The Abbot’s Notebook for July 4, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you! In the United States the 4th of July is a celebration!  It is our Independence Day.  Patriotism of the right kind can be a wonderful blessing to a country.  Today there can be extremes:  no patriotism at all or an exaggerated patriotism that looks down on all others.  Our world today needs good and healthy patriotism that seeks to help others.

Here in the Monastery of Christ in the Desert we had three men, all in their 20s, enter the novitiate on the evening of June 30th.  Samuel Zuse from Malawi became Brother Ambrose.  John Ha from Vietnam became Brother Victor.  Martin Fataki became Brother Mark.  They join 10 other novices to give us 13 novices for a short period of time.  Novice Augustine will make his first vows on July 6, followed later in the year by Brother Michael, Brother Emmanuel and Brother Savio.  We are wonderfully blessed with vocations and many of them are persevering, at least so far.

I left for Mexico on Sunday, July 1st, to accompany our Abbot President Guillermo on a visit to all of our houses in Mexico.  On the way to the airport, Brother Anthony and I discussed faith and how we monks can help a deeper understanding of faith in our own time.  From the standpoint of monks, our work is simply to share the faith that is given to us.  One of the ways of sharing that allows us to remain in our monastery is to write this kind of Notebook every week.

Now we are thinking of adding more weekly posts on the webpage.  My Notebook and Homily and Father Christian’s Page are regular features of our website and these “blogs” can be subscribed to.  Now we are thinking of adding perhaps as many as three more of these types of “blogs.”  The reason for this is to encourage our younger monks to begin to read and write and share.  It is a good way to help the formation of our younger monks and to encourage them to read, to study and to write.

For instance, this last week I was speaking with Brother Frank, a young postulant from Malawi, and he shared this with me:

Afraid of change

Change is the most difficult thing that we face, but change is inevitable (an unavoidable event).  One reason we don’t like to change is that we get comfortable where we are.  We get used to our friends, our job, the place we live.  And even if it’s not perfect we accept it, because it’s familiar. And what happens is–because we are not willing to change–we get stuck in what God used to do instead of moving forward into what God is about to do.  Just because God’s blessed you where you are doesn’t mean you can just sit back and settle there.  You have to stay open to what God is doing now.  What worked five years ago may not work today.  If you’re going to be successful, you have to be willing to change.  Every blessing is not supposed to be permanent.  Every provision is not supposed to last forever.  We should constantly  evaluate our friendships.  Who is speaking into our life?  Who are you depending on?  Make sure they are not dragging you down, limiting you from blossoming.  Everyone is not supposed to be in our life forever.  If you don’t get rid of the wrong friends, you will never meet the right friend.  That’s it.

These are the kinds of thoughts that I would like to have our young monks share with others on our website and by subscription.  There are other young monks who can write movingly about God and about modern culture, about theology and philosophy.  It will be a joy to find ways to encourage our younger monks to begin to write and think and share in a monastic way.

Our Monastery of Christ in the Desert struggled for many years just to keep going.  Now we are at a point where our life is flourishing.  We need to find work that is adequate to our monastic life.  We need to find how to use our land well, how to take on perhaps a more agricultural dimension.  We also need to encourage the level of studies and thought.  This has always been a part of Benedictine life.

For me it is a wonderful time of flowering of our community.  It is as if a new stage of our growth in Christ and in our monastic life is opening up.  Always I remind myself and I remind our community that the only reality that really counts is that we keep our hearts set on God and on seeking God.  Within that context, however, monks have always worked, studied and prayed.  Part of working, studying and praying is sharing with others.  Most of the time, this sharing comes about naturally with the guests and visitors to the monastery.  Historically, though, monks have also shared in agricultural projects and in intellectual projects.

Spiritually, all of us seek God.  And we seek God together, finding ways to encourage one another on the way.  The challenge, both personally and as Christians walking together, is how to draw our present culture back to the Lord Jesus so that His Way becomes once again our way, not just for us individually but also for our culture.

As always I promise my prayers for you and for your needs and intentions.  I will celebrate a Holy Mass this week for you.  Again I ask your prayers for me and for all of the women and men of our communities.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip