Abbot William

Hidden being

Without needing to elaborate or define further, simply presenting, I was struck by words from Abbot William in his autobiography. Ideas pronounced relevancy, themes and words repeating within a different story, something familiar and ordinary happening.

First a Gospel repeat, spoken words of Jesus: Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen;

Over the years I had pleaded with the Lord to show me His holy will–whatever He really wanted of me. His inspiration became clear to me that He had been “hiding” me over those past several years, here and there in this ministry or that, and in this work or that, until I arrived at the maturity of life and spiritual growth that allowed me to begin this special calling. I am quite as convinced of His “hiding” me as I am convinced of the need of this hiding for arriving at the required spiritual growth. – – ‘A Calling: An Autobiography’ Abbot William



Interior life refortified

The interior life, the practice of virtues, fidelity to prayer, and a structured manner of religious living….It was quite at variance with the updated self-expression of psychology and sociology…

…the underlying issue is that one finds in the Church in general, and in the universities and religious communities especially, a lack of spiritual life, spiritual training, development of the interior life, habits of prayer, and a spirituality of acquiring the virtues.

Two quotes from Abbot William regarding his observation of the Church after Vatican II. He was ordained a priest in 1961. I admire his insight on many levels. First it must be noted, he remained obedient to others, feeling an outsider within his dedication and devotion to prayer, the Eucharist, and the interior life. He did not argue and debate with others. Events were unsettling, yet he stayed committed to his path of orthodox contemplation through practice rather than discussion or other exterior means of expression. I relate even further to his mindset as he steers away from a traditionalist position centered in preserving Church ways before Vatican II. He finds fault with an elevation of the Latin mass, penetratingly calling into question those needing to declare the Latin mass superior. Scrupulosity, a dependence upon formality, structure, and ritual are not Abbot William’s way. His way is one of prayer, remaining hidden within the Church, always driving deeper upon the interior path.

The sex scandals of the Church are probed for root causes, conclusions resting primarily upon the lack of an interior life, an authentic prayer life, throughout individuals within the Church. Exterior and experimental ways called forth as modern and relevant. Everything of human effort. It was only natural horrible consequences would evolve. Reflecting upon my Cleveland recovery experience, an experience that ignited a miracle, I am able to identify the same lacking. If one never develops a sound prayer life, one has no means of accessing God. In truth, one is making everything up. To a certain degree, quality does not matter. Whether conducted intelligently and sincerely, or selfishly and ignorantly, it is still of human conception, fated for imperfection. As I increase my social life, I comprehend the need to protect my interior life. It is my source of grace and must be protected from those solely functioning upon the foundation of self-will. Even those dedicating and devoting their lives to the Church can be destructive or demeaning to a genuine interior life. I am polite and friendly, always willing to remain hidden, willing to be perceived immersed within faults, able to focus away from reputation. I am content being left alone. My spiritual life is not lived based upon exterior deeds, chatter and relationships. I reflect upon John the Hermit, a man possessing an advanced interior life, yet I realize there is nothing truly gained from furthering interaction with him. Talking about, studying, or writing about the interior life does not develop a hearty interior Presence. Ann was fond of watching television evangelist. In truth and respect, such an approach of talking and listening, being right and making excellent points, has nothing to offer to the deeper life of a contemplative. Grace moves about in mysterious ways. There is a delicate balance.

The fellowship I desire, first arising within families and the concept of families—love, vulnerability, permanency, commitment, strength, respect–is not the basis of my spiritual life, yet it is essential to inspiring, bringing joy and support to my life. I absolutely shun the idea of sharing with those perceiving themselves as spiritually advanced, nor am I interested in the slightest those recognizing themselves as spiritually superior. Those who demand to derive their spiritual advancement through interactions with others will not darken my doorway. Fellowship is not to be exploited for self-advancement. The spiritual life is not lived by defeating and competing with others. People are not to be used. Those trying to be, rather than being, prove a consternation.  Intimately, I welcome those warm in companionship, accepting imperfections, befriending not delusion, rejecting spiritual authority and vocalized expertise. A new maturity is demanded, light and lacking preferred, from those I allow into my inner-circle. Those practicing, harvesting, and nurturing the negating process I perceive transforming my own life. I am reminded of an elderly Trappist monk who once said to me that in honesty he was done with reading, including scripture.  Daily mass provided sufficient words and thoughts. He had read enough books, as well as having heard enough advice and spiritual wisdom. He preferred nothing, simple conversation of warmth and friendliness, moments of delicacy away from prayer. It was enough. A lack of words preferred to the wisest of words. To be honest, right now few knock upon my door. Quickly coming to mind, Father Roger always stands posed for entrance. I am finding myself alone with God. I recall the entrance at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, the words ‘God Alone’ welcoming visitors.

Along this avenue of thought, yesterday’s bedside vigil proves insightful. It turned into an extremely social event. I was introduced and reacquainted with many from the Hospice, a social worker from the facility, and the wife of the patient. I sense the Hospice experience broadening in regards to my reputation. They seem to be taking interest in me. Tomorrow I am asked to speak during a training session for new volunteers. I welcome the opportunities, while interiorly entrenching caution. The bedside vigil involved a woman from my training, Sue, a woman self-perceived and organizationally-perceived as a leading volunteer. Her distinct character is ubiquitous throughout Hospice activities. A funny incident occurred yesterday. The wife of the patient, a charming talkative woman, instantly disarming with her trust and vulnerability, arrived by her husband’s side. First, she delivered a nicely packaged large lunch to the cohabitant of her husband’s room. The man greedily accepted the food, remarking about the excellence of the woman’s cooking. The woman was distraught because the Hospice volunteer who drove her to the facility left her walker at her home. She worried someone would steal the walker, or the garbage man would take it. It was garbage day. I assured her that I could not imagine someone stealing a walker. She remained nervous. She spoke to me about her husband, showing me photos from the sixties and seventies. In the photos, she was a remarkably attractive woman, and her Jewish husband appeared full of character and vigor.  They were an impressionable young couple, two who appeared to be fun at a party. He prided himself on his baseball and boxing skills, manly and tough looking in the photos–a stark opposition to the frail emaciated man reposing unresponsive next to us. I was startled when I chuckled about him being a boxer and she meekly responded, ‘yes he liked to box and many a times he practiced on me’. There was a sadness within her love. As we sat familiarizing ourselves with one another, in walked Sue with the woman’s walker. The talking and socializing increased as she arrived. The woman brings an air of expression and exterior activity to moments. Overall, I perceive the approach is not my approach to death. There is a concentration upon conversing as if everything is okay. Death is simply another aspect of life. Everything will be handled responsibly, efficiently, while exteriorly an easy going extremely friendly atmosphere is established. I approach matters more intimately, seeking the stark reality death is extremely different than all things encountered throughout life. Singular and private for the one enduring. It is terrifying, awe-inspiring, a grace abundant happenstance of divine integrity. The seriousness of death must be addressed within prayer, silence, and respect. Again, if one does not have an advanced interior life proper respect is difficult to render.

Enough. I am spending too much time upon this post. It is done!


The vocation of Prayer, a determining resource

Years previously, as a beginner in religious life, I had a very intense experience of the sensible graces of prayer….However, using the words ”sweetness” or “feeling” did not describe or characterize my prayer—only the awareness of His presence.  As mentioned above, my prayer was ever dryer, simpler.  The grace of prayer seems to have been, as it still is, an ever-deepening awareness and conviction of His presence, not merely as an intellectual conviction but an awareness deep within—very dry, very uneventful on the natural level, very captivating on the spiritual level, while not redounding to the feeling level.  It is also a type of prayer very characteristic of monastic life.

Pere Poulain, following Bishop Bossuet, writes of a state of “spiritual binding” which he calls, “ligature”—a condition of the binding or suspension of the faculties concerning one’s interior life, especially during prayer….All too many souls given to prayer are not sufficiently instructed in this manner.  If the soul can kneel or sit in the presence of Jesus enjoying this contemplative prayer of simplicity, the soul should be encouraged to remain in this prayer.  All the great authors on prayer, from Origen to Evagrius Pontus, all the way to Saint Teresa of Avila, tell us that prayer is the lifting of the heart and mind to God.  When the souls sits in silent prayer and great simplicity with mind and heart lifted up to God, it experiences its own form of contemplation, however ordinary it may otherwise appear.

I have always held the conviction that persevering in prayer will be my salvation, my sanctification and my success—whatever that will be.  It will be the source of my apostolate, whatever form that will take.  It will see me through whatever crosses that may come my way.  –Abbot William ‘A Calling: an Autobiography and the Founding of the Maronite Monks of Adoration’.



“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

Hymn by Cardinal John Henry Newman quoted by William Abbot in his autobiography

I had to conclude that I was on a different wavelength and that I  marched to a different drummer.  Who was that drummer?  He would show Himself in time.  It is always in His time and in His way.  He does His work according to His timetable and in His own manner.  He loves to draw straight with crooked lines.  But oh, those crooked lines, how often they would rend the heart.  –Abbot William



In haste, a Saturday morning reflection

“Let us cross to the other side.”
A storm awake,
Waves of fear,
Waves of doubt,
Waves of mutilation,
Waves pounding,
Waves thrashing,
Waves announcing,
Upheaval unable to pronounce,
I drove my car into the ocean,
Ceasing to resist, I call out,

One sleeping in peace,
One dreaming onto the Father,
Notices the disruption,
“Quiet! Be still!”
“Why are you terrified?”

Sitting during early mass at Sacred Heart, aware of no men’s meeting this week, aware many of the men were still attending, a strength germinated within. Several of the men sitting in silence inspired. I admire the success coupled with the ability to remain quiet. A strengthening, a receiving is attained within their religious experience. Warriors in life, they come to mass for nourishment, bringing to the sacrifice of Our Lord what He truly adores: a humble soul needing the Eucharist. A sentence from Abbot William’s autobiography detailing his founding of the Maronite Monks of Adoration: This predicament of life could easily discourage one, or hopefully, bring one to turn more ever readily to the Lord in submission and abandonment. I am privileged to perceive prosperous men leading families, humble to the world of employment, active within the Church, utilizing their faith in order to embolden themselves within active lives of personal success. Within the storm of life, within the privacy of their own life, unseen for the most part, they are accomplishing something substantial. It is so diametric to the recovery world where the majority of individuals lack the ability to surrender to family, employment, or others, while always demanding attention and recognition within the church and world of recovery, constantly demanding to be perceived as superiors within their religious and secular interactions. Quick thoughts. More words from Abbot William: Over the years I was able to see how the Lord was training me. He was preparing me for something, instructing me what to do and what not to do, how to be and how not to be, as a religious, priest, monk, and superior. To move into the religious world, the mindset of anonymity within a sound psychological temperament, one incurred through hard knocks and self-knowledge, I am able to be strong within servitude, the subtlest forms of self-aggrandizement an affront to the degree they are detected, continual progress graced through an ever-growing peace and Presence.


Misdirection settles into a nap before work

One must not exaggerate and squander one’s strength in the excess of conquering force.  The generous man tends to move forward too fast: he wants to restore the good and destroy the injustice.  But there is inertia in both men and things that he must take into account.  Mystically, it is a matter of walking in step with God, of fitting exactly into the plan of God.

All effort to move faster than God is useless, and even worse, harmful.  Activity is replaced by activism, which goes to the head like champagne, aspires to unreachable goals and leaves no time for contemplation.  A man is no longer master of his life: the danger of excess of action is compensation.  An exhausted man easily seeks it.  This is all the more dangerous when one has to some extent lost self-control.

The body is tired, the nerves are agitated, the will vacillating.  The greatest stupidities are possible in these moments.  One simply has to slow down, find one’s call again among true good friends, recite one’s Rosary mechanically and fall asleep sweetly in the Lord.  –St Albert Hurado

God is a challenging and invigorating voice of unpredictability, wise in knowing what is best.  I rose this morning early to attend a pre-mass Rosary and Divine Mercy communal prayer at St Clare, focused upon my Hospice patient, preparing for my morning afternoon bedside visit.  The communal prayer did not work.  The participants praying so fast and self-consciously I could not absorb myself.  There was no recourse except silence.  Mass concluded, Eucharist received, the reading of David slaying Goliath always providing wonder.  A voice mail waited on my phone.  It was the Hospice.  The patient passed away at four in the morning.  They would not be needing my service.  She did not wait for me.  I felt stung by pride.  God demonstrating he did not need me to advance the woman to eternal peace.  I needed the woman and the thought of doing something spiritually superior.  God wanted me to go home and take a nap. The above quote came from the autobiography of Abbot William from the Maronite Monks of Adoration.  Abbot’s thoughts were important.  I am not going to put them together, pointing out relevancy with words and ideas: disjointed, masks, multiple personalities, anxiety, nature building upon grace, proper rest.  My Holy Hour after mass I could barely stay awake, fighting sleep, deeply exhausted.  My late night vigils, overload of Hospice calls, and seven days of work caught up with me.  Driving home, John the Hermit called.  We have not talked in days.  He stressed the difference between our nervous systems functioning in a sympathetic or parasympathetic mode—bottom line: living a life of reaction to worldly concerns opposed to a life of contemplation and absorption in God.  He takes it much deeper, encompassing a holistic understanding of one’s life and personal habits.  He said to go home and get some rest.  Everything coalesced, further words from Abbot William arising in poignancy, tantalizing in indirectly teasing toward the consecrated life, while eluding to the neurosis of modern city life.  It all comes together within mystery.  The title of the book: ‘A Calling: An Autobiography’.

An old colloquialism comes to mind: “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country of the boy.”  In the old European formula, the average Catholic vocation in Europe came from farm and country.  He knew farm life; he knew how it worked.  He knew the soil.  He knew a sick cow from a healthy one.  He knew the land and how and when to hay.

On the American scene, we meet the obverse: “You can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city of the boy.”  The average candidate for an American monastery came from the city, suburbia, a college campus, or the armed services.  His whole culture and economic arrangement was ‘punching the clock’.  He worked his forty hour week, and when he was finished, it was done.  He received his wages and went home.  His skill and expertise were to be all efficient and he was to expedite the work.  If he was a hustler, he was considered an efficient worker.  This habit and mentality was ingrained in him.

In agrarian society, however, the work on the farm is never done.  One did not punch the clock on the farm.  The chores were always there, all day long, seven days a week.  The farmer handled his task and survived by his ability to work his farm at a ‘farmer’s pace’.  The farm candidate brought that particular culture and manner of living to the monastery.  The old Trappist regime was constructed around the old world agrarian society.  The Trappist monk could be very contemplative within the context of living the old Trappist structure—at a farmer’s pace.  But this, quite obviously, was not so readily accomplished on the American scene.

Sleeping Monk


Honest reflection

Reading Abbot William’s autobiography, he presents interesting ideas on psychology, sternly placing caution upon interior examinations and the healing of the subconscious.  Through recovery efforts, I have experienced healthy psychological exploration as well as severely troubling efforts.  Dr. Nichta proves steady within continued consistency, a stabilizing influence of maturity and simplicity.  The serious endeavor of unraveling the psyche of another is predicated upon the one ministering having experienced the unraveling themselves.  Projection, the unintended consequence of spreading unresolved entanglements upon others is a dangerous reality.  One cannot give what one does not have.  Psychological healing on a profound spiritual level cannot be fostered by one psychologically in need.  Someone broken cannot fix others.  Moving past alcoholism, advancing recovery to greater spiritual growth, establishing a structured life within the realm of uncertainty, patience proving greater in application than proclamations and expectations, I am leery of psychological over-exposure.  St Teresa of Avila, while stressing the importance of self-knowledge, also warns that just as damaging as not knowing ourselves, is spending too much time in self-discovery and examination.  Self-absorption is destructive, an effort of one’s own doing never able to advance spiritual growth beyond an immature level.  In regards to knowing myself, I am content to concede to mystery, to bow to the majesty of God, humbled and accepting, exercising faith, hope, and charity.  Applying daily mass, the Eucharist, Catholicism, and prayer, I trust in God.  I place faith in the intercession of the Virgin Mary—Our Lady Undoer of Knots, based soundly upon a lifetime of devotion.  I am learning to place similar reliance upon her beloved husband St. Joseph.  St. Joseph teach me to be a man of simplicity, silence, and obedience.  I was going to comment more, yet I am exhausted.  A demanding work schedule, Hospice volunteering, and the refinement of the contemplative life abandons me to silence more and more.  Quiet prayer dominates my interior life.  Dissipation lacking impressiveness, I don’t want to be right.  Lacking the need to establish reputation, I don’t want to play at life.  Weary, I don’t want to live vicariously and within delusion.  I want to become holy.  I am going to simply put forth the words of Abbot William.  Reading his thoughts invigorated confirmations.

In the present era there is a penchant for the psychological expose.  Everyone who has read an author or two in psychology, or better still, taken a couple of courses at a local community college, has obtained the deepest diagnostic insight into human motivations and neurotic traits.  A twist, however, in this matter is that psychologist can’t help observing the “vagaries of character” and “neurotic traits” possessed by some “biographers and Ph.D. students” and historians who never seem to “rest in peace”.  We witness the projection of their own vagaries, prejudices, character moods, and neurotic traits in their investigation.  For the most part I hope to avoid the psychological approach and offer a merely straightforward presentation, which will itself evince sufficiently the psychological aspect of this account.…Each has his or her own story, so unique and so wonderful, that reveals the workings of God’s grace in their souls.  51SlOqXGdVL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_