The Abbot’s Notebook for July 25, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  Another quiet week at home is always a gift for me.  Some monks have returned from their family visits and others have gone.  Another postulant has joined the community.  Father Joseph Gabriel has returned from his work in South Africa for a bit.  And finally I had a preliminary appointment for a colonoscopy.  Nothing alarming here, thanks be to God.  It is just that after 60 years of age, it seems to be recommended that one have such a procedure every 10 years or so.  I have not had one for almost 15 years and so my doctor recommended that I have this procedure once again.  Life!

The days here have been very hot this week!  Part of any life is learning how to live with the weather.  We don’t have air conditioning, although we do have some fans in the Church.  In the winters we have to heat the Church because it gets so cold.  Most of us have learned how to live through the heat.  Temperatures of 100 to 108 are not uncommon for us at this time of year.  But they never last long.  And almost always it cools down at night.

All of life seems to be about learning:  learning who God is, learning who we are, learning to make choices that direct our lives, learning to change choices that have not lead us into good places, learning to relate well with others and yet learning also to hold our ground against others when their way of thinking is not something that we can accept.

Sometimes our learning is gentle and without problems.  At other times we learn in the heat of challenges and differences.  Sometimes we learn when people set themselves against us or against our way of thinking.  All of life is a gift from which we can learn and in which we can see the presence of God.

So many of my friends no longer believe in God and even less in a Church or a Church structure.  Some believed when they were young and then rejected their beliefs.  Some hit snags in their lives and the Church was not there for them and they felt abandoned by the Church and so they then abandoned the Church.

My own path has brought me to believe even more deeply than when I was young.  Probably that has happened because in some way I have an inner sense that this is what God asks of me.  I have an inner sense that there is a God and that God has a path for me and that I want to follow that path.  My belief is strong enough to know that even if I am not faithful on the path, God never abandons me.  It is I who run away from God, and far too often.

Pivotal to my faith is a deep belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That is why I am a Christian and a Catholic.  It is not just that I believe in God.  I truly believe in Jesus Christ as God, as Son of God, and as risen from the dead.  The early accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus reflect the fact that most of His followers had presumed that His death was the end of their hopes—and when He rose from the dead, the trust in Him was transformed to a deep faith that He truly is the Son of God, true God and true Man.  They also realized that resurrection is for all of us who believe and that we live eternally in God in a real way.

Belief in Jesus as God has huge effects in our lives.  It means that we have a strong, objective morality given to us by God Himself in the Scriptures.  It means that we come to know and love the Church as Christ present in our world, even if at the same time we see the sinfulness and failings of the leaders and the people of the Church.  It means that we come accept that there is an authority in the Church, in the Pope, in the bishops—and that authority comes from Jesus Himself.

Not many people believe this way any longer.  Lots of Catholics are Catholics only in name.  On the other hand, people continue to convert to Catholicism and begin to see the mystery of Christ and to embrace the mystery of Christ and of His Church.  It is a huge gift of God to have faith and to be able to live that faith!

Let us pray for one another.  Let us pray in thanksgiving for the gift of faith.  Let us pray for those who have lost their faith.  Let us pray for those who have be scandalized by the people of the Church, both the clergy and the people.  May our faith grow deeper.

As always I promise to celebrate Holy Mass once this week for you and for your needs and intentions.  Please continue to pray for me and for the women and men in our communities.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip