The Abbot’s Notebook for August 8, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  There are times when things hit me so strongly and I know that I should not write about them until I calm down.  There is such a situation in my heart right now.  So please pray for me and for the situation.

On a more pleasant note, Father Thomas-Benedict has gone to Costa Rica to help the Monastery of San Jose there for a month.  If all works well, he will return here and eventually return there again to help some more.  Father Joseph Gabriel has returned from South Africa for a period of time but will return there again in September.

Today is the birthday of Jane Serna, who has been a wonderful friend to our community for more than three decades.  She and her family assured our survival financially for many years.  Please remember her in your prayers.  And she would want you to pray for all her family as well.

Last Sunday Father Joseph renewed his vows.  Brother James will renew his vows in a week, on the 13th of August.  On the 15th of August, we will have three brothers joining the ranks of the solemn professed.  We are truly blessed with good men, good vocations and a continuing flow of vocations.

So how do we put together spiritual life and being upset or even angry?  Surely it is part of the spiritual combat and at times there is no way around it.  For me, because of being prone to strong emotions, over many years I have learned most of the time to keep my mouth shut and not say anything until I am at peace.  When I am writing this notebook, it is better that I don’t have any such strong emotions in my heart or mind.  But real life does not always work that day.

So when strong emotions arrive on the scene, all of us should know right away that the time to make a decision is not then.  Instead, I have to wait until I am calm and peaceful.  Even if I begin to talk about something that upsets me, sometimes it makes it worse—but occasionally it can contribute to making a better situation.  But in talking about a situation it is always better to blame no one but simply to acknowledge that I myself am upset.  Most of the time I can do that.

If it is myself who is offended, that makes it easier for me.  But it something has happened to offend one of my brothers or someone has treated one of them wrongly, then it is more difficult for me.  I am like a mother bear with her cubs!  But even then the best thing is to wait in patience for peace and inner tranquility to return before making any decisions that affect anyone.

Can I do that?  Not always!  I was ready to write about the whole situation here and give details and reasons.  Pretty imprudent on my part and I realized it before I wrote.  But reflecting on the situation here helps me speak of what real spiritual life is about.  It is not just about praying.  It is not just about seeking God!  It is about learning about ourselves so that we can give ourselves to the Lord with all of our defects and sinfulness.  By giving ourselves to the Lord, He then can take possession of us and guide us in His ways.

When I am angry or upset, I am on my own path.  If I am righteously angry about the mistreatment of another person, I could be on the path of God.  But if I judge or mistreat the one who is mistreating my brother or sister, then I have left the right path again and am on my path and not on the path of the Lord.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just become righteous and good by our own will power!  But God has made us to trust in Him and only in trusting in Him and seeking His will are we truly on His path.  When I was young I used to think of the spiritual life as climbing a mountain, but somewhere reaching a level where it be a plateau and there would just be joy and relaxation.  Now I realize that all of life is combat but not anything that is terrible.  Growing up in the spiritual life means learning to spend my whole life in this combat, in seeking the Lord and in trying to do His well.  I will never be perfect at it, but my heart seeks Him more consistently—and that is what He wants.  It is His work and not mine.

When I get upset, if I can keep on the path of looking for the Lord, then ever so slowly the upset, the anger and the frustration face and life is normal, which means fighting myself for the sake of the Lord.  If I focus on what made me upset or angry or frustrated, then that becomes the center of my life and I am no longer on the path of the Lord.  It always seems so easy to see when I am calm and so impossible when I am upset!

At night I am calm can look back at the storms earlier in the day and let go of them.  Had I tried to hold on to them, then I would be unable to let them go even at the end of the day and they would possess me.  It is much better to sleep in peace and I only find that peace in the Lord.

As always I promise to pray for you and for your needs and intentions.  Please also pray for me and for the sisters and brothers of all our communities.  I will offer Holy Mass once this week for you. I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip