Sunday, June 22, 2008

The News - at last!

So............... I didn't get here last week, did I? I had good intentions, but a funny thing happened. We did get a Superior, all right, and we also got a new Council. Our Council is a group of 5 brothers who are elected to be a support for the Superior and to offer advice. Their consent is required for the Superior's appointments and a number of his other actions (one of our former Superiors claimed that the only thing he could do without the Council's permission was to name a new monastery). I wasn't expecting it at all, but I ended up being elected to the Council - it's been more than 20 years since I've been on the Council - and not only was I elected but I also became the Secretary. Thus ended any free time for writing a blog, because there were Priors and other officers to appoint and finances to discuss and many other things.

And now that I'm here I should stop the introduction and say that we do have a Superior, who is, just in case you haven't heard, Br Robert Sevensky. Robert has most recently been the Prior of Mt Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara, but he is very well known to people around here, having been at this monastery for a number of years before he went west. Robert is a native of the northeast, from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and besides his service to the Order for many years, he is the first Superior to hold an earned doctorate. He is the second superior of the Order who is not ordained (Br William Sibley was the first). He was elected on the first ballot, so the process ended up being both impressive and tolerable. He was elected by a large majority, so the community is pretty happy. He will be moving here in the early fall.

Two things happened to me in the course of the election which I thought I would share. One of them occurred during the balloting. As I mentioned in my last post, we vote one by one, in order of seniority. I get to vote pretty early in the process because I've been in the Order for a long time. So I was back in my stall in Choir and was just watching the brothers go to the side chapel and then to the altar with their ballots and come back down the aisle before the next one went. As one of the brethren came back down from the altar and made his way to his stall, I all of a sudden knew that we had an election. It wasn't something I guessed at or wondered about. I wasn't counting who was likely to be voting for whom, nor was I even aware of just how many brethren had voted. It was sudden and it came out of nowhere and I knew we had elected the superior. It wasn't spooky or even uplifting or joyful or anything like that; it was just knowing. I told myself, as I always do when something like this happens: "Well, that's nice, but we need to see how the election comes out - you never know about these things." But I still knew. As it turns out, given the majority by which the Superior was elected, I had in fact, probably come close to intuiting the ballot which actually elected him. No matter, that's just how it happened.

When the voting was complete we waited for two of the junior monks to count the ballots, which takes quite a while, given the care they need to take. And as we sat there waiting I had, once again very suddenly, one of the most powerful experiences of the presence of the Holy Spirit that I have ever had. I can only describe it as "weighty". It was like having a Mack Truck drive through the Church. There wasn't anything subtle about it. It was just like it says in Acts, "a mighty wind, which filled the whole place where they were sitting." The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, was the principal thing that was real in our Church at that moment. It was both unexpected and unmistakable.

Well, that's what happened to me. I'm not feeling the need to have evaluations or analysis, at least at this point. But I do want to say that I think that these intuitive experiences are far more common that we often think. Manifestations of the spiritual part of our being are both real and perfectly natural, and my own belief is that they happen to most people. But living as we do in a society that values the rational over everything else, I think that lots of people completely miss these things when they happen, and those people who do notice them are usually reluctant to talk about them. After all they aren't "normal" (by which we mean rational). But they are, in fact, perfectly normal. These things happen to people, lots of people. But so often they are missed or we hide them.

These little explosions of the Spiritual into our daily consciousness are, in my view, just part of what it means to be a human being. They don't make me holy and they aren't an indication that I'm special. They are just what happens because I have a spiritual part to my humanity, as every other human being does. I've learned both from the Christian tradition and from my experience that you have to be very careful about claiming anything about these happenings or making predictions based on them or telling people what they should be doing because of them. Mostly they're not for that. They are usually just moments when the veil is drawn aside and we see more of reality than we are usually open to. After all, the Holy Spirit is with us all the time, not just during the counting of ballots at an election. I just happened to realize this at one particular moment.

What should I do about it? I should be thankful. I should rejoice in this very nice gift that I've been given. I should be grateful for having had a moment when I became more aware of the fullness of who I am. And then I should get about the business of writing my blog, and finishing my correspondence and loving my neighbor and doing the laundry. I should work at being a Christian and a human being.

That's what these things are for. And that's enough.

And, oh yes, I should also tell those of you who don't know, that I have been reappointed as the Prior here for another term, so there will be more blog postings, God willing.

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