The Abbot’s Notebook for September 5, 2018

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessings to you!  Another week at home and everything here is relatively quiet and peaceful.  Our Father Andrew, who is 55 years old, had a mild heart attack on September 1st, so please pray for him.  He was hospitalized in Albuquerque and returned home on Labor Day.

This letter comes to you on the Wednesday morning and I am on my way to Mexico for a couple of weeks.  I will visit four different Benedictine monasteries there and return here to Christ in the Desert on the night of September 17th.  You can see that my normal energy is returning and I am traveling more, although only on fairly short trips.

Brother Gregorio Carrizal Dolores from our Monastery of Santa Maria y Todos los Santos has arrived here to spend at least a year with us.  He speaks passable English and we are hoping that he will be able to become completely bilingual during this year.

On September 1st we had a Chapter of all of our solemnly professed monks here at home and approved the first vows of Brother Michael Mugambi, which will take place on September 29th.  That same day the Council approved the renewal of vows of Brother Hilary Wahome and that will take place on September 8th.  That will give us 17 monks in temporary vows.  Of these monks in temporary vows, 5 are scheduled for the solemn vows on November 1st of this year.  Our numbers are always changing!

One of the most challenging aspects of our spiritual life is to cling to the Catholic Church because we know that this is the Church founded by our Lord Jesus.  Clinging to the Church is easy when everything is going well.  But when there are all kinds of accusations being made about leaders of the Church, clinging to the Church can be a real challenge.

My own faith has only grown stronger over the years.  It is a faith in Jesus as God and Man, a faith in the voice of God revealed in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments and very much a faith that Jesus founded a Church and that the Church will not fail.  There have been so many periods of history when the Church has been a mess.  Lots of the time there have been sexual scandals, money scandals, power plays, etc.  Yet the Church is the Body of Christ and goes on, in spite of the incredible human failings.     There should be no reason to leave the Church over human failings, otherwise we would all have to leave.

So where do I look, then?  I look for the presence of the Lord Jesus.  I see my own sinfulness and I know that this Jesus still loves me and calls me to share His life and to seek to give my own life for others, as He did.  The more that I read and seek to understand the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, the more convinced I become that God has truly spoken to us in the Old Testament and has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.  I also came to believe more and more that Christ continues to speak to us in His Church.

The challenge for all of us when there are problems in the Church, when there is scandal, when there are lies and deceptions is the challenge to continue believing and to spend more time in prayer and fasting.  Here in the Monastery we have decided to begin to do more serious fasting every Friday, starting with September 14th.  That is the traditional date for the beginning of what we call “monastic Lent,” and it is the day that our Archbishop has asked the whole Archdiocese to spend in prayer and fasting.  Throwing accusations against others does not help in general, even though identifying the evils and those who have been involved at times helps.  Even monks cannot ignore what is happening.  Truth is always freeing when it is used well.  When truth is used to kill others, it no longer frees.

What happens on the world stage happens in our own hearts, in our communities, in our relationships with others.  It is not easy for any of us consistently to seek the Lord.  On the other hand, there are some actions which require a strong and disciplined response.  Here also in our community, in our history, there have been times when monks have not done what is right and, because of the gravity of their offenses, have been asked to leave.  That is not common, thanks be to God, but it does happen.

Part of our formation in this community as monks is that if we see something that does not look right or is clearly wrong or is even questionable, then we mention it to the superior.  We want to catch possible bad actions before they become a bad situation for all of us.  None of us want to be “tattle tales,” but we also don’t want bad things to destroy our community.  But if someone does something really bad and then a brother tells me afterwards:  “I thought he might do that,” I would like an explanation of why I wasn’t told beforehand.

We have to develop a culture of caring for one another enough to report possible bad behavior.  We have to let such bad behavior be once we have done our duty.  Sometimes we may have to say something more than once.  Today, most of the monks understand the need to be vigilant and to strive to keep a strong discipline of doing right in the monastery—and out of the monastery.

Let us remember one another in prayer!  I will celebrate Holy Mass once this week for you and for your needs and intentions.  Please pray for all the women and men of our communities.  I send you my love and prayers.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Dom Frank on Madness

I am mad, not in the way to show my stupidity but to show my integrity. Every mad person is creative. He has a way to do his own madness.  Some mad people dress in many clothes while others walk naked.  That’s how they have seen their madness. Be an inspiration for your own life.  Be creative for your own madness. Madness does not show your stupidity but shows your integrity. Think positive, remain positive. Dream is possible.