Saturday, April 23, 2016


First, an update on Edwin Rutto’s fundraising efforts to provide a latrine for his school back in Kenya. He told me yesterday that he has just about reached his goal. He will not send the money as a lump sum, but will send it to the principal there in installments as needed to complete each stage of construction.

Second, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, I’m going to ask for your feedback

on a chapter for a book of Easter reflections that I’m writing. I’m asking you to be a focus group and tell me if the reflection below is a good description of your own experience as a lay Christian who is seeking God. If you post your response in the “Comment” box at the bottom of the post, everyone will be able to see it. I really would love to have some help from you on this. Thanks!  

PATHS TO HOLINESS  (A reflection for Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter)

“They do not belong to the world, any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one.” (Jn 17:15-16)

Even though our monastery is located in the middle of downtown Newark, our cloister garden always seems to be insulated from the noisy busyness going on out on the street. At this moment, for example, I’m sitting on a bench during the evening rush hour, yet the loudest sound is the quiet chirping of a couple of birds.

I leave my bible closed on my lap so I can simply enjoy the experience of God’s presence right in front of me: the incredibly brilliant blue sky, the gentle spring breeze that is rustling the roses and the black-eyed susans, and the familiar, cheerful four-note song of the wind chimes in the dogwood tree nearby. I close my eyes and try to let the gentle music and the peacefulness of the place sink into my bones.  These are the pages of my bible this afternoon.

A stranger seeing me right now might mistakenly think that I’m “escaping the real world.” But these times of prayer and reflection each day don’t take me out of the “real world” -- just the opposite: they they help me enter into it more deeply, to appreciate its beauty, and listen to the Lord speaking through its voice.  As I stare at the pink flowers of the dogwood, I think of a definition of contemplation that I once heard: “Contemplation is a long, loving look at the real.” That definition could have first been thought up by someone while sitting in this garden on a spring afternoon like this one.

At the last supper Jesus didn’t pray that his followers might be taken “out of the world,” but rather that they not be “of the world.” Monks try hard to live that distinction -- we are determined not to be “of the world,” as Jesus put it, but we are most certainly “in the world.” Especially us monks of Newark.

I open my eyes and glance around at the buildings that house our elementary school and our high school. Educating young people is our major way of being “in the world,” of loving it, and cooperating in God’s ongoing work of creation.

As I listen to the wind chimes play their joyful song, I hear a little child’s voice -- one of our elementary school kids must still be waiting to be picked up from after-school care. I close my eyes and start to pray for parents who have to fight traffic every day after work to pick up their children. Their road to holiness seems a lot harder than mine.

Holiness, someone once told me, consists in simply being where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do. Parents, then, are becoming holy and finding God precisely by being “in the world” through being good parents, by loving their children and their spouses, and being loved by them in return.

A young father juggling two jobs and coaching his daughter’s soccer team meets God at work, in a vanload of noisy kids, and wherever else his vocation calls him to be. A mother stopping by the cleaner’s on the way home from work while she plans supper in her head is walking her particular path to holiness.

But it seems to me that they must have a much harder time than I do when it comes to not being “of the world:” they can get so involved in paying the bills and educating the kids and bathing the baby and keeping the house clean that they often don’t have the leisure to reflect on the meaning of all the things they’re doing that are their way to holiness.

Although I spend hours daily “in the world” teaching school, I also join my brothers in church a few times every day for mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, where we sing God’s praises in psalms and songs, consciously lifting up all of creation in prayer. In addition, I get to spend long periods alone in quiet meditation and sacred reading early in the morning and again in the evening. All of these are part of my8 vocation as a monk, and make it much easier to be “in the world” without being “of the world.”

A single bell in the church tower has started ringing, warning that supper is in a few minutes. I stand up, still holding my closed bible, and reluctantly head inside, ending my long, loving look at the garden, but still praying for all those parents whose daily path to holiness lead through rush hour traffic.

If you have some thoughts about this reflection or about your own path to holiness, could you please share a couple with us in the "Comment" box? Thank you!


  1. Thank you for giving parenting the respect it deserves and reminding me that as a busy parent although my job may be boring and taken for granted it is the most important job in the world. I thank the Lord that he blesses me everyday for my family and thank you for recognizing parenthood as holy.

  2. How insightful to read the perspective of parenting from a clergy member. I found myself reading your blog, first jealous of the time you have for meditation then nodding along and feeling validated as you identify the power of prayer found in daily life of busy parents. I entered this Lenten season with a 3 year old and a newborn. I had my reflection book at my bedside and promised myself that I would engage in daily reflection. How hard could that be? right??? About the third evening I wasn't able to do my reflection, a baby with colic and a toddler who had wet his bed (any everything else) made things a challenge and I began to get mad. I must be a good Christian and do my readings. I got impatient. I must tell the world, my children and husband to stop so that I could reflect on what it means to be a good person. I must do penance, pray a novena maybe fit in daily mass to prove to God that I was on a path to Holiness? Truth is, I was already walking on it. With every time I took a deep breath rather than yell at my toddler, I was showing him Patience. Everytime I stopped to nurse my newborn I showed him Trust. When I met my husband at the door with a smile rather than a grimace, I was showing him Love. God provided me (and continues to provide me) with opportunities to practice His teachings in Real Life and during Real Time. Thank you for your reflection.