Video: Will Religious Leaders in 4 Countries Join Migrant Caravan?

Migrant Caravan 2018

Pietro Ameglio Patella of SERPAJ and Catholic Nonviolence Initiative in Mexico calls Catholic bishops of Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and United States to walk with Migrant Caravan.

Posted by Rose Berger on Monday, October 22, 2018

Pietro Ameglio, who works with SERPAJ-Mexico (Servicio Paz y Justicia/Peace and Justice Service), speaks in the video above about the caravan of migrants that has crossed from Honduras to Guatemala to Mexico. I work with Pietro through the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

Pietro reminds us that the members of the caravan are people fleeing violence and poverty. They “refuse to be killed in the name of progress,” he says. This caravan should be considered akin to the Salt March in India led by Gandhi in 1930 and the March on Washington led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

Pietro calls on the Catholic bishops from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to join the migrants on their journey. #ThisIsNonviolence

For more about the Migrant Caravan, see Thousands of migrants ask us to share the journey by Bernadette Mary Reis

#MigrantCaravan #USCCB

Restorative Justice promoted by Catholic laity to address clergy sexual violence

Catholic laity are promoting restorative justice processes to address sexual violence by clergy. The Archdiocese of St. Paul (Minn.), according to the Star-Tribune, is experimenting with restorative justice and healing forums in a handful of churches, bringing in convener Janine Geske of Marquette University’s Restorative Justice Initiative, “to deepen parishioners’ understanding of clergy abuse and to be a bridge to survivors.”

Catholic social teaching provides several concepts to explicate and support restorative justice , according to the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International. Among them are the dignity of the person, the common good, mutual rights and duties, subsidiarity, solidarity, participation, and integral human development.

“The Healing Circles” video series has been developed by Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court who started RJI at Marquette in order to help support victims and communities in the process of healing from the effects of crime.  “The Healing Circle” video (http://healingcirclegroup.com) brings us face to face with the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and their pain. As part of a restorative justice process, the video helps to develop an understanding of the ripple effect of the violence as it explores the impact on the victims, their families, other believers, and those working in institutional church settings. Ultimately, the video helps examine the ways the violence has created a crisis of faith and helps grapple with the complexity of the healing process.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan introduces the videos saying, “It’s very important for us all to come face to face with the victims of these horrific acts. … I know that this scandal has shaken all of us and tested us. An important trust has been violated and the pain has been overwhelming for victims, their families, and loved ones.”

Diane Knight, chair of the national review board of the USCCB, has given her endorsement to Healing Circles video and process. “The individual stories in this DVD are compelling, and they are  a powerful springboard for meaningful discussion that can extend the healing process in all of us. This is a must see for anyone who care deeply about the impact of the clergy abuse scandal,” said Knight.

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative reports that “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.”

“The Healing Circle” is a professionally produced DVD that is edited into three segments and runs one hour. Ultimately, it helps viewers examine the ways the sexual abuse scandal has created a crisis of faith and helps them begin to address the complexity of the healing process. It is available in two formats, one with a taped introduction by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and one without. The DVD may be ordered at www.healingcirclegroup.com.

The Restorative Justice Initiative at Marquette University Law School is one of the nation’s leading resources for the restorative justice process. Led by Distinguished Professor Geske, it is at the forefront of promoting scholarship and research on restorative justice.

Each human has innate dignity, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative asserts, even those whose lives have been deeply marred by injustice, and those responsible for causing it. The common good requires that all share in the benefits of society, participate in building up society, and fulfill reciprocal obligations. Solidarity speaks to the attitudes of compassion and respect necessary to sustain a good society. Integral development is a term used by Paul VI and later popes to indicate that individuals reach their full potential in a holistic atmosphere of peace, human dignity, and respect for economic and civil rights.

Restorative justice initiatives are part of the larger array of Catholic nonviolent practices used to build accountable justice and integral peace. Catholic laity have powerful tools in our tradition for responding to violence, even within the church.[]

The information above is compiled from these web sites:

St. Paul Archdiocese Bankruptcy Wraps Up, Many Call for Church Leaders to be Held Accountable, Star-Tribune by Jean Hopfensperger (September 29, 2018)

One-page Restorative Justice at Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

The Healing Circle http://healingcirclegroup.com/

Vimeo The Healing Circle

Abbot Philip: ‘I Have Always Been Seeking God … Sort Of’

Abbot Philip

“When I was younger I often felt sad that I was so indecisive about seeking God. Now I simply accept it and work against it. Feeling sad did not help me at all. Realizing that I am a weak human being— without judging that as being something awful—has helped me. I realize that my goal is life is not to arrive at some imagined perfection but simply to continue in the struggle to give my life to this God who loves me so much and who never abandons me.

I have always believe, sort of. I have always been seeking God, sort of. As I have grown older that believing and seeking God have taken a stronger and stronger place in my life. I don’t have confidence in myself but my confidence in God’s love for me has grown to be the most important aspect of seeking God. God has been drawing me to Him all my life and I have been given glimpses of His loving presence and I have experienced at times His love for me.

It is not as though I am aware that I live in His presence always, even though by faith I believe that. It is not as though I sense His presence always. Instead I have come to an inner conviction and deep faith that He is always with me and that I should take time to be still and be as aware of His presence as I can.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert monastery (The Abbot’s Notebook for September 12, 2018)

Pope Francis Writes to Church about Pervasive Sexual Violence

Quote: “Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.”–Pope Francis

20 August 2018
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1] This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3] Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

Vatican City, 20 August 2018

FRANCIS

[1] “But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).

[2] Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (31 May 2018).

[3] Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (19 March 2016).

Aug 15: Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (Liberation Theology-Style)

Seven minutes of liberating preaching on the Assumption of Mary (August 15). Kochurani Abraham is a feminist theologian, gender researcher and trainer from Kerala, India. She has a Masters in Child Development from Kerala University, Licentiate in Systematic Theology from Pontifical University of Comillas, Madrid and PhD in Feminist Theology from University of Madras, India. At present she is the Regional Coordinator of the Indian Christian Women’s Movement for Kerala and the Vice-President of the Indian Theological Association.

For more, see Catholic Women Preach (and make a donation).

[TRANSCRIPT]
AUGUST 15, 2018
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
KOCHURANI ABRAHAM

As a young student of theology, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary was perplexing to me because I found a very wide gap between the glorified body of Mary in heaven and the bodies of women living here on earth. As we know, the body/spirit divide that informs the philosophies of religions have had a derogatory impact on women. The patriarchal leanings of religions have denied female bodies the capacity to represent the divine. In addition, women’s bodily secretions particularly the menstrual blood is taken to be highly polluting in places set aside as sacred. In India, most of the Hindu temples deny women entry into the inner sanctum where the deity is placed. Even in Christianity, in many churches of the oriental rite, women are not allowed in the sanctum sanctorum during worship. I belong to the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the catholic oriental rites in India and in my home parish, which is a Cathedral;women are not expected to enter the Madbahaor the ‘holy of holies’ that is clearly set apart by railings. I find this practice exceedingly offensive as female bodies are still seen through the lens of purity–pollution set by religious patriarchy. It is only after entering more deeply into feminist theology that I found the imagery of the embodied Mary in heaven subversively fascinating, as it offers scope for challenging the gender politics of Christianity as a religion.
Continue reading “Aug 15: Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (Liberation Theology-Style)”

Video: D.C. Peace Team Deployed at Anti-Nazi Demonstration

In collaboration with the local community, DC Peace Team deployed 24 trained persons as an unarmed civilian protection (UCP) unit on Aug. 12 during the Unite the Right rally in Washington DC.

DC Peace Team is not affiliated with the police or the city government. We are independent trained civilians deployed to prevent violence.

DC Peace Team deployed to accompany and protect people, particularly those who are most in danger. For example, the UCP unit was requested to assist with the resistance movement at Freedom Plaza from 11 am-3 pm and then to accompany them on their march to Lafayette Square. During our time at Freedom Plaza, our unit was broken into four affinity groups which
worked the outer perimeter and engaged in many conversations as we handed out de-escalation tip sheets. Some wanted to know who we are, how they could join the DC Peace Team, to simply offer a thank you for  the team’s presence, and to express that they felt safer with the team in place.

DC Peace Team held conversations to build trust with people from the various groups at the rally, such as Antifa. This enabled the team to be more effective later in the day when hostility built up and arguments ensued even within partner groups. DC Peace Team was able to defuse a pair of persons close to getting into a fight about the tactic of throwing objects.

We also spent the afternoon in Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets, particularly on the west side toward Foggy Bottom. We continued our conversations with people in the northern part of the square. We sent two affinity groups west to monitor possible clash points and to engage what we could. We monitored the arrival of the Unite the Right group, although they ended up being quite small (15-20 people) and they were escorted by police. We de-escalated some actors involved in the blocking of an intersection near the White House which led to a stand-off between the police, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others. DC Peace Team sought to persuade the police not to harm the protestors. Many objects were thrown and fire-crackers were shot up in the air. But it did not escalate from there.

DC Peace Team was also present at a later stand-off between police and Black Lives Matter which ended after some chanting and attempts by BLM to persuade the police to open the street.

As some of the Peace Team affinity groups arrived back in Lafayette Square, they found other members in the midst of an unexpected incident. Two people who entered a space of an adversarial group had been engaged
in multiple conversations. At some point, the larger group asked them to leave and the two persons asked the marshals (who were not DCPT) nearby to help them. As they did this, a more hostile crowd gathered. Some of our DC Peace Team in the vicinity recognized the danger for escalation and many people getting hurt or arrested beyond these two persons.

In turn, for the protection of everyone in the scene, some of our team worked to create a safer space between these two people and the group as they walked out of the square. Some of our team engaged with some of the more hostile actors as spray paint was used, de-humanizing language,
as well as water bottles being thrown, which hit one of the persons leaving the area and one of our DCPT member’s in the head. As the Peace Team engaged with some of the hostile actors, we worked to acknowledge their anger as a way to connect and de-escalate. Some of Peace Team said to these actors they were our brothers or sisters, that we loved them, and that we were there to protect them not interfere with their frustrations. Others spoke about how we don’t want to just replicate the violence we detest in others, and how they don’t need to hurt people to get the change they are
looking for. We needed to do similar de-escalation work as the police became part of the scene, since for some, the police presence escalated the energy. Eventually, the police drove the two persons out of the area. No one else got hurt or arrested in this incident.

Eli McCarthy, DC Peace Team member, said, “Overall, by recognizing the dignity of every person, DC Peace Team worked to interrupt de-humanization, prevent violence, and when possible engaged in constructive dialogue. Even when we might disagree with some political positions or strategies used by some people, we still recognized their dignity. Yet, we also recognized that there is constructive conflict, such as expressions of resistance to injustice, racism, and white supremacy.”

This is what unarmed civilian peacekeeping looked like at the anti-Nazi rally. No one was hurt.

More:

Small, Energetic ‘Unite the Right’ Rally Ends Early

78% of U.S. Catholic priests and sisters think women should be reinstated as deacons

Catholic Church under construction
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University surveyed men and women’s Catholic religious orders in the U.S. on the possibility of sacramentally ordaining women as deacons in the Catholic Church. Here’s what they learned:

Seventy-six percent of responding superiors are aware that the International Union of Superiors General requested that Pope Francis establish the Papal Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women.

Sixty-nine percent are aware that the Papal Commission has formed and has met.

Seventy-seven percent of superiors believe it is theoretically possible to sacramentally ordain women as deacons.

Seventy-two percent believe the Church should authorize the sacramental ordination of women as deacons.

45 percent believe the Church will authorize sacramental ordination of women as deacons.

If the Church were to authorize the sacramental ordination of women as deacons, 69% believe the USCCB would implement this. Fewer, 58%, believe their bishop would implement this.

Sixty-eight percent of responding superiors believe the sacramental ordination of women as deacons would be “somewhat” or “very much” important for the Catholic Church. A minority, 45%, believe this would be “somewhat” or “very much” important for their institute or society.

Sixty-four percent of responding superiors say they were “somewhat” or “very much” aware of any history of women ordained as deacons.

Seventy-six percent believe the sacramental ordination of women (religious or not) as deacons would be beneficial to the Catholic Church’s mission.

Eighty-four percent believe the sacramental ordination of women (religious or not) as deacons would “somewhat” or “very much” create a greater call for women to be ordained as priests.[]

Read CARA’s complete survey here.

Other articles:
Study: US religious orders overwhelmingly back women deacons by Nicole Winfield (August 2018)
Study: Most US major superiors think women deacons ‘theoretically possible’by Joshua McElwey (August 2018)
Deacon commission won’t advise Francis on ordaining women, says doctrinal chief by Joshua McElwey (June 2018)

Book Release: Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization

I’m so pleased to have an Bible reflection in Unsettling the Word, this beautiful and totally unique collection, edited by Steve Heinrichs.–Rose Berger


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we make the Bible a nonviolent weapon for decolonization? Check out Unsettling the Word.

For generations, the Bible has been employed by settler colonial societies as a weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples of their lands, cultures, and spiritualities. Given this devastating legacy, many want nothing to do with it. But is it possible for the exploited and their allies to reclaim the Bible from the dominant powers? Can we make it an instrument for justice in the cause of the oppressed? Even a nonviolent weapon toward decolonization?

In Unsettling the Word, over 60 Indigenous and Settler authors come together to wrestle with the Scriptures, re-reading and re-imagining the ancient text for the sake of reparative futures.

Created by Mennonite Church Canada’s Indigenous-Settler Relations program, Unsettling the Word is intended to nurture courageous conversations with the Bible, our current settler colonial contexts, and the Church’s call to costly peacemaking. (Comes with a study guide for groups.)

Order from Commonword.

Abbot Philip: ‘Relying on the Mercy of God’

With the most recent newsletter from Abbot Philip at Christ in the Desert Monastery comes word that Abbot Philip has announced his retirement, effective December 12, 2018, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  After the election on that day of a new abbot, Philip will return to prayer and silence after 22 years of his weekly “notebook,” which he will no longer write. What a gift his insight were/are/will be for all who encounter them.–Rose Berger

Abbot Philip

“… The spiritual life has the same kind of challenges: continuity is whatever circumstances we find ourselves. It is more or less easy to remain faithful to lectio and quiet prayer when I am in the monastery on a regular schedule. When I am away from the monastery or when there are extraordinary stresses in the community, then it is more difficult to remain consistent and faithful in the inner life of prayer. Even the early desert monks and nuns recognized that we could fool ourselves into thinking that we were deeply committed to this inner life of prayer when there were no challenges.

Practically every challenge possible can come into our lives, whether we live in monasteries or outside of monasteries, whether we are single or whether we are married, whether we are old or whether we are young. Human life is spiritual combat, always, and we are invited to accept the combat and strive to be faithful at all times.

If we fail, if we are not faithful, God is always with us and continues to love us and invite us to get up and continue in the combat. This is one of the most profound lessons of the spiritual life: never give up because God is always walking with us to help us, to forgive us, to call us to a deeper faithfulness.

Many times I have explained to our community that when I was young, I sort of had the unclear idea that a person could reach a state in which there was no further combat, only faithfulness. As I have grown older in monastic life, I realize that combat endures until the day we die. We are invited to seek the Lord and to embrace the struggle every day until death.

For me personally, it has been a comfort to realize that God always loves me and that I must simply struggle to the best of my ability each day, striving to be faithful to God, to His Word, to the Spirit which calls me deeper. There is little I can do except do the little that is possible each day. It is not for me a matter of looking back and seeing what has been done but of looking forward and seeing God’s faithfulness and my lack of faithfulness—and then trying to be just a bit more faithful.

Throughout my years as a monk, I have worked for the good of the community in lots of ways. On the other hand, the focus of my life, when I am free to follow my inner calling, is on prayer and seeking to be faithful to the Lord. I have failed in so many ways over the years. On the other hand, I keep striving to do and to be what God is asking of me. The mercy of God always sustains me and gives me courage to continue seeking Him, no matter how much I fail. This, for me, is the heart of Christian life: always seeking the Lord and always striving to do His will—no matter how often we fail.”–Abbot Philip (July 18, 2018 Notebook)