Driving up the road to Mt Irenaeus on March 16 this year was already a different experience. As I drove up the muddy, slippery road – avoiding potholes at every turn – it was with the knowledge that this time I would be here to stay for a month. This time I would also be coming as part of the process of discernment that would allow me and the friars an opportunity to experience living in community with one another, and to see what we could “create new in Jesus Christ” for that month… and perhaps even for the next year. As I drove up that road, I knew I carried all of you with me – all of our collective hope for the continued expansion of a resident Mountain community of friars and lay people.
As most of you know, I have been around the Mountain on and off for a fairly long time! Prior to this experience, I would have told you that I felt I understood the Mission and Vision, our Gospel Manner of Life. And I did…. to a good extent. But this month – living, working, serving, and praying with my brothers – allowed me to experience the Mountain in a truly new way. I felt a new appreciation for our mission to create “all things new in Jesus Christ.” Every single day gave me that opportunity – within myself, with my brothers in residence and also with the Mountain community at large.
This past month has been an incredible journey – to see our Gospel Manner of Life lived and infused into every single thing that occurs on a day-by-day basis. It is a graceful dance – moving from one opportunity to another as they arise – requiring awareness of each other’s needs with intention, intuition, and flexibility – interwoven throughout the day with communal prayer, Eucharist, lectio, and meals. There is also the random time that arises for solitude, an opportunity for quiet contemplation, if you remain open and looking for it. This is also then interwoven with evangelization, which for me took the form of student retreats and connections with the School of Health Sciences and Campus Ministry. I also found myself sharing more and more about our life with family and friends, near and far – another form of bringing the Mountain to the marketplace. At the center of all of this is Christ – and His enduring example of living in love and living in relationship, always with us.
Living this way demands we listen and see with the “eyes and ears of our hearts.” It’s found in the simple way we care for each other, how we are in service to one another. It’s so much more than the tasks at hand. Cleaning a cabin was being in service to Lou and to the next person who might share that cabin. Shoveling manure for the garden was being in service to Joe and helping to create a garden that would then feed many. Assisting with a student retreat was about being in service to Kevin as well as to the students who participated. Collaborating with Dan, entering into deep conversatio, about our hope and desire to have a more meaningful formation experience allowed me to be in service to Dan as well as all who might come to be among us. The “it” of the Mountain is often found within these very activities– the small and big moments of deep connection, deep sharing, and love that arise out of being truly present to one another.
The “it” of the Mountain is also found in the quiet of the Chapel, in the sharing of Eucharist. It’s felt during morning and evening prayer – when we open our hearts, take a chance, and become brave enough to witness to one another how we hear the Word of God – what it means in our lives, how we can do better, and how we can help each other to do better. It’s experienced in Kevin’s authentic gift of empathy or Joe’s incredible ability for shared transparent humility. It’s sensed in a quiet moment when Lou is patiently teaching me how to lead evening prayer. It’s felt when Dan shares his ongoing vision with such passion, love, energy, and enthusiasm- even after living this life for 40 years. It’s heard in the laughter around the table during a shared meal with both old and new friends. It’s seen in the faces of those who join us for an evening, or a day or a week.
One feels very “present” when living at the Mountain – present to God, to each other, to our earth, to our entire Mountain community. I am learning how to take our traditions and practices, our mission and vision, and put them into action on a daily basis. It is no longer just about my personal morning prayer and to do list. The phrase “Lord, what would you have me do” takes on a whole new meaning. I am learning how to begin my day with God’s to do list – and that starts with personal prayer followed by communal prayer or Eucharist, by considering my brothers around me and my community at large. It continues throughout the entire day – the great awareness of the gift that we live in relationship with ourselves and one another- all day, every day – and that is where we find the face of God. It’s a whole new of way of living.
I have a tremendous amount to learn – the friars seem to do it so effortlessly. At times, I am awkward and clumsy. They are patient and inviting. It requires initiation, humility, flexibility, and openness. I am finding my way day by day – and learning what it means to be on a communal journey while also on one of quiet and solitude. It’s an exploration of what my personal gifts might be and how they might integrate with our mission and vision. But I am growing daily, and I feel God very close by. As Fr. Dan would say, it is a continual process of informing, reforming, and transforming.
So, Lord, what would you have me do today?