Tuesday, June 21, 2011


(retreat: from the Latin for “spending time drawing closer to Jesus with your peeps”)

We made it!  Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery’s 2011 retreat is off to a lively start.  All made a safe arrival, though weary from travels.  Some folks drove over 25 hours straight to be here.  Amazing.  The things we do for love.
            Our evening was spent with the usual first night mix of eating, praying, orientation, more praying, more eating, a bit of walking and the enjoyment of one another’s company.  Six of this year’s participants have never before been to a Saint Brigid’s retreat.  You wouldn’t know it, though.  These gatherings always feel like coming home to family.

Please keep those of us gathered here in prayer; you will be in ours.
Grace and Peace,

Compline Reflection for Monday

RB 72.  The Good Zeal of Monks

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love:  They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom. 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another.  No one is to pursue what one judges better for oneself, but instead, what one judges better for someone else.  To other monks they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbess, unfeigned and humble love.  Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.

            We are gathered on retreat first and foremost in order to draw closer to God in prayer; second, to refresh ourselves that we may go out with renewed strength for service to the gospel; and third, to take joy in the company of our sisters and brothers, deepening the bonds of community in love.

I encourage us, one and all, to take full advantage of the opportunity we are given in these few days to practice the good zeal of monks on each other:  to show respect, to support and encourage, to be patient with each other and to listen.

It seems at face value as if these practices should be particularly easy in a setting like this one, wherein we are surrounded by the perfect saints of God, talking about holy and uplifting matters in a place where everything around us—the rhythm of the days, the content of our discussions, the psalms and prayers, the buildings, the beauty of the natural environment—is oriented in one direction:  Godward. 

But fair warning:  Someone or something at some time during the week will somehow likely manage to prick at your nerves.  It might be lack of sleep or early hours (or late hours) or the person who lags behind or drives ahead in prayer or maybe even something that is said.
           That is exactly the point at which our good zeal, our care for each other’s souls, will be put to the test.  Make it your task, then, to turn to Christ—not just in the heavenly realm, but as he comes to you in your sister or brother, right here, right now.  Reverence Christ.  Serve Christ.  Listen to Christ.  Prefer nothing whatever to the Christ sitting next to you right now.

The wisdom of Saint Benedict is that we do not go to God alone.  We are fellow disciples in this “school of the Lord’s service.” (Prol 45)  Our motivation, our goal is love.  Let us love Christ—in each other—with all our hearts, that he may “bring us all together to everlasting life” (72.12).

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