“It’s easy to be a Christian,” says Fr. Harry Hagan, a monk and former novice/junior master at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, “It’s hard to be one every day.”
True enough. A life of faith is a sacred journey by which we are transformed into the very Life of God. However, it is a process that we must engage each step of the way. The road is a long one, and it is sometimes dark, winding, and rough in spots.
But God’s promise is this: Christ, who is the destination beyond the horizon, also comes to meet us and miraculously lights our seemingly mundane path. Just as the risen Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to reassure and sustain his followers in word and sacrament, so he does with us, each and every day. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” he tells us (John 14:6).
What does this mean? It means that we must get beyond the long-held but sadly mistaken notion that God is “up there” and we are “down here.” As we walk the path of life, we are all participants in God’s creative work in building up the Kingdom, right here, right now. It means, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
We profess and strive to live an incarnational spirituality after the pattern of Jesus, the Word made flesh. So, the world has a sacramental character. Every thing, every person, and every circumstance somehow fit together in God’s universal plan of salvation—though some points may seem scattered and a few lines may appear crooked. As
St. Paul tells us: “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
With this in mind, I am happy to welcome you to my new blog, “The Path of Life: Musings on Meeting the Miraculous in the Midst of the Mundane.” As many of you know from reading my previous blog The Yoke of Christ, I recently made solemn vows as a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad. The title of that blog reflected a particular Scripture passage (Matthew 11:28-30) that spoke to my heart upon my “reversion” several years ago and subsequent discernment of a religious vocation. Looking back, I realize it was one piece of a larger call leading me to “put on the new self,” the life of Christ—in my case, as a monk. The yoke of Christ, to me, represents this new life.
Obviously, having made solemn vows, I do not now throw that yoke aside. It is more a part of me than ever—I hope. However, I have also entered a new stage along the Christian path of life, along my monastic journey. It can really only be described as “the long haul.” That is not a dreadful thing—quite the opposite.
The path toward eternal life is a journey we must make each day. As St. Anthony the Great said, “Each day, I begin again.” This is true for each and every Christian. For those embracing the monastic way of life in response to God’s call, they do so not because they are perfect, but to become perfect through the grace of God. Monks and nuns living according to the Rule of St. Benedict seek God in the ordinary, the routine, and the mundane. That is all that truly sets them apart. No matter what else they do, the ordered round of prayer in the monastery continually calls them back to listen and respond to the Word of God, who is the source of each of our lives.
While not everyone is called to monastic life, all Christians are called to discipleship, and the road to which we are beckoned is nothing more and nothing less than the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. St. Benedict speaks often of this in the prologue to his Rule, repeatedly using terms like road, way, path, and journey. Like Jesus, he doesn’t promise that it will be easy, only that it will be eternally rewarding. The road, he says, “is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
The point is that faithful discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and is not something to be achieved cheaply, overnight, or all by one’s self. A life of faith is primarily a commitment to a process that pursues a sacred purpose:
Union with God. So, Christ is not only our destination, but also a recurring rest stop along the way, where we spiritually refuel and regain our bearings, and then begin again—so that love may impel us and “bring us all together to everlasting life” as St. Benedict says.
As I have moved along that path in the monastery, this whole idea has, in a sense, pulled up alongside the call I heard in Matthew 11:28-30. Speaking just as forcefully to me now are the words of Psalm 16:11—“God will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in his presence” (Cf. Psalm 139:24). In other words, the long haul of eternal life.
So, it seemed a good time to begin another blog reflecting this mindset. In addition, this Path of Life theme is at the heart of the work I do as a writer and editor for the publications division at the Abbey Press. I am principally involved with a relatively new venture at the Abbey Press called Path of Life Publications, which is modeled on all that I have recounted above. So, this new blog reflects not only my personal journey in the monastic way of life, but also its “marriage,” in a sense, with my work at the Abbey Press. I really see them as being integrated rather than as separate elements.
A few caveats: This blog will not be a mode of selling you anything, although it will include links to Path of Life Publications at the Press and occasional references to things I may be working on there. In many ways, it will be no different than my previous blog, The Yoke of Christ, which I began back in December of 2008. Only the title, look, and Internet address have changed, really. I expect the content—principally spiritual reflections on life—to be much the same (I do plan to still tinker somewhat with the design the next few days).
Also, I will not be taking down the The Yoke of Christ. It will remain in place. However, I will no longer be posting anything new there.
On a more personal note, I would like to thank all those who have blessed my journey by reading my blog. I really began blogging as just a little hobby on the side a few years ago, but it has taken on a life of its own—principally through your support and prayers. I never imagined that reflections on my own personal journey would hold such meaning and inspiration for so many other seekers (literally from around the world), which many of you have related to me in various ways. You have helped give me courage I never knew that I had.
To that, I can only say “The Spirit blows where it wills” (John 3:8).
So, thank you for joining me along the Path of Life. Together with Christ, let’s see where it leads us … one day at a time.
"I am with you always, to the end of the age."