The Abbot’s Notebook for September 19, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  I am back home at Christ in the Desert after almost two weeks in Mexico.  During that time I visited the Monastery of San Benito in Mexico City, the Monastery of Nuestra Señora del Tepeyac, the Abbey of Santa María de Guadalupe and ended at our own Monastery of Nuestra Señora de La Soledad.  Always I am received with wonderful hospitality and with sincere affection.

Part of the work of the abbot of Christ in the Desert is to help other communities.  That has been part of the gift of our monastery from the beginning.  We older monks remember how difficult it was for us when no one really wanted to help us.  At one point we were even told something like this:  “You are on your own.  If you make a success of your monastery, everyone will be proud.  If not, then the place will be sold.”

From my point of view today, there are monastic vocations arising in many places and there are lots of beginning communities that lack help and formation.  Christ in the Desert does it share of helping and there are some other communities that also help.  The future of monastic life in the Catholic Church seems very strong and positive.

Our Church itself is going through a crisis.  That crisis will only deepen faith and make the witness of the Church stronger.  The world has its own ways of dealing with problems and the Church can learn from those ways.  The tried and true way to go forward is prayer, penance and a deep commitment to do God’s will in all things.  There must always be a commitment to the Lord, to His Church and to the teachings of the Church.  This kind of commitment doesn’t belong in the press or in the media of the communication.  It is the type of commitment that is lived out in the lives of faithful Christians.  The crises of today will continue to purify the Church.

All of us who seek to follow the Lord Jesus can pray more and can offer small sacrifices for the good of the Church and for the needs of all who are suffering now.  We can seek to live our own lives in a way that gives witness to the presence of Jesus.  Always we should be participating in the Sacraments of the Church which Jesus has given to us.  We should be participating in the Holy Mass, receiving Holy Community and confessing our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If we are married, we should be seeking the ways to live that Sacrament of Matrimony in way that gives witness to the presence of Jesus in the gift of Matrimony.  If we are consecrated religious, then we should be striving to live our vows in a way that witnesses to God’s loving presence in our lives.  If we are single, not married and not consecrated religious, we seek to live our lives within the Church and in a way that shows that we are faithful followers of the Lord.  If we are priests, then we seek to live that mystery of our ordination in a way that manifests to others that we have given our lives for Jesus and in order to be ministers of His Sacraments.

Many years ago I was asked to speak in public in Santa Fe.  I was able to speak about the beliefs of the Church and was able to express that belief in such a way that drew people to the teachings of the Church.  It is easy to get attention be being against the Church, by being critical of the Church or be proposing that the Church must change.  It is a challenge simply to present the teachings of the Church, in complete acceptance of the way that the Church understands her teachings, and still gain the interest of the people.

However difficult it is, we who believe in Christ and in His Church, should strive always to present the true teachings of the Church and not deviate from those teachings.  We want to find ways to present Jesus Christ and His Church so that people are drawn to Jesus and His Church—but never by adjusting those teachings to satisfy others.

I admire greatly the energy of the ultra-conservatives and the ultra-liberal believers, but know that I do not want to waste my energy by being at the extremes.  I want to use my energies for prayer, for peace, for drawing people to the Lord.  We need the extremes, but most of us need to be in the heart of the Church, praying quietly and seeking the Lord Jesus in prayer—and living from that deep and personal relationship with Jesus, in the power of His Spirit.

It has usually been the people on the extremes who leave the Church and get angry and focus their anger against the Church.  In some ways that is a lot better than what we see today:  many people leave the Church because they have never encountered Christ and have never understood the Church as the body of Christ present in our world.

Let us pray much and ask the Lord to help us give witness to His presence.  May our faith in Jesus and in His Church grow stronger as we spend time in prayer, in lectio and in celebrating the Sacraments.

As always I promise my prayers for you and for your needs and intentions.  I will celebrate Holy Mass once this week for you.  I know that you are used to my asking your prayers.  Please continue to pray for me and for the women and men in our communities.  Let us pray much for our Holy Church at this time and ask that God will deepen and renew our Church to give witness to His Son Jesus.  Come, Holy Spirit!  I send my love and prayers for you.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip