The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, August 24, 2015

Who is Jesus for you?

Pope Francis offered an interesting and worthwhile meditation during his Angelus address on Sunday. He was commenting on the Gospel passage for Mass that day (John 6:60-69), in which Jesus presents his disciples with some hard truths. As a result, many of them parted ways with him. So, Jesus turned to the Twelve and said, "Do you also want to leave?" To this, Simon Peter, speaking for all of them, responded, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

This scene, Pope Francis was suggesting in his address, is an excellent one in which to place ourselves--within our modern circumstances. Which way do we to wish to go? Whom should we follow? Why? What--or who--directs and motivates our lives? How does that direction or motivation affect each minute of the day--what we think, say, or do? Where is this path taking us?

And, if we have declared, along with Peter, that we wish to follow Christ and Christ alone, well, what does that mean? Who is Jesus for us? What does it mean to follow him? These are very personal and essential questions that each Christian must ask himself or herself (and more than once). I encourage you, along with Pope Francis, to take these questions to prayer and listen, as St. Benedict would say, "with the ear of the heart."

Here is a portion of the Pope's address:
[Peter] does not say "where shall we go?" but "to whom shall we go?" ... From that question of Peter, we understand that faithfulness to God is a question of faithfulness to a person, with whom we are joined in order to walk together along the same road. 
All that we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus, to remain with him, to nourish ourselves at his table, on his words of eternal life! To believe in Jesus means making him the center, the meaning of our life. Christ is not an accessory. He is the "living bread," the indispensable nourishment. Attaching ourselves to him, in a true relationship of faith and love, does not mean being chained, but rather profoundly free, always on a journey. 
Each one of us can ask himself, right now, "Who is Jesus for me? Is he a name? An idea? Is he simply a person from history? Or is he really the person who loves me, who gave his life for me and walks with me?" 
Who is Jesus for you? Do you remain with Jesus? Do you seek to know him in his Word? Do you read the Gospel every day, a passage from the Gospel in order to know Jesus? ... The more we are with him, the more the desire to remain with him grows. 
Now I kindly ask you, let us take a moment of silence, and each one of us, in silence, in his or her heart, ask yourself the question: "Who is Jesus for me?"
(cf. Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20)

Saturday, August 15, 2015


The geothermal field under construction outside the monastery and church.

It has been a fairly busy summer here at Saint Meinrad. As you likely know, it began with the monks moving into Anselm Hall (the "old monastery" until the early 1980s) while the current monastery undergoes extensive renovations. We will be displaced for a little over a year.

While most of the work being done in the monastery is interior (principally involving the heating, air conditioning, and plumbing systems), there is some exterior evidence of construction. For example, the monastery infirmary is being expanded and redesigned, and the refectory/pantry area is undergoing an extensive upgrade and extension.

Also visible is the drilling worksite for the geothermal field (shown above) which will feed the new heating and cooling systems. Nearly 100 wells, each hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, are being drilled just outside the monastery as one approaches the Archabbey Church from the guesthouse. In recent weeks, this work begins very early in the morning and goes until early evening.

Right now, frankly, it looks like a great big mess. But when the geothermal field is finally established, the topsoil, grass, and trees will return and it will be difficult to tell that it's even there.

Sometimes, before things can get better, they have to get ugly--a solid principle of many types of renovation/remodeling, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

As for me, I've been busy this summer not only with my duties as secretary to the archabbot, but also serving as a spiritual director and undergoing the rigors of the school's spiritual direction practicum program in which I am enrolled. I've also been filling in as secretary to the archabbot's council and the monastic chapter while the current monk who holds that post is on sabbatical. Recently, I gave the first profession retreat for Br. Stephen and Br. Lorenzo in the days before they made their first vows. Soon, I will be preparing conferences to deliver this fall to oblate chapters around the country. In November, I will visit the chapter in New York City--which will mark the first time I've been in that city. So, I am looking forward to that.

Still, it has not been all work and no play around here. My mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews recently visited Saint Meinrad for several days, and I was able to spend a good deal of time with them. The highlight was probably our daylong trip to nearby Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Yes, in addition to a Benedictine monastery and seminary here in the rural hills, forests, and fields of southern Indiana, there also is a world-class, combination theme park and water park! It's just a few miles down the road in Santa Claus, Indiana. And just beyond that is the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln (who lived here from age 7 to 21). Quite the trifecta for such a remote area, huh?

So, below I've posted a few photos from our time together, as well as some other happenings that have helped make the summer lively and refreshing.

My 3-year-old nephew plugs his pirate earphones
into his Grandma. Not sure what the goal was.

Demonstrating the technique on himself.

Uncle Francis with Evan on the antique cars at Holiday
World. His Mom watches from the back seat for a change.

"I'm an excellent driver."

My brother Kevin and I at Holiday World. Pretty scary, huh?

Brother-in-law Ty, the Big Elf himself (he summers here),
Evan, and his Mom Shannon (my sister).

Smilin' Ian Snodgrass and his trusty steed at Santa's Stables.

Back at Saint Meinrad, our newly acquired free-range chickens.
Novice Timothy, who also is an aspiring apiarist, looks after them.
So, he is learning about the birds and the bees in the monastery.

Chickens on their coop's porch, gossiping
it seems--probably about the cameraman. 

Clawdia, the campus' resident feline (white with gray tail),
recently gave birth to a litter of three kittens, tucked safely
into the well of a vent alongside the Archabbey Church.

What's summer without ice cream? Above is a shot from the
website of Dietsch Bros. in my hometown of Findlay, OH,
recently named the third best ice cream shop in the country.
Used to work there, 1982-84. Click photo for full scoop.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


"We look not at what can be seen
but at what cannot be seen;
for what can be seen is temporary,
but what cannot be seen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18

A reflection on the Mass readings
for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B):
1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30--5:2; John 6:41-51

Appearances can indeed deceive. Reality is often disguised, requiring a depth of perception beyond ordinary means. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day, seeming to cross from one end of the sky to the other. We know that’s not really true, despite all appearances. The sun is stationary. The revolution of the Earth, which in turn orbits the sun, makes it seem as though the sun is moving. In reality, the Earth is moving.

Scientific knowledge helps us understand the universe which we see and live in. The knowledge of faith helps us enter into the mystery of the spiritual reality that underlies and infuses the universe which we see and live in. For Catholics, of course, there is no greater mystery than that of the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith. In the Eucharist, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the species of ordinary bread and wine. What we see is not all we get! And we get more than we could ever imagine.

Eucharistic themes are replete throughout Scripture, and they unfold for us during the liturgical year at Mass in the Liturgy of the Word. In 1 Kings 19:4-8, for example, the prophet Elijah is sustained and strengthened for his journey by food and drink provided by God. In John 6:41-51, Jesus tells a skeptical crowd: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Meanwhile, Ephesians 4:30-5:2 conveys to us the true meaning of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” In other words, we receive Christ to become Christ. If we are what we eat, as the saying goes, we must become what, in faith, we receive in the Eucharist, as St. Augustine said: “You are the mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table. You receive the mystery that is yourself. To that which you are, you will respond.”

Those who confronted Jesus in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, murmuring about his claims of being “the bread that came down from heaven,” had not yet opened their hearts to receive the knowledge of faith and see the spiritual reality of what he was saying. Their focus was only on what they could see with their own eyes. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” They saw only the species in front of them, not the Presence. Appearance deceived them.

People of that time, incidentally, also believed the sun revolved around the Earth. Humanity had a lot to learn on many different levels. We still do:

Now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully,
even as I have been fully known.
           -- 1 Corinthians 13:12

Excerpted from Grace in the Wilderness:
by Br. Francis Wagner, O.S.B., Abbey Press, 2013

Friday, August 7, 2015

Calling all monks

“If you hear his voice today…”
Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 10

Congratulations are in order for Br. Stephen Avery (formerly known as Novice John), and Br. Lorenzo PeƱalosa (formerly known as Novice Charles), who professed their temporary vows on Thursday this week, the Feast of the Transfiguration. You can read more about them by clicking here. 

In addition, the monastic community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey welcomes a new novice who was invested on Wednesday with the monastic scapular—Tony Wolniakowski.

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, our Holy Father St. Benedict, and St. Meinrad, may God confirm and strengthen all three in their discernment of the monastic way of life.

We now have six junior monks in temporary vows and six novices. Another candidate is expected to join us in the fall. Keep praying for additional vocations to this house—and for those of us already here!