, in the understanding of God’s word in the revealed Scriptures.

Some countries are now demanding that priests no longer respect the secret of the confessional, passing laws to put priests in jail if they do not reveal what was said in the confessional.  Some countries are passing laws to judge these Churches as propagating hate because of their not accepting the modern ideas of sexual orientation and gender.

The response of anyone who wants to follow the Lord Jesus is to remain calm and to continue to believe in the word of God and in the teachings of the Church.  If persecution and imprisonment come, it was the same in the early Church and in the end will only strengthen the Church.  Our trust is always in God and His word.

Spiritually we must prepare ourselves by being ever more faithful to prayer, faithful to the reading of the word of God, faithful to the Church, the living body of Jesus Christ.

As always I promise my prayers for you and ask your prayers for me and for the women and men of our communities.  I will celebrate Holy Mass this week for you and for your needs and intentions.  I send you my love and prayers.  Let us thirst for the word of God!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip