Wednesday, May 25, 2011
These closing days of May are filled with memories for me, for my family. On the sunny side, there are my ordination anniversary, my sister’s wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my solemn profession as a monk here at the monastery. On the not-so-sunny side, it is the week of the death of my twin brother, and also our birthday, and the anniversary of my mom’s death. I tend to keep a low profile and thank people when they wish me all the best on the good days. The memories of sad times I keep to myself. I guess that is okay. My mom was fond of saying that no body wants to listen to bad tidings.
Anyway, I was thinking a little while ago about being here, being a Catholic, a priest, a Trappist monk, a soon to be sixty-three old man who dabbles in religious currents and yet at times feel as if I am treading water. I have not moved all that far all these years. I have read a lot, traveled a lot, met a lot of people, seen a lot of things. All of that is pleasant to look back on, really. I can get quiet and remember such warm experiences I had in London, in Beijing, in Irish villages, in big cities like Manhattan and Los Angeles. How much do I know of God? I really do not know. We live in such a verbose culture, a culture that thrives on words and images, enticements and upgrades, new things galore – I do not know how God is or what God is amidst all these accoutrements of culture. God is easy to package. We do it every day here at the monastery. We pray – but do we pray? What is prayer? Sometimes I think the whole created universe is a living prayer to God, a wondrous response to God, an alive and thriving need for God to be near, to come back, to perfect what is so in need of a miracle.
God seems far away to me. God is either that, or God is very close, so close that he is in the very living heart of all that is. In all things – and in all memories, anniversaries, birthdays, good times and bad times. In tears and in laughter, in being born and in dying. The way I see it, there is no getting away from God. It is like you cannot get out of your own skin. God covers us, is in us, makes us burn with desire, makes us angry when we cannot know about him for sure.
So I move on to a new year, a new gift of life, of being here. I might have one wish, and that would be that those I loved and who have died could still be here. But we all must move on, some earlier than others. I never minded that, at least not consciously. I always figured that Jesus died young, and tragically. And so did my twin. So I have long been at peace with untimely death. I think I learned that from my mom and dad.
So, here I am. I have very little figured out on the religious map, other than I am on it and heading somewhere. The details are at times confusing to me. There are times I have run out of gas. Or felt so tired and discouraged I wanted to pull off the road. And there were times when the going was great, and all seemed well with the world and with those whom I traveled.
The church is in troubling seas these days. Maybe it always was. Like everything and everybody else. But we are here, and I am glad to be moving. I have no idea about the finer points of the big picture. But I am grateful to be on it, grateful to be on God’s map. And I am glad you are here, too, with me, near or far.