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Saint Martin's Abbey

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint Martin's, founded in Lacey, Washington in 1895 as a monastery of the American Cassinese Congregation, is a community of Roman Catholic men dedicated to providing Christian witness in the Pacific Northwest through its monastic life of prayer and work, education and service to the Church. Saint Martin's Abbey fulfills its mission through liturgical prayer and worship, through its support of Saint Martin's University and through its pastoral service to the local Church.
Saint Martin's Abbey
Saint Martin's Abbey
Father Kilian's reflection was given this past Sunday at Mass, but we thought its message of hope is fitting for our times. We would like to share it with you. May God transform your darkness into light.
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Where there is despair, let me sow hope
Romans 8:35,37-39
Matthew 14:13-21

I would Like to reflect for a few minutes on what Paul talks about in this morning’s second reading by way of comparative examples…..and then see how this might tie into the Gospel about the feeding of the multitude.
There was an article in the newspaper a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly, about a woman reporter who interviewed a young man from Argentina who had been held prisoner by the military government for some six years without trial. During this time the young man was tortured and subjected to long hours in solitary confinement. The interviewer asked him if he was bitter about his suffering and the loss of six years of his life. He surprised her, saying, “I don’t regard those six years as lost. I took advantage of them to strengthen my character and to deepen my relationship with God.”

In some sense, the man’s response illustrates beautifully what Paul talks about in this morning’s second reading. He writes: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution…or peril?”
Then Paul answers his own question, saying: “Neither death….nor Powers…nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul’s point is clear. There is no tragedy in life so great that God’s love cannot transform it into something good. There is no trial in the world that’s so crushing that God’s love cannot use it to make us into better persons.
As a matter of fact, the reverse is more often true. It seems that God uses tragedies, trials and disappointments in our lives to prepare us to do things that we would never otherwise be able to do.

God never takes something away from us unless He intends to give us something better in return. He never erases something in our lives unless He intends to write something more beautiful in its place.

A famous maker of violins once said that the best wood for violins comes from the north side of the tree. The reason is that the wood on that side has been seasoned by the cold north wind. And the seasoning gives it a special sound that no other wood can duplicate.
The same is true of human beings. Some of the most beautiful music in our world has come from people who have been seasoned by suffering, by tragedies, and by trials. For example: Handel wrote his famous “Hallelujah Chorus” when he was poverty-stricken and suffering from a paralyzed right side and right arm.

Beethoven was the son of an abusive, alcoholic father. He also lost his hearing at the age of 28. And when he conducted the first performance of his Ninth Symphony, he couldn’t hear the music as it was played; nor could he hear the thunderous applause that followed the performance.
Closer to home, I frequently think of our former beloved confrere Brother Ronald and the powerful music he left us. Much of it was composed out of his suffering.
The great French painter, Millet, at the time he was painting his ANGELUS, had written to a friend, “We have only enough fuel left for a couple of days. It has been bitterly cold, and they won’t give us any more unless we can scrape together the money.” Yet, from hands so cold that could hardly hold the brush came one of the world’s greatest paintings.

God often uses our trials, our disappointments and our suffering to make us into better people.
I have often wondered what it was that enabled the young man in the Argentine prison to grow in his relationship with God and as a person in spite of the awful situation he was in. I suspect he chose to open his heart to God and to trust that whatever God gave him would be for his best; and to do so without growing bitter or feeling sorry for himself.
Now, how does all of this tie in with this rather complex Gospel about the feeding of the multitude? From a logical perspective, it doesn’t make sense how you turn a couple of loaves of bread and two small fish into a meal that is capable of feeding 5000+ people; some estimate the number could be as high as 20,000 to 30,000 - 1/10 the region’s total population. Notice, there is not one word regarding how Jesus did this. Not only did everyone get fed, but there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Perhaps, all we can say is that this is a miracle and let it go at that, or see the story as the inspired writer’s attempt to reflect one more example of God's generosity, God's unfailing care and presence with his people in difficult and hard times as he looks back to the book of Exodus to the miraculous feeding of the starving Israelites with mana in the desert. There, the people were also fed in abundance. This story also points forward to the last supper and the Eucharist, and Christ's promise to be with us in our trials and hardships. These different feedings are not apps of barely skipping through. They take place in an environment of dangerous scarcity, transforming it into a situation of abundance.

If God is to use the trials and the difficulties of our lives to help us grow in our relationship with him and as persons, we must do what the apostles did in today's gospel. We must give Jesus our five loaves and two fish and let him do with them whatever he will. What was true for those first disciples is true for us as well. Christ calls us to the table with the little we have.

The important thing is to have an open heart; the important thing is the trusting heart, the believing and loving heart. San Agustin tells us that our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. The longing in each of us the restlessness and the desire, these reminders that we were created to be in relationship with God, to be loving brothers to one another, and to serve others, whomever they might be, in their hunger and need.

It is a reminder to each of us that no matter how difficult times can get, Jesus is always with us, never abandoning us, always supporting and encouraging us, always feeding us with his secret presence and love.
Saint Martin's Abbey
Saint Martin's Abbey
On the Feast of the Transfiguration this Thursday, Br. Pascal-David Greene will be making his simple profession of vows as a monk of Saint Martin's Abbey. Br. Pascal has been on retreat for the past week in prayer and silence in preparation for this major step. Please keep him in your prayers as he continues to the next stage of formation in the monastic way of life and as he grows deeper in love of Christ.
Saint Martin's Abbey
Saint Martin's Abbey
Fr. Peter gave the monks an honest reflection on this day's readings at this morning's Mass. Here is a copy.

Monks face humility. It is part of the job. Why else would Saint Benedict give us twelve steps to achieve it? The first and most obvious form of humility a monk faces are the cleaning tasks assigned to him during his formation period. Yet as he grows from labora into ora, the monk faces a new level of humility. The humility of knowing one’s true self.
At least this was how it was for me. Cleaning toilets and mowing is nothing compared to honestly and openly looking at one’s self through an examination of conscience. When I truly look at myself, I can find things that I do not like. One of these is how I deal with the truth. Despite all that I know, despite decades of spiritual formation, I still find myself being less than truthful when talking with others. Sometimes I do it to avoid the conflict truth telling could bring; and sometimes I do it make a point through exaggeration. Nonetheless, when it reveals itself in prayer, I am dismayed at myself.
Because of this I can only stand in awe at men like the Prophet Jeremiah and John the Baptist. These men spoke the truth at great cost to themselves. Jeremiah confronted the lie perpetuated by Jerusalem’s priests and prophets. They were telling the people that as long as they were making sacrifices to the Lord, nothing evil would happen to the place of God’s dwelling, Mt. Zion. Jeremiah knew the truth that the Lord cannot be bought off with sheep and cattle. The Lord expected justice and mercy, compassion and conversion. For speaking the truth what thanks did Jeremiah receive? “This man deserves death!” He would have been killed if not for the princes and people who knew he was speaking the truth though they were too afraid to act on it.
John the Baptist spoke the truth about Herod Antipas’ improper relationship with Herodias. In doing so he put into question the entire legitimacy of his reign over Galilee. So, Herod had him locked up, though he could not bring himself kill him. Most likely because he knew he spoke the truth about what he did. He was too addicted to power to do anything else but listen to the Baptist, however. His partner Herodias did not have the scruples that he did. She wanted him dead. A simple problem solved through a simple killing. Mirroring our contemporary evil of abortion.
John the Baptist was no fool. He knew the risks and initially tried to stay safely out of Herod and Herodias’ grasp by retreating to the Jordan River and desert. Yet, the truth had to be known and so he willingly put his life on the line to let it be known. That speaks volumes of his courage and love for God.
Our God is a God of truth. His prophet Jeremiah understood this and acted. John the Baptist knew this and he too acted. We know this and how are we to act? What are we to do in the face of the fake news that fills our ears these days sounding out from the far right and left? Or to ask a question closer home to, what are we to do about the fake news coming out of ourselves in our daily interactions? This is a question I ask myself and a question I share with you.