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Four Days with the Trappists: Part 2

Posted on November 28th, 2009

While I am a high extrovert who gathers energy from being with people, I love silence.  So the highlight, up till now on my yearly visits to the Trappists has been the rhythms of the Daily Office, especially Vigils at 3:30 in the morning! And when the chants conclude at about 4:10 am, I generally go back to my “cell” and try to follow them in meditation and prayer until Lauds (the 2nd office of the day) at 6 am. I love their emphasis on the ordinary, the obscure and simplicity of work. This year, however, God met me very powerfully in a new way – through my spiritual direction and conferences with Father Dominic, the prior of the monastery.  The prior would be like the COO or executive pastor of a large church. Formerly a professor at Georgetown University and a Dominican priest, he joined the Trappists 26 years ago to focus on his calling to prayer. Since his arrival, however, he has been a leader in one form or another.  Now he carries pressure-filled responsibilities not unlike that of any church pastor juggling finance, buildings, people with pastoral needs, crisis and strategic planning concerns for the future.  On top of all that he is responsible for leading the business of their Trappist preserves which generates some of the money for their community.  He too has to fight daily for silence, for prayer and for time to meditate on Scripture throughout the day. What did I learn from him? The following is my list from my journal: 1. Love of my neighbor is more important than prayer! 2. Compassion is birthed in solitude. It is there that I become connected to people. 3. Spiritual life and death is at stake in my relations with others. 4. God’s invitation is that I hide the sins of others, not judge them. 5. Empathy of the “irreducible” of a human person cannot be learned in a seminar. It is birthed by the Holy Spirit. 6. Leadership of a community cannot be separated from the crucifixion, and later, resurrection. A part of me loves monastic silence and life because it gets me away from people and problems. Father Dominic’s word was that our neighbor is my connection to God. The local church, our local community with all her idiosyncrasies and messes, is the place of profound spirituality. It is the place I learn to work out a genuine, contemplative spirituality. Why do you think it is so easy for people, like me, to separate our love relationship with Jesus with our love for difficult people and  our “enemies?”

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