I went down to the Abbey of Gethsemani for a rare weekday visit (I sort of played hooky from work today. They owed me some comp time). Today was the feast of Saint Benedict, the founder of what we know as monasticism, and I couldn't think of a better place to be than at a monastery. I went to Mass, the first one I've been to with Abbot Elias as the celebrant.
It was wonderful, of course. Elias has a powerful, almost operatic voice, a change from the somewhat gruff tones of Abbot Damien.
The homily (delivered by Father Carlos) was incredible. It told a little about St. Benedict, and extolled the monastic life and it's virtues. I asked Brother Luke if he could get me a copy. He forwarded my email onto Father Carlos, so I will contact him directly tomorrow.
I'm usually here on a Sunday, when the monks are at rest from their labors. Being at the abbey on a weekday, I saw a different side of them. They wear jeans (or even shorts!) under their habits, and after prayers, their appearance is nearly indistinguishable from a layperson.
One example: the priest who gave me Communion during Mass is the same one who was vacuuming and mopping the lobby of the guesthouse. Off in the distance, another monk is behind the wheel of a John Deere tractor, looking like any other farm worker in the area
I'll admit that I had put these men of God on a pedestal for a long time, never picturing them as anything other than earthly saints in flowing white robes. Today sort of humanized them; they have jobs to do just like anyone else, and can be far from saintly. It doesn't diminish their commitment to God; if anything, it reassures me that these are ordinary men who have answered an extraordinary calling. It gives me a little hope. It doesn't matter if I think I'm not good enough to be here, just that I have a desire to answer God's call, whatever that may be.
Later in the day, I spent a half hour talking with one of the postulants, along with two other men on retreat. With all the doubts and fears I've been feeling, I just needed to hear from someone who has managed to put aside their own doubts and answer the call.
It turns out I'm not that unusual with the "tap-tap-tap" I've been feeling. Joseph (the postulant) had been hemming and hawing for years, but he finally got the "big picture" message loud and clear while he was in a cave in the Himalayas. Talk about a call from God!
The other two (Brandon, 22, and Don, 50) are in various stages of their discernment. Brandon is full of youthful zeal, and maybe a little naivete. Don is answering the calling he's felt for years, but had put aside to live his life in the secular world (Navy, job, etc).
It was reassuring to talk with them all. This was the encouragement I needed to get my feet back on the path. God uses His creations as He sees fit, and I think He put these men in the right place at the right time to help me in my own moment of doubt.