Joy in the Midst of Grief – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 18:9-14
Psalm 30
Philippians 1:15-20

Just over 1600 years ago, a young couple dreamed a dream:

“One night we went to sleep, greatly upset, and we saw ourselves, both of us, passing through a very narrow crack in a wall. We were gripped with panic by the cramped space, so that it seemed as if we were about to die.”

This young couple was Valerius Pinianus and his wife, Melania. They were two of the super-rich of the later Roman world. They were also Christians. And at this period in history these two things, wealth and Christian faith, were increasingly at odds with one another.

Pinianus and Melania, along with many of their contemporaries, were uncomfortable with their vast wealth. They grieved what their wealth afforded them. The open vistas of estates, the splendor and ostentation, the luxury of free time, had become for them a “narrow crack” and a “cramped space.” They grieved the weight of wealth on their souls. And this grief prompted them to make an unprecedented renunciation of their worldly wealth.[1] Read More

Conditional Friendship, Unconditional Love – Br. Lain Wilson

Feast of Richard Meux Benson

John 15:9-17
1 John 4:7-12

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

I’m struck today by this little word “if.” “You are my friends if.” When was the last time you said that to a friend? “You are my friend if you take my side.” ”You are my friend if you do what I say.”

But how often does this “if” go unspoken? “You are my friend,” we say, while thinking, “if you do what I expect, if you believe or read or vote the way I do.” How often do we find ourselves unconsciously closing the door on those who do not fulfill our unspoken ifs?

The founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson, whom we celebrate today, had a dim view of friendship, in large part because of these ifs. He recognized that, in practice, earthly friendships are often divisive, based as they are on “certain idiosyncrasies which we may share in common, and which naturally . . . separate cliques from the rest of mankind.”[1] In short, he later wrote, “earthly friendships are apt to make us feel lonely both in their enjoyment and in their removal.”[2] Read More

In the Midst of Fear

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Pause

Recall a Fear

Let it go

- at least for now -

In the Midst of Fear

Br. David Vryhof


You may know what it is to be sailing through life in radiant sunlight when, swiftly and unexpectedly, a storm arises, and you suddenly find yourself swamped by mighty waves and tossed about by terrible winds. Perhaps it’s an unexpected calamity – a health issue, an accident, some kind of assault, or some other unforeseen suffering – that affects you or your loved ones. Or maybe it’s tragedy on a national or global scale that frightens you: the threat of violence, political upheaval, or environmental disaster.  Or perhaps it’s something that hasn’t happened, but could happen. There is much to be afraid of in life, and at times our fears can seem truly great, and we can feel so weak and small in the face of them.

Fear is no respecter of age, gender, or social standing. Fear may be the most common experience we share with all of humankind: the consuming, crippling, sometimes irrational visitation of fear. Fear arrives when we face impending danger, pain, evil, confusion, vulnerability, or embarrassment. Whether the threat is real or imagined does not matter. What does matter is our sense of powerlessness. We don’t feel we can control this thing that threatens to swamp our lives and cause us to sink. Whatever its source, our fear is real.

Jesus speaks a great deal about fear and anxiety, which is quite revealing. He would have learned about fear in part from the Hebrew scriptures. The scriptures he would have known – what we call the “Old Testament” – are replete with messages about worry and fear. We are told very plainly that we do not need to be afraid because God’s steadfast love and unfailing faithfulness will provide for us. Fear’s tight hold on us is loosened, the Bible assures us, when we put our trust in God.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,” the psalmist says, “and delivered me out of all my terror” (Psalm 34:4).

Jesus would have known these words, just as he would have known the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Jesus would also have learned about fear from his own life. I am not talking about the fear he observed in other people, but about his own personal fear, what he experienced. We don’t know the specifics of what Jesus feared, but we do know that Jesus lived a fully human life and experienced the full range of human emotions, and therefore he must have been acquainted with fear. We see him withdrawing to pray in solitude as he wrestles with his own calling and with the challenges he and his followers face. We catch a glimpse of real fear when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane for the cup of suffering to pass him by (Matthew 26:36-46). We can trust that when Jesus talks about not being afraid, he is speaking about fear from the inside-out, autobiographically.


Jesus would have learned about
fear from his own life.

 

 

 


Jesus was able to speak reassuringly about fear because he had taken to heart the words of scripture and learned to trust in God. In prayer he received the assurance that he was not alone, that God would always be with him, strengthening him to face every trial. He wanted others (including us) to know the inner freedom and deep assurance that comes from trusting in God. Over and over again, his message was “Do not fear.” He promised his followers that his power, his provision, and his presence would be with them (and us) always, to the end of the storm, and to the end of life.

If your life now is swamped with fear, or if you are afraid about an incoming storm, remember this: our fear is not an obstacle to God but rather an invitation from God to take Jesus at his word. We need not be afraid. Jesus knows every reason why we could be afraid; he’s been there. For us, fear can seem such an immovable impediment. But it is no obstacle for God. Our fear presents an opportunity to experience first-hand God’s presence and power and provision by trusting in God’s promises.

Our fear is God’s invitation, and Jesus will make good on his promise to be with us always. Let Jesus have the last word: “Do not fear, for I am with you, always” (Matthew 28:20).


Our fear is God’s invitation.

 

 

 


To Consider:

What fears are storming in your life right now?  Can you imagine that Jesus might have known a similar fear?

Can you recall a time when a particular verse or image from scripture helped you to face your fear in a difficult situation? What words comfort you?

When angels appear to human beings in the scriptures, their first words are almost always, “Don’t be afraid.”  Who are the “angels of consolation” who have helped you face your fears in life?  A particular friend or relative?  A mentor or teacher or pastor?  How have they been able to comfort you?

To Try:

Set aside time this week for a period of prayer in which you speak aloud your deepest fears to God and listen for God's reassuring words and comforting presence within you.

Carry in your heart a mantra which you can repeat to yourself whenever you feel afraid, such as Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3:) or “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

In the Midst of Our Mess

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Take a Breath

Slowly

Breath Again

In the Midst of Our Mess

Br. Keith Nelson


 

 

 

Jesus saves.

 

 

In the church, knit together as his Body, we believe that Jesus saves us from sin – our own and the sins of the whole world. Jesus saves us from death: by his incarnation, by his freely given human life, and by his freely chosen death on the cross. Jesus saves us from the worst in ourselves: from our daily blindness, ignorance, resentment, and failure to love. As we name in the Nicene Creed, all that he did, and all that he does, is offered “for us and for our salvation.”

Jesus saves. Today I believe that with my whole heart – though I haven’t always.

It’s not hard to imagine that somewhere there is a person who doesn’t believe they are in need of saving. The message that “Jesus saves” rings hollow in their ears, little more than a tired slogan tied to a narrow-minded agenda. In fact, they and their many friends hear this proposition and yawn, or chuckle, or roll their eyes. The offer of that kind of Savior is not what they need. Perhaps you yourself struggle with the assertion that Jesus saves.

OK, let’s start again.

Jesus heals.

If the historical portrait we have inherited told us nothing else, it would point to a man known far and wide as a healer. As a band of pilgrims tracing his footsteps, we believe that Jesus, our Savior, was also a healer at heart. We have seen and known in our own aching flesh how he bends down and reaches out to touch the leper, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the bleeding and broken and forsaken of the world.

In healing bodies, he healed hearts and souls, and lives even now to do the same. Jesus heals.

Our imaginary friends don’t believe they are in need of saving. But if pressed, they might admit that, in some sense, they are in need of healing. Deep down, they have felt the dis-ease of living – that feeling when they rest from all their motion and commotion that things are not entirely right, that something is off kilter, out of balance. A bruise, a burn, an open cut throbs beneath the surface. They long to say, “I’m sorry,” but to whom? If they were to come across Psalm 51, if they were to read the words, “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” they might remove the bandage from the wound within and yield themselves, even if for one trembling moment, to God’s healing touch.

But healing hurts. After all, the wound has been there so long. It’s easy to give up on the course of treatment.


 

 

 

OK, Jesus says. I’ll meet you where you are.

 

 

 


OK, Jesus says. I’ll meet you where you are.

Jesus meets us where we are.

Jesus does not wait for us to get our act together. He doesn’t wait for us to clean the snot off our noses or put on a clean shirt. He doesn’t wait for us to decide what exactly we think of him. He certainly does not wait for us to solve the mystery of human suffering, or articulate an airtight personal theology, or establish an invariable routine of daily prayer. He does not wait for us to prove that we deserve his love.

If your experience is anything like mine, here’s what Jesus does:

On a Thursday night at 9pm – when your heart feels as empty as your refrigerator – Jesus pulls a chair up to the dinner table and helps himself to a piece of your leftover pizza. Jesus doesn’t care that you didn’t cook, that you didn’t even know he was planning a visit, or that you don’t have any clean towels. Shhh. I’ll meet you where you are, he whispers.


 

 

 

If we let him eat our leftover pizza and use our dirty towels; we can be certain he will return the invitation.

 

 

 


Jesus met Andrew and Peter by the Sea of Galilee, mending their fishing nets, because that’s where they were. He met Zacchaeus standing in a sycamore tree; he met Mary Magdalene in the prison of her own mind, possessed by seven demons; he met Paul on the road to Damascus intent upon persecuting the early Church. Jesus met Matthew sitting at the tax booth. And he met all of Matthew’s friends at dinner in Matthew’s house – a group of people who had likely never had dinner with a rabbi and felt disillusioned and cynical about the institutional tradition that had labeled and judged them. That’s just where they were.

But, you see: that is how Jesus saves. That is where Jesus heals. Jesus saves us and heals us by meeting us where we are.

If we let Jesus do this; if we open the door to let him in, even once; if we let him eat our leftover pizza and use our dirty towels; we can be certain he will return the invitation. He will invite us to be with him where he is. Jesus takes us where we are, as we are – and, before we know anything about it, summons out what we shall be, one moment of meeting at a time.


To Consider:

  • How does the idea of Jesus meeting us where we are challenge your expectations of spiritual growth and transformation?
  • What parts of your “mess” do you try to hide? What would it look like to allow Jesus to meet you in your imperfections and brokenness?
  • How might you open yourself more fully to the transformative love of Jesus?

To Try:

  • Take some time praying with Luke 5:1-11. Peter is exhausted after spending a whole night fishing and has caught nothing. At first he is doubtful that Jesus can contribute anything to the situation. When the presence and power of Jesus are made known through a catch of fish that begins to break the nets and even sink the boat, Peter cries, “Lord, go away from me, for I am a sinful man!” In the midst of his dim assessment of himself and his prospects, Jesus chooses him to be a “fisher of people.”
  • When have you felt like Peter, protesting that your life situation was too messy to let Jesus get involved?
  • What does it feel like to practice consent to Jesus’ power and presence in those moments?

Conflict: Jesus in our Midst


⇓ Download, print and share: Conflict: Jesus in our Midst

It was about 5:15 in the morning, and I was in the shower. There was shampoo in my hair, and my eyes were closed. I was busy imagining an argument with a Brother, which probably wouldn’t even happen.

The argument was over dried fruit. You see, I had been getting the impression that a particular Brother of mine didn’t think I was replacing the dried fruit often enough. (This all happened back when I was a postulant, and my job was to be the pantry monitor. One task of being the pantry monitor was making sure our supply of dried fruit in the pantry never ran out.)

Now, this particular Brother, in my experience, was the biggest consumer of dried fruit in the whole Monastery. One day, that Brother walked over to a piece of paper we kept clipped to a cupboard in the pantry. That piece of paper had a list of tasks the pantry monitor was supposed to do. I noticed my Brother giving the list a long look, then looking at me, then looking back at the list. Finally, he walked over to me and said that refilling the dried fruit was on the list of tasks for the pantry monitor. Then he walked away. It was a simple enough exchange.

And yet, there I was the next morning in the shower, unable to stop thinking about what I should have said to him or what I would say if he mentioned something about the dried fruit again. I can’t remember how long this went on or how it resolved, but here I am, about five years later, and I still remember that moment.

There is no denying the fact that life in a community can be tough. Back when I was an inquirer, it seemed like every single Brother warned me about the difficulties of life in community. Of course, I believed them, but there’s a massive difference between hearing about something and actually experiencing it firsthand. Try to imagine thirteen men of all different ages and backgrounds living together in one large house. They all share their meals together, run a church collectively, operate a non-profit business as a team, and sleep in bedrooms the size of walk-in closets. Most of these men have committed to doing this for the rest of their lives. This may sound like heaven, hell, or purgatory to you. I would say it’s a little bit of all three!

Life in a community can be challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Living at SSJE with my Brothers has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. In particular, life in community has taught me the value of conflict and how it is an unavoidable yet potentially meaningful and transformative aspect of life.

In all our various roles and time together, inevitably we will grate against one another. We are spending so much time together and making so many decisions, that conflict is bound to happen. This is not an occasional occurrence, it is a day-to-day reality.

The chapter in our Rule of Life entitled “The Challenges of Life in Community” states that, in community life, “tensions and friction are inevitably woven into the fabric of everyday life.” This is one of my favorite lines from the Rule, and I find myself repeating it like a mantra on some days. I’m always struck by the choice of the word “everyday.” Personally, I might have preferred “weekly” or “monthly,” but such terms might not accurately reflect the reality.

Consider your own day-to-day life. Have you ever experienced a day without any tension or friction? Think about all the roles you may be playing in your life: as a family member, as a coworker, as a citizen, as a partner, or as a Christian. When have you ever gone a whole day without experiencing some conflict in at least one of those roles? (Now, if you want to know what it’s like to be a monk, imagine experiencing all of those roles simultaneously with the same small group of people).

 


What if God really is using the tension in your life as a means for your own conversion?

 


 

Whether you’re a monk or not, tension is inevitable in relationships. That same chapter from our Rule of Life goes on to say, “tensions and friction are not to be regarded as signs of failure. Christ uses them for our conversion.” For me, this is a very powerful and important statement. It argues that conflict can be transformative.

When you experience conflict in a relationship, do you consider it to be a sign of failure? Do you think that the presence of tension means that a mistake has been made? Do you treat it as something to be remedied or overcome? Try to imagine what it would feel like in your own life if your answer to all of those questions was “No.” Imagine what it would look like if you experienced conflict as an opportunity. What if God really is using the tension in your life as a means for your own conversion?

Consider how Jesus responded to conflict within his own community during his earthly ministry. One of my favorite anecdotes from the Gospels comes from the ninth chapter of Mark, where the disciples are engaged in an argument about who among them is the greatest. I find it both comforting and humorous that the disciples, despite being in the presence of God incarnate, are preoccupied with themselves and constantly comparing their status with one another. You would think that being so close to the only-begotten Son of God would result in permanent bliss and solve all human problems, but the disciples prove that wrong! We, like they, remain human.

One of the many reasons I love this passage is that Jesus immediately addresses the conflict. I imagine that he can feel the tension in the air and knows it needs rectifying. Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the way?” Notice how Jesus doesn’t ignore the conflict, nor does he start addressing it by pointing fingers. He simply asks a question to initiate a dialogue between himself and his disciples. His question is an invitation to transformation, an invitation to address the conflict and make something out of it.

So, the next time you find yourself reeling from an argument, try to imagine what it would be like if Jesus asked you a similar question as he asked his disciples. What would you say if Jesus walked in and asked you what you were arguing about? Try to envision what he would respond to you as well.

I firmly believe that Jesus is right there in the midst of our most serious conflicts. In fact, I also believe that Jesus is present in the midst of our most petty arguments as well. During times of conflict and arguments, it is easy to push Jesus aside or think that we will simply have to wait to reconnect with him after the problem is over. However, when we do this, we miss the chance to discover Jesus right in the midst of our struggles and to allow him to help us grow through them.

Think back and consider how God has used previous conflicts in your life for your own conversion. In my time living in community, I have seen this happen many times. I have seen my community get closer together after going through conflicts. I have seen many Brothers disagree over something but have their relationship improve from navigating through that disagreement. 


I firmly believe that Jesus is right there in the midst of our most serious conflicts.

 


 

After all, conflict can force us to communicate. This may not always be pleasant, but it is usually helpful. I have been a participant in many difficult conversations during my time as a monk in this community. These discussions can be excruciating and draining, but from my experience, they are worth it. Some of the best changes I have witnessed in our community have arisen from such dialogues. The challenging conversations that may emerge from conflicts aid us in gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves and the state of our relationships.

I find that one of the best feelings in the world is being able to look back upon difficult times of conflict in the community and have a laugh, knowing that the storm has passed, and things are better now. The Brother whom I thought was admonishing me about the dried fruit has been resting in heaven for about three years. When I look at the dried fruit now and remember the brief time we shared together, I both laugh and cry, reflecting on the full range of experiences we went through as Brothers in community. I can’t help but think that in heaven, when we are reunited with our loved ones, we will be able to do the same together again.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did not lead a life free of conflict. He freely and fully entered the maelstrom that is humanity at large. He did so with grace and tact beyond measure. We are called to follow his example every day of our lives. We cannot evade conflict; instead, we must embrace it. When we do so, we also welcome the transformation it brings.

 


Questions for Reflection

– Think back: How has God used the conflicts in your life for your own conversion?

– Think about your own communities. How have they formed you? What have they revealed about you?

– How does your personal, day-to-day life feed into that broader whole of the Church’s mission and witness?

 


In this utterly relatable reflection, Br. Jack Crowley takes us from an imagined argument – had entirely in his own mind while in the shower – through the complex realities of the tension that marks all forms of community. What if Jesus really was there, in the midst of those conflicts, big and small, that make community so hard? And if that very tension was a force for our transformation?

Conceived for Glory – Br. James Koester

Feast of the Transfiguration

Luke 9: 28-36

One Christmas, rather than giving individual presents to members of my family, my aunt gave my family several posters to hang in our basement room. That fall we had built a very 1960’s “rec room” where my siblings and I could invite our friends and not have to worry about either noise or mess and my parents could then reclaim the living room as their space. So, my aunt decided to help us decorate the space, and hence the posters that Christmas as her gift to all of us.

There were several posters, but the one I remember best was of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.  I remember it, not because even then I was a budding theologian, but because I found it so curious. Created in the early years of the Sixteenth Century, Michelangelo’s Moses was regarded by the artist himself as his most lifelike creation. Once finished he is reputed to have struck the statue on the knee with his hammer and exclaimed Now, speak! To this day you can see a chip in the marble on Moses’ knee where Michelangelo’s hammer is said to have hit.

But that’s not what I found so curious about this image. It wasn’t the chip in the marble. It wasn’t the power and force of the figure. It wasn’t the lifelike quality of the statue. No, none of these drew my attention. What drew my attention, and what I found so curious, and what I did not understand until many years later, and you may know this, but what drew my attention is that Moses had grown horns! Yes, there are two stubby horns emerging out of Moses’ head like horns emerging out of the head of a maturing goat! Read More

Saint Monica, Praying Her Heart Out – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Saint Monica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo

1 Samuel 1:10-20
Psalm 115:12-18
Luke 7:11-17

In the calendar of the church we remember today Saint Monica for her patience, and perseverance, and faithfulness. She was born in north Africa about year 430, and became an ardent Christian. Not so for her husband, Patricius, a Roman administrator known for his temper and infidelities, nor by their son, Augustine, who took after his father. Monica prayed and prayed for them, and a miracle happened. Shortly before his death, her husband converted to Christianity, and thereafter, the wild son, Augustine, also. Some years later, Augustine would write in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Very autobiographical.

The three lessons from the Bible appointed for today all tell stories about prayer for children. Whether or not we be parents, most likely all of us carry in our hearts people who have garnered our heart’s attention. We carry a deep concern for them, a fear for them, a hope for them, a love for them. We may pray for them, perhaps ardently, either because they have asked us to pray, or because we have been drawn to pray for them. Perhaps we pray because there is nothing else we can do. We are otherwise powerless to make a difference in their lives. So we pray.

Prayer is a mystery, a mystery that begins in God. Our prayer is always in response to God’s initiative. It is God who has caught our attention. Mysteriously, in our prayer for others, we invoke God of the heavens meanwhile being grounded in God’s love, God’s healing light, God’s presence here on earth. It is like we complete a triangle: God, our own self, these other persons for whom we pray. In my own prayer for others I often remember the image given to us by Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century abbess and mystic. Hildegard said we are like mirrors, catching God’s light and then mirroring that light onto the countenance others. Whatever prompts us to pray for others, we are always responding to God’s initiative.

Who Monica’s son, Augustine, would become held a stature far beyond all that she could have asked for or imagined, especially given what a bad, bad boy he was. Monica sets a very high ceiling for hope in how we and others can change, amazingly, miraculously for the better. So we pray our hearts out.

Blessed Monica, whom we remember today.

What Are You Looking For? – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 1:29-42

We could infer from this Gospel account that John and Jesus had met for the very first time the day before, when John baptized Jesus. John had said, “I myself did not know him.” Not so. They did know one another. They were cousins. They would have known each other since their births, their impossible-to-believe births, which had been predicted by angels. Angels, no less! Jesus, born to an unmarried mother who insisted she had not had a sexual union; John born to a mother who was old enough to be his great grandmother.

If it was important enough for Mary, while she was pregnant, to travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to the Judean hills to see her pregnant Aunt Elizabeth, John’s mother, it is unimaginable that they would not have visited each other after the births of their miraculous sons.[i] Visited many times. No one in the world could understand one another like these two couples could: Mary and Joseph, and Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Zechariah. These two boys, Jesus and John, had to have known one another, and probably looked to each other, befriended each other, confided in each other, shared the burden of their imposed identities with one another. Both of them loved going into the desert. Maybe they camped together? They were cousins, virtually the same age, the only child of their parents. Neither son had married; neither had pursued a profession that was identified; neither, it seems, had found their voice to fulfill the “angelic predictions” until rather late in life. Both of them, at the time of this Gospel account, were about age 30. They had to have known one another. And known each other very well. Read More

On Being Forged, Shaped, and Fostered – Br. James Koester

We have heard it before. In fact, some of us have heard the Christmas story so often, that like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas,[1] large swaths of it can be recited from memory. Perhaps we can’t recite it word for word in the idiom of the King James Bible, but we know the story cold. If our inner Linus has not memorized it, we can certainly tell the story in our own words, and little would be lost. In fact, in telling the Christmas story in our own words, some parts it might even be embellished, the details highlighted, the emphasis personalized.

We all tell stories. We tell stories to convey information, and many stories are just that, information. We tell stories to amuse, and many stories are just that, amusing. However, we tell stories not just to convey information, or to amuse. We tell stories because stories have power. The most powerful ones are told over, and over again. It is those stories, the powerful ones, that we have in common. It is those stories, the ones in common, that are the most powerful. It is those stories, the powerful ones, the ones we share, that forge our common identity. They shape our corporate imagination. They foster our sense of community and belonging. It is those stories, the powerful ones, that change us, and in turn, are changed by us.

There is something to stories then, especially the powerful ones, that are transformative. These stories that change us, may not be about us, but we nevertheless find ourselves in them, or rather we find ourselves, and we find ourselves in them.

That’s what we are doing tonight. We are finding ourselves by telling a story. Indeed, we are telling many stories. That story, or those stories, are both, deeply personal, and amazingly universal for they have forged, shaped, and fostered us as individuals, even if we think they haven’t. It does not matter if you are a professed Christian, or a casual attender this evening, your life has been shaped by this story, even if you claim not to believe it. That same story is also amazingly universal. It has forged nations, shaped laws, and fostered education and the arts. In either case, a deeply personal story, or an amazingly universal one, the Christmas story is a story of discovery because through it, we find ourselves, and we find ourselves in it. Read More

Take courage … I am with you … do not fear – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester,
Superior

Haggai 1: 15b-2:9

I want to begin by saying how glad I am to be back among you, and to express my gratitude to the Brothers for the opportunity to be on sabbatical for the last 10 weeks, and especially to Brother Keith who covered for me. I also want to say thank you, to all of you who have held me in your prayers these last weeks, as I did you in mine.

My time away was extraordinary. I was able to see members of my family, some of whom I have not seen since before 2019. I spent time in Oxford, which, as you know is where the community began in 1866, and is a place over the last years I am coming to know well, and where I feel at home. The Sunday before I left Oxford, I preached in Father Benson’s former parish, standing in the pulpit where he once stood, which for me is always a thrill.

The bulk of my time away however I spent walking in Wales. The experience was exhilarating; the scenery spectacular; the people constantly generous. Even on the day, which my sister described as level 2 fun (in other words, not fun at the time, but fun in hindsight) when it took me 8 hours to walk 9 miles, which included the equivalent of 82 flights of stairs, and along paths far too close to the cliff edge for my liking, I never once thought of giving up, or wondered why on earth I was doing this. Every afternoon at the end of my walk, I was simply glad of a beer, a hot shower, a good meal, and a comfortable bed. Every morning, except for a few days when it was pouring rain; the day of the Queen’s funeral; and a couple days when all I wanted to do was sit in a coffee shop with my novel, I was ready to head out once again and walk. Of a possible 190 miles, I walked 135 of them, so I’m totally thrilled. Read More