Reflections of Monastic Guest JanStephen Cavanaugh

My Monk Soul Renewed Christmas 2019 Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey

by  JanStephen Cavanaugh

Monastic Guest JanStephen CavanaughI am 76, sometimes a little cranky as I live in fear of the potentially catastrophic way humanity is birthing the next age in human development.  In 2013 while contemplating an Oblate situation at Mepkin, Jesus stepped in and commanded me to live as monk in-the-world to do something about that potential catastrophe, a fool’s errand it seems. In past year serious rebuffs. I do accept the prophet speaks and they do not hear. Still it is hard on ego … as it is supposed to be, and sometimes I complain. Such a dull instrument I am.

Those called to live as monk outside the walls know this is hard practice in need of periodic recharge. The world kills soul. Over the years the Guest Monk Program at Mepkin has become that root renewal charge place for me. Rooted to place in Trappist tradition to feed my monastic soul.  Two months a year, at Christmas and Easter, had become my renewal practice.   All that a little off pace of recent times and now making my way back.

I thank Fr Joe for allowing me the time to live behind the wall … to fill up my world drained monk soul.

I can write as truth, I got what I came for. My world out here upon return, the space around me as I write these words filled a strong Presence in my soul and a blessing in the aloneness. I think to myself what a great blessing it is that Mepkin offers a Guest Monk Program. For a time to live a radically different yet fully functional society based in love. And a grave threat to ego driven society founded in war, and therein the rub.

Upon arrival at supper … all hugs and smiles   …  a too long-gone brother welcomed back … my soul at home with my brothers for a while. To live close to what Jesus taught and be inside a community committed to live it as example to be a sign of the Way. In Christ.

It is not a path for the timid of heart … and for those who feel the Call … a pull of the heart, hard to ignore. A warrior not of outer but of inner world.

To hear that call.  St. Bernard, Listen.  And hear.

So glad I did hear my call out to put me back in the embrace of Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey this Christmas 2019.  In sacred space offering prayer and work to God only. To stand in choir and BE there, sometimes standing silent. To listen, to hear. To imprint moments in time to absorb the sacred energy all around me in chapel, to breath it in to fill my soul and tears of joy.

The Psalms the core of prayer seven times a day … to tell the tales of the way out of the mess we are in, sung out for anyone to hear.   The deep silence of 5:00 am group meditation St. Francis Chapel, teaching in Lexio Practice, to see deep. In these and other ways Guest Monk Program at Mepkin fed my monastic soul.

And to remember to keep perspective, peace through justice a hard sell throughout history. Be a little easy on my limited gifts. I have the right to do my work, but no right to the results. I need to detach from attachment to result and get back to work.

And in the Mass daily, surely the most perfect of rituals. God of Love feeds us. To stand in community to feel the energy to be in the presence of a Sacrifice Like No Other and to be fed …. Soul Nurturing.

And in work to cut my fair share of mushrooms to help keep the roof on, this also part of God’s work.  Mushroom after mushroom (No talking …  did some, but did self-correct), mushroom after mushroom bringing attention to a rhythm of motion. Look at pile of mushrooms, eyes focused pick one, no hesitancy, (need to get as many done as one can … each helps the budget) cut stem from head, and place stem in refuse bucket to feed the turtles, the head in bin for drying.  Select, Pick, Cut, Distribute …  1 2 3 4 …  MA RA NA THA.

And then, job boss’s voice breaking in “Time to wrap up”. … and so, it goes.

Fr. Columba’s “light touch” in structuring Guest Monk’s formation just right. His reminders of meetings and changes in schedule felt like a loving shepherd. Including Guest Monks with monks to discuss the Sunday readings … to be part of that, a special thing.  I felt like I was living behind the wall as close as it gets without jumping full off the mountain top of ego.

I call out to all monks in the world looking for a place to feed your monk in-the-world soul … Guest Monk Month Mepkin a most highly recommended place to root.