Abbot William

Conversation and fellowship

The Hospice bedside vigil calls return with surprising charm, a thing I am learning to cherish, experiencing each one with expectation of something unexpected and delightful to occur. Arriving at the elegant nursing home in Shaker Heights, I realized I forgot the book ‘A Calling’ by Abbot William. The vigil would be over four hours so I felt I would conclude with spiritual reading. I accepted the mistake, discerning God wanted me to remain in prayer throughout my visit. Sitting with the patient, it was obvious time was going to be demanding. The poor ninety-two year old African-American woman snored and struggled for breath at such a high volume it was obvious it was not going to be a vigil of calm and peace. Less than two hours into the visit, talking and praying with my sleeping like a bear unresponsive patient, the room’s door opened and in walked an extremely stylish and sophisticated elderly attractive woman. It was the patient’s niece, Anita, a woman who would startle with conversation and companionship. She sported a Channel hat, fine outfit, and a stunning purse of remarkable quality and appearance. Her make-up was perfect. As I absorbed her precious visual cultured image, I grasped a remarkable woman sat down next to me. We would talk the next two hours about her aunt, life, and travel. I understood God was nurturing and caring for me. I learned Anita’s aunt married, yet divorced never having children. She lived vicariously through the lives of her only sister’s children. Anita handled her aunt’s affairs over the last ten years as she suffered from Alzheimer’s. Her mother and her older sister by ten years were inseparable throughout life. Her aunt would do things with the family, always accompanying them to events. Alzheimer’s plagued both sides of her family as her father was terribly affected by the disease. Her aunt supported and assisted the family as her father declined. She loved her father and it broke her heart because he fought the disease, becoming combative and violent. He was always a loving and caring father and husband, however once the disease took course he became a changed man. He rejected the fact he had a problem, refusing to seek professional help, arguing with his wife, blaming her for nagging him, becoming jealous, imagining she was having affairs. He only remained reasonable and calm when Anita and her sister were with him for he would also become combative with his wife’s sister who was only trying to help. He kept getting into automobile accidents so they were forced to take his keys from him. Being stripped of driving was a thing he could not abide so he countered with an attack. When he was alone with his wife, he struck her in the head with a bottle, opening a serious wound. Anita came to tears during the telling of the dramatic assault. It broke her heart to know her father conducted such a violent act. He was never a violent man. She kept insisting that it was not him, it was the disease. She also told me of her four brothers who all died young in their forties from alcohol abuse. She despised alcohol and the fact it also changed her brothers who loved and protected her for she was the baby of the family. She could only remember her brothers as the charming and handsome boys who filled her childhood with delight. The suffering and mistakes they made as grown men was not who they really were. Then during the end of our conversation, not really sure what led me there, I talked about God, forgiveness, mercy, forgiving others, cleansing our hearts of all the wrongs we have committed and the wrongs committed to us. My own words soothed me, startling me with their depth. Anita sat quiet and still, listening to all my words, appearing as a beautiful angel with perfect lipstick and an exquisite outfit. I parted, after speaking and saying goodbye to her aunt, with a compliment on her purse, commenting that I perceived she was a very good shopper. She took pleasure in the observation, remarking with a smile that she was a shopper of class and taste, admitting it was a bit of a vice to enjoy shopping as much as she did.

Anita’s favorite singer and song.


Overexposure recovery

Abbott William

At the time I was working through many difficult years, especially 1950 to 1978, all the Lord’s plans were hidden.  I was obliged to live on faith—a very tried faith, yet an unwavering faith.  My confidence and hope were always unbounded. The misunderstanding of others, both in family and among ecclesiastics, was deep and hurtful, and yet, I aver, for them not that blamable.  I did not fit the normal pattern; I did not travel the conventional route, as the poet Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Abbot William ‘A Calling: An Autobiography and the Founding of the Maronite Monks of Adoration’

The above photo is one taken of Abbot William.  Daily, he goes for a walk.  I think the walk is in the morning, or it might be after lunch.  The monastery’s ubiquitous Irish Setter joins the abbot on his daily walk.  The Abbot’s ponderous manner, his slow purposeful approach, is evident as he traverses the long drive winding to the monastery.  I observed him heading out upon his walk, desiring to photograph him.  Positioning my camera outside on its tripod, I waited for his return inside the guesthouse, looking out the window.  During my photo opp vigil, John the hermit appeared in the guest house lobby, engaging me in conversation.  Amidst many words about silence, John the hermit then remarked that if I was waiting for the abbot he was passing by now.  I looked out the window realizing I was going to miss him.  I rushed outside, calling out to the abbot that I would like to photograph him.  He muttered words, which I perceived as polite, yet dissuading against a photo, the word ‘hurry’ audibly distinguishing itself amongst words lacking clarity.  The abbot turned his back to me, preceding to enter cloister grounds.  I snapped the above photo quickly, in my haste not checking shutter seed.  It was too slow, over exposing the photo.  I marveled at the results.  As I enter into the abbot’s autobiography, I am convinced the photo captured the essence of the man.  There were many distant silent moments of intimacy with the abbot.  Intimate for me that is.  I am convinced none of the moments meant anything to him.  The first moment was an initial moment at the monastery.  When I arrived, after unpacking, I entered the church between four and five PM, reposing into Adoration and prayer.  There was one monk seated in the rear, and to my right, conducting his own Adoration amidst the prayer stalls of the monastery.  Concluding prayer and departing, he turned and smiled before exiting.  Later, speaking with the welcoming Lebanese priest, he informed me the Abbot conducted his afternoon Adoration between the hours of four and five.  Reentering the Church, observing the prayer stall of the monk seated during my initial Adoration, it was obvious it was the abbot’s as his abbot staff rested to the right of his bookstand.  That first evening, I commented on the matter in a post, the blessing offered through the Our Lady of Guadalupe painting during night prayers marked me.  The monk’s effort: deliberate, profound, mysterious, ancient, and elegant arose in sublime peculiarity.  I watched Abbot William closely during my stay.  I will absorb myself within his story.

I am going to dedicate myself to a serious increase in my reading time.  The Abbot’s autobiography, suggested reading by John the Hermit and Father Garrigou-Lagrange will center.  My new mass and adoration schedule at St Clare Church settles soundly.  The first thing in the morning contemplative effort rewarding in anonymity, profound in reclusion and recollection.  There is a bit of the natural delight within the effort as the Italian bakery and deli Casa Dolce provides an amazing breakfast between mass and adoration.  The food is incredible: eggplant parmesan, stuffed artichokes, salmon pate, meatloaf and garlic potato mounds, elaborate pasta dishes cold and hot, kale salad, kale/sausage/white bean soup, Italian wedding soup.  The variety is immense with everything reasonably priced and prepared at a superior gourmet level.  Plus there is a daily dish set upon the deli counter for sampling.  The salubrious ambiance extends socially, while remotely, as daily a group of elderly gentleman meet for breakfast and coffee at the deli.  The retired men are obviously quite successful, sharing stories, anecdotes, and observations on life, Cleveland, Florida, and times gone by with zest and humor.  I find their conversation pleasant and engaging, while having no desire to join them, retaining a focus of recollection within the presence of God.

I perceive work demanding extensive time during the winter, Ordinary Time before Lent and Easter.  I will be forced to work Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend.  I accept the work mandate, committed to stockpiling cash.  I spoke with John the Hermit yesterday, discussing my life, my direction, or more clearly my lack of direction.  He is convinced I have a religious calling.  I should be clear in defining John for his desire to establish the life of a hermit may present him in a foolish regard.  When I first observed him in Massachusetts, I was convinced he was an east coast wealthy businessman.  He is taller, handsome, physically fit, carrying himself with great dignity, intelligence, and sophistication.  There is an unmistakable presence of success, good health, sanity, and peace about the man.  I was even a bit startled to comprehend that he really has no professional occupation, bouncing throughout his life from various forms of employment, including time served as a Benedictine monk.  The man is authentic in his dedication to religious pursuits, his direction and advice astounding with insight.  When I opened up to him for the first time, that I was unclear on direction, he responded remarkably, laying out a simple approach based upon acceptance and the three ‘Ps’ as he calls them: purity, peace, and presence.  Purity in the sense I remain in a state of grace, abiding in behavior and thought according to the commandments of God, a life in imitation of Jesus.  I will add that I have firmly established St Joseph as a spiritual and natural life anchor.  The life of St Joseph accompanies me throughout my work day, and his presence has become stout and staunch within my prayer life.  Peace in the sense that I trust in God, not becoming overly excited or depressed within my attention to the moment, my commitment to do the best I can at work, in my obedience to my employer.  I live in the now, not investing too heavily in possibilities perceived in the future, nor weighed down by the past.  John the Hermit advises that I allow the sanity and security of a future religious life to bring comfort as I give everything I have to the moment.  He speaks of a commitment to bank money, gathering funds, highlighting September as crucial for that is the month religious communities welcome new members.  I place within the realm of future realities providing comfort the vacation to Spain with my mother.  Finally, Presence in the sense of remaining within a state of recollection, carrying Christ forefront in my heart through my day.  He gave wonderful practical advice such as slowing down at work, walking a little slower, taking my time more during endeavors.  I had to chuckle as his words were the very words of our engineering tech at work.  He is constantly telling me to take a breath and relax.  The Hospice calls have ceased for the moment.  I perceive, without thought or deliberation, the calls from the Hospice as the voice of God.  If there are no calls it is God desiring I focus my efforts interiorly, strengthening my prayer life, now increasing my time dedicated to reading and religious study.

I love God.  He makes me smile.  I make plans and quickly He changes them.  The Hospice calls, calling three times after my post.  Tomorrow reignites bedside vigils, with the Hospice stressing the next week will call forth a serious need for vigil volunteers.  I never received a call from the Hospice while on retreat in Massachusetts.