Monastery Retreat House Newsletter April 2021
Life at the Monastery
“Rest is in Him alone. Man knows no peace in the world;
but he has no disturbance when he is with God.”
― Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God
Hello My Friends,
I would like to wish you all a blessed Easter, from everyone here at the Monastery!
This is the time of year to really spend some time pondering, about what Easter really means to us as Christians. As Jesus went through Holy Week, it was an experience too terrible for us to actually comprehend. A great deal of human suffering can push us to the limit, as it did Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the Father to remove him from what he was about to endure. Something unbearable, he sweated blood. He received silence, yet he abandoned himself to the Father’s will. In the end, it seemed as if he was defeated, yet he truly rose from the dead! We all share in that mystery. So trust in the Father as Jesus did, and go forward with courage, being rooted in the hope that Jesus brings to us.
We just had our community retreat, through Zoom of course. It was a good experience to be at the other end of a retreat under the Zoom format. The retreat was from Monday to Saturday. Our meals were pick up, instead of our normal gathering together and our liturgy was simplified for the whole week. The only exception was the Feast of St. Joseph. In the retreat, one big factor was to learn to live in our hearts. In that, we grow in self-knowledge, and in our need as well for mercy. The road of self-knowledge is not an easy one, but we do it here, or if not, in a process of purgation the Church calls purgatory. When we pray we get in touch with our hearts, its wounds, as well as with the gifts that we have been blessed to receive. The Lord heals others when we live out our gifts. He reaches us when he shows us our need for healing and mercy.
The monks in the Infirmary, Fr. Matt, Fr. Tom Francis, Fr. Eduardo, and Br. Elias are doing well. Fr. Tom continues to attend all of the offices and works in our Bakery, as well as helping out with the kitchen. Br. Elias is back to normal and able to get around easily. He continues to give Zoom retreats, and I have to say, is one of our best speakers. Fr. Matt and Fr. Eduardo tend to be in good spirits and are a joy to talk to, as well as to take care of. Matt is still pretty independent, though he cannot get around like he used to. Fr. Eduardo is also doing well, but due to his head injury a few years ago, can go through episodes of confusion, but they do not last long. I tell him when he is confused, that we carry his memories for him, and will make sure he knows what is going on.
Hopefully, in the next few months, our new choir stales will be ready to go into our Abbey Church. Also, we are going to have bathrooms placed in the back section. One for men and one for women. It will be separated by a glass patrician, and air-conditioned. It is still up in the air if we will ever be able to air-condition the whole church.
We are still in lockdown here at the Monastery, but receiving the Vaccine has changed how that is lived out in different ways. We are starting to make doctors’ appointments, and think about opening up hopefully by fall. How we have retreats will most likely change in certain areas. Though not thought out completely at this time. We will most likely have smaller numbers of retreatants when we are open for those who just want some time to themselves. Also, silence during those private retreats will be central for those who come. Then we will have groups come out, and it will be up to them to work out what they want. We are looking forward to having the Cursillo back, as well as those who come for AA retreats. It will take some preparation to get the retreat house back in order, but that should run smoothly.
At this time, because of the different variants of the Covid-19 virus, the future is still iffy, though hopefully, the vaccines will be able to handle the many different variants that keep showing up. It is a time to stay focused and not get careless about how we protect ourselves. Hopefully, even those who do not use a mask will understand the importance of distancing. So far there are 537,282 American Citizens who have died. That is no small number and should be a cause for concern. So please take care of yourselves. Even if ‘you’ think this ‘crisis’ is overblown, you can still get the virus and be one of those who succumb.
Live for today, seek God, help others, and be thankful. Being a pilgrim is not easy, finding a place of rest may not be possible, yet in our relationship with God, the deeper the trust, the less the fear, the more abundant the joy even in the midst of tribulation.--Br.MD
Highlight - Br. Michael Lautieri
Brother Michael Lautieri was born January 27, 1944 in Rhode Island. He Entered the Monastery in 1996, and made his final Profession 2001. Brother Michael, came to the monastery after working in his native Rhode Island as a travel agent and teacher. In addition to being a spiritual director and an addiction counselor, Brother Michael calls himself the monastery’s social media monk, sharing uplifting quotes and updates on Facebook and other platforms. He also has been Vocations Director, Manager of the Abbey Store, and one of our favorite Retreat Presenters. Br. Michael is a kind and thoughtful person, with a ready smile and known for his love of pistachio ice cream! We are so blessed to have him as part of our community.
It is early Easter morning. We were up at 3:45 AM for the Vigil service, which started just after 4:00AM. It went very well. Francis Michael gave the homily. He mentioned Mel Gibson’s film and how easy it is to film suffering – for it is something with which we are all, sadly, familiar. We know suffering and death. But, he continued, it is impossible to “film” the Resurrection, the very gift of God to us through Jesus. Yet the Resurrection is the event that pours life into the world – eternal life, the very life of God. Francis Michael then paused and said, “It is a mystery.” And indeed it is. Our lives are of mystery and this morning we lit an Easter fire in the darkness of night to symbolize the light, the fire of God’s love that is more enduring, more real, than whatever darkness we know and fear.
He then spoke of the gift of freedom, the freedom to love as God loves and how God has given each of us that gift. For some reason, as I listened to Francis Michael, the sense of “way” came to mind. His words put me on a road. It was beautiful to hear words that call us to a way. We all need words to bring us back to who we really are in Christ. Without such words, we can easily lose our way, our very sense of self.
Life is a way of loving, or at least that is what I heard and experienced this morning. The words of the homily fit well with the words of the liturgy, the hymns, and the warm Easter wishes that we exchanged with each other after Mass as we shared breakfast in the refectory. It is all of a Way, a Way of Mystery to which God calls us through His Word and through each other.
So I think of Roads and Ways. I have heard of Desolation Row, Grace Boulevard, Crossroads Junction and Easy Street and have traveled some of these and more. But I have never heard of a Resurrection Road, or a Mystery Way. Yet isn’t it a mystery that we walk these every day and when we wander there are words of love and hope to call us back. The roads are toll-free. They stretch far, far into Eternity.
God is good. We celebrate this day when he laid down and revealed a highway for wayward humanity. There is room for everyone who was ever born and who shall yet be. The only burden is the light load of human love, which becomes even lighter as we help each other bear it. It is the way things are, on Mystery Way. Well, have to get a move on. It is time to hit the Road. A Blessed Easter to you. ++James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O, April 15, 2004