Photo of Br. Justin OCSO
September Retreat House Newsletter
I wanted to share with you the latest news from the monastery. As you all know we were hoping to reopen in September, now with the virus surging we find we will have to wait once again. It is with a heavy heart, I had to call one of our good friends and tell him that his AA group would not be able to come. We could not risk someone coming, even if vaccinated and having them getting ill, and God forbid dying. I have a deep love for AA and the people who live out the program, or never give up trying. They are a very special group and I am honored that we can have them come here.
I believe most of us are really struggling with this COVID virus. It has been going on for so long now that it is wearing all of us down. That is why it is so important to keep one's spiritual life going, to draw from the well of grace, and to experience the healing presence of the Infinite revealed to us as ‘Loving Father”.
As we walk down this road together it is important not to join in the continuing saga of constant arguing, fighting, and yes even violence that seems to have become so much a part of our society. Our world seems to be upside down, the weather has been crazy, and along with all the natural disasters that have been occurring it can all become overwhelming if we do not stay focused on our loving Father. Pray, take root, and be a sign of hope to others.
Let us pray for those we have the most trouble with. It is those we are called to forgive and in those who cause us suffering and deep anxiety where we find Jesus Christ. When we seek to do that, to become agents of healing, then, we start to understand the meaning of grace, for without grace, the life of Christ Jesus in our hearts, at least for me, is impossible. Yes this can be very difficult, it can make the soul sweat blood, and in that, we are united with the Heart-Of-Jesus.
So let us pray for one another, love one another, and no matter where all of this leads us, stay true to our inner journey towards the Father of all.-Br.MD
Life at the Monastery
Knowing one's heart
To know one’s heart is another term for ‘self-knowledge’. St. Bernard spoke of the importance of becoming acquainted with the contents of one’s inner dispositions. When leading a life of prayer, which we are all called to do, this process will simply happen. If it is true that “God is love”, then it is important to spend time seeking to find out what that means, and what we are called to do as followers of Christ Jesus.
This process of ‘learning’ one’s heart is often a painful journey, as well as a joyful one. Inner conflicts that become more obvious, failures that we have to face without seeking escape, and the desire to grow in trust of God’s love so that we can continue, become clear to us. The struggle with ourselves leads to a purifying effect not only within our souls, but also in our images of God. I have learned that I am not the loving person I want to be. The more I seek to become loving, the more I see my inner duplicity, laziness, and an often steely heart.
Such is the fodder for humility and the ongoing journey into my own fragmented self, but also into the loving embrace of God who sees and understands all. I have learned that I can trust, choose to continue, and take the next step. Sometimes I believe that the spiritual life consists of simply getting through ‘this’ day seeking to become more Christ-like, and developing a divine stubbornness to keep moving forward. As we age hopefully deep healing happens, and we begin to see the fruits of our journey. If not, we still continue, such is the nature of faith, often lived out in the desert experience. Br.MD
Zoom Retreats – September
Cistercian Spirituality - Saturday September 11 – Fr. Cassian
The Self in Light and Shadow - Saturday September 18 – Alison Umminger
Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist – Saturday September 25 – Fr. Gerard
To register please call our office at 770-760-0959, Monday – Friday 8:00-1:00. We are asking for a donation of $45.00 for our retreats.
To see the rest of our Zoom Retreats for the year visit us at www.trappist.net .
Highlight – Br. Justin Ibe
Br. Justin Ibe was born March 20, 1950 in Nigeria. He entered the Monastery in Nigeria in 1971 and came to us here in Conyers in 2012. Br. Justin presently is our gardener, he plants and harvests all our vegetables, along with many other tasks he performs around the monastery. He is filled with joy and his smile radiates that to everyone! Br. Justin has a gift which is really amazing, he knows the Psalms by heart and his faithfulness is inspiring. We are so blessed to have him as part of our community.
Home and desire
“The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.”
– St. Augustine
A few mornings ago I was feeling restless and decided that the best thing was to go for a walk. It was early and still cool—the heat of the day had yet to arrive, so it was quite comfortable as I ambled along. I had my film camera and several rolls of black-and-white film with me.
I knew that Chaminade was working down at the pump house so I headed in that direction. When I arrived, he was clearing some shrubs and small debris from a patch of ground near the pump house—he smiled and waved, and we chatted a bit. We entered the monastery a year or so apart from each other and have been friends ever since. He is a kind, easygoing person, and I have long felt at home with him. I asked him if I could take some pictures of him, a few while he was working and several portrait-like photographs, and as is his usual, he kindly obliged. Afterward I let him be and sat down on a plastic chair near the pump house to change the roll of film.
It was very quiet, save for the sounds of some birds and the steady but soft sound of Chaminade’s shovel. I spotted a small insect making its way into a crack in a wall to my left. It flew about a bit, then honed in on the crack and crawled in. A minute or so later, it emerged, flew off and returned a bit later and reentered the small crevice, which I assumed was its home.
My mind wandered a bit. I thought back on the restlessness I felt earlier, which had given way to a more peaceful feeling. And I thought of home and the desire that all living things have for it. We all seek shelter in life, the great and little creatures of this earth.
On the way down to the pump house, I passed a muddy stream and spotted a turtle on a log. The muddy water is, I guess, his version of home, and he seemed satisfied with his modest resting place. Had I ventured about on our property, I am pretty sure I would have seen a bird or two foraging for small twigs to build nests—little tree abodes for shelter and the raising of their young.
On the way back I walked across the porch in front of our bakery, and my presence there caused a bit of a panic with some birds that were nesting above the door and windows. They darted about, letting me know that they were not amused with my presence. Instinctively they were guarding the only homes they have.
The desire for shelter, for home, is pervasive, and if you look hard enough you will see its variations in every species on earth. We humans, though, are a bit different. Whereas we too are in need of a home, desire moves our hearts to seek something more, something lasting, even eternal. And that is not to be found in this life, though we often attempt to make earthly dwellings and aspirations far more than they are capable of being. Why is it that all about us is temporary while the desire that burns in our hearts longs for the eternal?
I take comfort in the above words of St. Augustine. They offer a beautiful interpretation of the heart’s longing that is open-ended. All desire is for God. All of life is for God and all prayer is for God. And all of life is a prayer: the restlessness I felt that morning, the desire to see a friend, the taking in of the wonders about me as I sat in a plastic chair.
The world teems with such wonders every second of every day and night. Wonders that came from the craftsmanship of God’s hands and heart, a God who is drawing all things to himself and providing us with shelter, friends and even muddy water till our desires come to rest in him.
++James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O, July 5, 2018