We welcome you on our journey, we who find ourselves blessed to claim the mission of Mt. Irenaeus. We believe that we are one with all peoples, cultures and indeed all creation in the ancient longing to find and to live in peace. The peace we seek is healing and lasting and “makes all things new again.”
St. Paul writes of “all creation groaning” for, and St. Bonaventure speaks of “panting after” this peace, the peace that is Jesus Christ. St. Francis and St. Bonaventure sought mountains, as we have, as a place of rest and encounter when they felt lost or estranged within themselves, the Church, the world. We too have experienced the many things within us and without us that draw us away and lead us to doubt and division. We choose, then, to seek to understand and to serve those who still experience alienation, hurt or are estranged and “find life burdensome.”
Holy places are part of all spiritual traditions. By the late 1970s, it was apparent to a few of us that “a place” was needed “to draw aside and rest awhile,” to come to see things in a new way in order to return again to college life and the living of each day. Through the experience of Campus Ministry at St. Bonaventure University and the life of its students, faculty and others there, the alienation, pain and darkness of life seemed to ask us to find a place of hope and new life.
We wanted a place, but more than that, a community founded in the spirit of prayer and hospitality. After years of consideration and gaining friends to proceed, we found this secluded and wooded hilltop we now call Mt. Irenaeus, the Mountain. We believe that we are in the tradition of all other holy places that help persons recognize the holiness of their own lives and indeed the holiness of the world that has come forth from a loving God. We have established this place and community in the Franciscan tradition of love for the Incarnation, wishing to offer prayerful hospitality to others according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Named Mt. Irenaeus, or the Mountain, its very name means “peace,” “peaceful,” “peacemaker.”
The practical details of our daily living – work, prayer, solitude, community, – lend to us and lead us to an experience of life upon which we reflect. This “daily bread” of our life nourishes us for the life of justice, love and peace here and elsewhere. Living each day in a “down to earth” fashion, we find that we have the gift of coming to “see” a God who loves us far more than we love ourselves. This Presence is at the very heart of the healing we experience in Jesus Christ and wish to make it known. We believe that all peoples and cultures reflect this longing and, often, this understanding. All of this, our daily living, lifts us to gratitude and gladness. It calls us to “be attentive” to the one thing that matters, a life centered in God and in Joyful, loving service to others.
Ours is a life founded In the sapiential tradition, finding experience as a most profound way to knowledge, finding that “doing” leads us to “knowing.” Thomas Merton, in his essay, Learning to Live, says “… whatever you do, every act, however small, can teach you everything provided you see who it is that is acting.” And so, with St. Francis, we find rising within us the great contemplative prayer, “God, who are You, and who am l?” This question unfolds in multifaceted ways each day, leading us to believe that God is present and active in our very midst.
This life helps us to see that all life is educative; all life leads us to the knowledge and love of God and each other if we have the heart to see. This approach to knowledge has always had a special place in the Franciscan tradition. Thus we know we have a service to offer to St. Bonaventure University as well as to other colleges, local churches, individuals and groups.
We find, then, an education for life here on the Mountain so that we might live more fully elsewhere with others. We wish to care for all creation, attending to those who are not at home, who are alienated and marginalized. We seek ways of pursuing justice, of forming “family life;” we seek ways of praying, of celebrating, and of ministering God’s presence to others. We are finding new, as well as old, ways of learning and we wish to pass them on to students, young and old.
Jesus models a way of servant leadership that we seek to follow and to reflect upon with one another. We find many concrete examples of this model in the lives of Francis and Clare as well, and certainly throughout the Gospel. The simple practices of creating and maintaining the Mountain and its everyday life, as mentioned above, are these “places” of learning where we seek and come to know this God who heals us all and who “makes all things new again.” “Our home” here is also the land and “family” Is all of the creatures with whom we share this holy place. This larger Gospel meaning of “home” and “family” teaches us to live well with others elsewhere in the world. As we find ourselves called to care for the land, we are humbled by and grateful for its care for us.
Silence and the simple activity of keeping a home, working and living on the land with Its creatures is instructive in itself. The rest of creation is both companion and mentor to us. We find our contemplative life enriched by word and sacrament, as well as by community and solitude, by time in the woods, conversation and restful quiet.
We are committed to keeping a comparatively small community of guests and core community in order to continue a simple life in which guests help in the preparation of meals, the cleaning, gardening, etc. We promote a more intimate environment, without television or radio so that we are not preoccupied or dominated by the commercial media. Our way of living encourages storytelling, enriches conversation, and the ability for relationships grows naturally.
We have found it a daily practice not to be “task oriented” or “task driven;” we wish to allow life to speak to us rather than to become over-programmed or overplanned. We find that relative smallness and informality enhances our spontaneity, calling us to attentiveness.
We who live here and participate in the Mountain seek to open our circle, our common life, to others, for it is our conviction that, as St. Bonaventure says, “God is like a circle or a sphere” who is centered in each one of us and who extends life well beyond us. Our life of prayer is evangelical because we have found that Mt. Irenaeus Is a new “seed bed” for church vocations. Many come here to confirm and to renew their lives of ministry or they begin to discover and to experience affirmation of their gifts for ministry. Further, we wish to continue the mentoring that happens quite naturally each day through prayer, work and community.
We firmly trust in the goodness of humanity and we relish the ancient words of St. Irenaeus “that the glory of God indeed is a human person or ‘humankind’ fully alive!” We believe that all of creation is called to its fullness in Jesus Christ. We, therefore, pursue a common journey with others, believing “that perfect love casts out all fear” and leads us all on our journey into God’s reign of light: “of justice, love and peace.”