The Abbot’s Notebook for August 15, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  I am home in the Monastery but I spent three days away in a crazy trip to Mexico to be present for the priestly ordination of Brother Antonio Abad and the diaconal ordination of Prior Anselmo.  I had not planned to go but decided more or less at the last minute that I should be there for these important events in the life of our Monastery of Santa Maria y Todos los Santos.  So I got back yesterday afternoon in time to have a good rest last night.

Today, August 15th, we celebrate the solemn profession to our community of Brother Antoine Nguyen Van Hoa, Brother John Paul Nguyen Van Thang and Brother Maria Martino Nguyen Tran Thanh Phong.  We are so blessed with these good men in our community.  They are all from Vietnam, as is probably clear to most from their names.  All three had been monks in Vietnam and came here for various reasons.  Please continue to pray for them.

In my own personal life, much of my spirituality revolves about trying to be faithful to all the responsibilities of my role in the community and yet keep the spiritual responsibilities of prayer and Scripture reading as the most important responsibilities.  The early monks often pointed out that when someone knocks at the door, it is Christ.  Sometimes when Christ knocks at the door, it is an emergency; other times it is something important; sometimes it is just someone wanting to say “hello.”  But it is always Christ.  That sounds easy enough but when my schedule is so full that I barely have time to think, there is always a clear necessity on my part to listen attentively, discern well and move things forward.  I rarely have the time just to sit and visit without thinking of the time needed for other responsibilities.

For years I resented this kind of grueling schedule that is a regular schedule for me.  Then I realized that the inner resentment was simply making a challenging situation unpleasant.  Why not accept the challenge and do the best that I can without any resentment.

Inner resentment can kill my soul and make me unable to listen patiently and to look for God in a situation.  Trying to discern what is needed in each situation requires an inner peace in my soul, in my being.  I can only have that if I keep my heart set on the Lord and not concerned about my own time limitations.

Many times I have told others that God has always provided for Christ in the Desert everything that we need.  Whenever we need money, there is always enough—but rarely more than that.  We have never lacked food or heating in the winter.  Why should I think that God would not give me enough time?  The challenge for me is to use time wisely for God.  Many times when I was young I read about saints who never wasted even one second of time.  I know that I can’t do that!  On the other hand, when I looked at my daily life, I could see that if I just keep my eyes on God and try to do the best I can with my time, then there is always enough.

There are times when I am cranky and just want to rest and have no responsibilities.  That is fine to have feelings like that.  The challenge for me is not to live by the feelings or the mood, but to recognize that that those feelings and moods are present but I cannot let them determine my decisions about how to use the time that I have.

If my will power were perfect in following the Lord, all would be well.  Instead, I find myself a person who can make good choices and even a person who tries to make good choices—but I am still inconsistent.  So not every day do I use my time well.  Not every day do I look for God’s will and try to do it throughout the whole day.  Not every day do I resist my moods, my crankiness and even my negative judgments about people and things.  That is why I confess my sins and failures regularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I find that the Sacrament of Reconciliation helps me remain more faithful to looking for God and more faithful in my love for others.

For me, especially as I continue to age, I find that life in Christ is simply about this inner striving to be faithful, this inner striving never to judge others and the inner striving to be aware of God’s love for me in Christ.  There are times when I am acutely aware of God’s love for me.  At others times, even if I want to be aware of God’s love, I seem incapable of doing so.  To be aware of God’s love is not just an emotional sense, but a deep inner sense of HIS presence and my feeble attempt to respond to that presence of love.

All I want is to know God’s love more and more and to respond to that love in my daily life, in my service to the community and in my praying for others.  I have a deep sense of the importance of our community being here in the desert, praying consistently for others and working simple to live and love in peace and harmony.

As always I promise my prayers for you and for your needs and intentions.  Once more I will offer Holy Mass this week for you.  Please keep praying for me and for all the women and men of our communities.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip