Abbot Philip: The Perseverance to Fail

monk-newmexico-240348-o“As I reflect on the monastic life that is a gift in all of these houses, I see the mercy of God at the center of all that happens.  I can’t always manage to live that mercy, even if I try my best.  It is as though I stand on the shore and see another land in the distance at times and know that I must get there even when it seems impossible.

Following Jesus Christ and seeking to be faithful to Him and to His Church has been the beacon in my life for many, many years. For all of us who want to follow Christ and to deepen the spiritual life within us, it is necessary to have this perseverance of continuing to follow Christ no matter how many times we fail or set out in a wrong direction or simply are not aware of what He is asking of us.  The only good that monastic life has to offer or that any Christian spiritual life has to offer is to point ourselves and others to Jesus Christ.  In Him we find life and joy and all that is worth wanting.  As many times as I have wandered away from this path, just as many times He has recalled me and pardoned me and told me of His love.  It is humbling to know that He is always there, so faithful and so constant.

When I am at my best, I am happy simply to be in His presence, giving thanks.  When I am at my worst, He is there trying to find a way to attract me back to Him and to His way.When I was young I wanted to be a saint and a mystic.  Now I pray that I may persevere and always respond to His love.  There is no desire to be anything or anyone, simply to try to persevere to the end.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert monastery, New Mexico

Read more from Abbot Philip’s Notebook.

Abbot Philip: Staying in the Struggle for Life

I chose a longish excerpt today from Abbot Philip’s writing because of the topic: acedia. Some of you will have read Kathleen Norris’ book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life where she digs into the ancient wisdom and modern rediscovery of this spiritual malady.

Abbot Philip from Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico expands on the topic. Here’s an excerpt from his recent newsletter:

Sometimes we find ourselves trying to be spiritual and don’t have much energy for it. This happens even to monks. Sometimes we go to the prayer services, we read Scriptures and we work—all without much energy or focus. Some monks in the early periods of monastic life called this acedia. The meaning of the word is simply without energy to do much of anything. It is not a clinical depression, just an inability to do much at all. This type of inner lack of energy can go on for days or months or even years. Part of the spiritual combat is learning how to fight against this lack of energy. That does not mean that we will always be highly energized. It does mean that we keep working at doing what we are supposed to be doing. That is a deep meaning of perseverance: working at something even when we don’t want to work at it. We can do this against acedia. We can continue struggling against it. That is why acedia can really help us learn how to struggle. With other vices, sometimes we feel that we can do certain things or take certain actions and overcome them, but often with acedia there is a sense of helplessness. To continue in the struggle, we must overcome that helplessness and pay no attention to it.

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