Abbot Philip: ‘A Sense of Spiritual Combat’

Abbot Phillip
Abbot Phillip

As I ponder questions of violence, nonviolence, peace, and the Peace of Christ, I found these reflections from Benedictine Abbot Philip at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico helpful grist:

“Daily spirituality in a monastery is more about how we relate to one another and to God than it is about how much time we spend in common prayer or even in private prayer. We monks learn from the Rule of Saint Benedict that the way we relate to one another is the way to evaluate the effects of the praying that we do each day. If we are praying regularly and treating our brothers badly, there is something that is not right in our spirituality. If we are praying regularly and yet are not aware of the presence of God in our normal living every day, there is also something amiss.

Living in a community day in and day out for years does not mean that we monks have become saints. It does mean, however, that we are challenged every day to find ways to live in peace and true Christian love with our brothers. Monastic life insists on us living together as a community, not just living together as in an apartment house! Sometimes it is an enormous challenge not to withdraw into oneself and ignore all of the brothers who are offensive to me.

Sometimes I find in the younger brothers a lack of a sense of the spiritual combat. Rather than see our brokenness as something that is simply part of us and against which we must struggle, they see our brokenness almost as an affront to them and they get discouraged because the struggle must go one day after day for a whole life time. Part of this, I think, comes from a modern sense that we can change everything and we can overcome every obstacle almost immediately. Young people seem not prepared for a struggle, a spiritual fight that will go on until we die.”–Abbot Philip

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