The Abbot’s Notebook for October 3, 2018
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Blessings to you! Last Saturday, September 29th, our Brother Michael Mugambi made his first vows in our community. He is our sixth professed monk from Kenya. Sister Josephine of the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret (Kenya) came and with our Brother Charles, they prepared traditional Kenyan food that we had along with our normal American food. At the end of the meal, Sister and several of the Kenyan monks sang in Swahili and then danced a traditional type of joyful dance. What a wonderful day it was!
We have about seven more monks than we have choir stalls in the Church, so some of the younger monks sit in front of the choir stalls and when a normal choir stall is vacant, they fill it. This situation will only become stronger as the years come to a close. We have purchased some very lovely chairs that we will place in front of the choir stalls and so expand the number of places that we have available. Always we keep adapting.
Today it is really important to stay centered in Christ, to love everyone including those we might consider our enemies and to deepen our awareness of God’s presence in our world. So much in the world and in the Church seems to be caught up in conflict and anger and accusations. I remember when a young monk told me that it was important that he express his anger. I agree entirely that it is important for us to know when we are angry and why we are angry. Whether we express it or not is another question. Today it is almost as if we encourage people to be anger and to express that anger in protects and in attacking others. This is surely not of God.
Part of the spiritual teaching is always to recognize our anger but never to act in anger. Always someone will throw back at me the example of Jesus Himself when He was angered at the money changers in the Temple. The example of Christ is surely something that we must take into account and listen to. On the other hand, we are not God and man, as was Jesus, and our anger is often only an expression of our self and has nothing to do with the way that Jesus expressed Himself in that situation. We use the anger of Jesus at the money changers in the Temple to justify our own anger, and it is not the same.
Our spiritual tradition is very clear that we cannot make a good decision when we are angry. Our intellect becomes clouded because of the anger and we are unable to be open to what is really happening in a situation. That does not mean that we should not be angry. Anger is one of the best tools of the spiritual life for all of us. It directs us clearly to that which could be threatening us or to that which we dislike or to that which is really against our way of thinking. On the other hand, it is only when we have struggled with the anger and even subdued the anger, that we are able to make some kind of good and spiritual decision about what to do with that which provoked our anger.
Today, anger seems honored in its own right, rather than being seen as only a tool to help us make better decisions once we have come back to inner peacefulness. Saint Ignatius of Loyola wants us to make decisions only when we are completely at peace with everything! That is a tall order.
Nevertheless our spiritual must include this struggle against ourselves, this struggle only to act when we are in inner peace, this struggle always to keep our focus on the Lord Jesus and to strive to do His will. It is a struggle! It is not something that we can ever accomplish once and for all. Instead we must struggle until the day we die.
The first thing is to recognize when we are angry! So often brothers, even myself from time to time, will deny that we are angry. And then it explodes and we cannot deny it. Better if we can recognize it in the early stages and begin the struggle against anger, the struggle to be still and peaceful. My own way of doing that is always to sit in a chair and actively think of the Lord Jesus and His invitation to receive His peace. Sometimes I have to tell myself: “your anger is fine but let go of it. Don’t act on your anger. The Lord loves you and allows you to be angry because it helps identify an area of struggle. Let go!”
Sometimes I feel that I have come to peace but when I start to stand up, I can feel the anger once again—and so I sit down again to be in the presence of the Lord until the anger is gone. Almost always after the anger has left me, I can see very clearly what I must do in the situation. Sometimes I cannot see and so I wait until some path is opened to me. Sometimes I pray to the Lord and ask Him to show me what I should do.
Over the years I have recognized that some people provoke my anger a lot more than others. That tells me to be careful around them and at times even to prepare myself before being in their presence so that my anger will not be provoked. At other times, I have recognized that I must express myself in certain situations, even when I am not angry, because to be silent would not be the right thing. That can be the topic of another Notebook!
As always I send my love and prayers for you! I ask for your prayers both for me and for the women and men of our communities. Always we can support one another in prayer. I will celebrate a Holy Mass this week for you and for your needs and intentions.
Your brother in the Lord,
Abbot Philip – a poem by Dom Frank below
A PLACE CALLED HEAVEN
There was one place that I always dreamt about
A place that no heart has ever seen
And ears were so deaf to hear
But a place that was seen only by mind.
A place fully engulfed by God’s blessings
A place isolated from worldly deeds
A place with one road to reach
A road with difficulties to pass.
Patience is the only weapon used to pass this tiny, muddy road
Otherwise your journey will end up in River Chama.
Monks chanting salve Regina marks the end of the day
Taking our souls chant together with Angels in heaven.
Only our feet standing at the choir stalls
Longing for Holy water sprinkled on our heads like the falling of manna in the wilderness
Solitude gathers its strength and takes the monks to their cells
Silence speaks in great volumes, hearing the meandering of River Chama.
And now that we’re here, feeling so good
Hearing that God is pleased with us too, it is not a dream, this is all true.
Feeling the peace all around
Seeing things we could never imagine
Hearing the sound of River Chama
Can we move and be there forever?