Moving Forward in the Spiritual Life

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"It This All There is? Spirituality for the Long Haul", "Moving Forward in the Spiritual Life"

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Okay, well, I think we'll get started. It's great that so many of you could actually be here for the first session. It's sometimes hard for people to get here by 7.30 on a Friday night, depending on where they're coming from. So thanks to all of you for making that special effort to be here. So the title of this, isn't there a song? Is that all there is? What triggered this for us was a cartoon, I'm sure it was in the New Yorker, where there were two monks sitting next to each other in meditation, and one is answering the other one, and the answer is, this is it, there isn't anything else. So it was like the monk was saying, well, what else is there besides just sitting here? And the guy says, there isn't anything, this is it. So that was something that got my attention, and Paul and I talked, because that's not really true.


There's an infinitely greater that happens for people who are engaged in the spiritual journey over time. So that's what we wanted to try and focus on today. Many retreats are designed like an introduction to prayer, introduction to Lectio. So we don't really want this to be an introduction per se, but instead we want to focus on what happens when one continues on this path and has been on this path for some period of time. And we want to look at it within a monastic context, because that's the context for both of us. I'm a monk, Paula is a long-standing oblate of ours. So we thought that together that we might explore with all of you


what it might mean as we continue this, what it's been like for us, what our various experiences have been. So that will be the case for the two of us, and then we're going to involve you in this whole process as well. So what it isn't is that there is some secret knowledge that once someone's been following this life for a period of time that there's some secrets, and that we're here to hand over secrets to you. That's the second workshop after this one. But one of the things that comes, and I think you all know this from your own spiritual practices, is that as we continue with it, there's a way in which it gets simpler for us on the one hand,


and then more intimately complex on the other. And we want to be exploring that seeming paradox with you as well. So this is going to be very much a discussion-based retreat time. We actually have a few answers. So after some years of doing this, we have some specific things to offer. But then again, so will you have some answers. And then just as you have questions, we have questions. So the retreat is going to be very much a sharing among all of us over this period of weekend. We actually put in an additional session so that we have enough time to do all this. Normally we have four sessions, one on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. But we put an extra one in so that we can make sure


that people have an opportunity to share with each other and to engage with us around the issues that are important for all of you. So I'm Bede Healy. I've been a monk here for about 18 years. And prior to that, I was a monk at a monastery in Kansas for 15 years. So last year I celebrated 30 years of vows and 60 years of age. So the great thing for me was that at that point I had spent more than half my life as a monk. For me that had a certain kind of gravitas about it. 25th anniversary, that was some years earlier. But the thing that grabbed me then and still continues to grab me is that over half my life as a monk.


So I'm still trying to figure out what that means, but it continues to be important for me. So currently I am the treasurer here, and my background has nothing to do with finance. I'm by training a clinical psychologist, and I worked at the Menninger Clinic for quite a few years. And I was the director of religion and psychiatry there. So I was interested and have been from the very earliest time on the intersection of psychology and spirituality. And I cook, I do spiritual direction, I clean toilets. Just like all of you, there's many tasks that have to be done in small communities, and we all engage in those. I also spend time in prayer and reflection. Though sometimes I think I don't have enough time for that, but so it goes. I was attracted to the monastic life because I didn't know much about it.


My training was with Dominican sisters from grade school and high school, wonderful women from the Midwest. But it was women from a small order called the Sisters of Loreto. They're actually the ones that gave Gethsemane some of their first property. And when Gethsemane got started, where Thomas Merton is from. These were what kind of pushed me over the edge, were these women who were professionals, but also committed, devoted, religious. So that's what pushed me over the edge. As I was discerning that, they suggested, you know, you might find the Benedictines appealing to you. And I did, and I have, and I continue to do that. So what was it that attracted me? Well, it was the common life, the life together, and also the life of liturgical prayer, which is a large part of the Benedictine approach.


And Lexio, and then if you look at the sapiential... Where is Robert? Sapiential... Quadrilateral. Quadrilateral, that's Robert for you. Our prior has been talking with us and giving us a series of talks, and you know, he had a triangle. And the triangle includes three of these things. It includes liturgy, it includes the desert, fathers and mothers and the earliest forebears, those people in the first few hundred years right after the time of Christ, and then it also includes scripture. So what Robert has added are the role of the medieval and modern writers. So you'll have an exposure to all of that this weekend. We pray liturgically. You'll have time for Lexio. We will be talking about the desert fathers in particular


because the further one moves in the spiritual life, the earlier back it seems that you go to the original sources and find great solace there. And then finally, we have a writer, a modern writer with us. So let me turn it over to you for your introduction. Well, it's wonderful to see everybody here. And I know I've met some of you before because I recognize some faces, maybe from the assembly. Some people were at the assembly and just coming and going through all the years here at New Kemaldolene. But I'm Paula Houston, and I first began coming here probably in the very early 90s. I was brought here the first time by Janet, who's sitting in that back bench. She'd been coming here forever, since she was in her early 20s, I think, right, Janet? And so the first time I ever came up, I was just very recently back to faith.


I had been raised in a Lutheran tradition, been a real serious Lutheran kid. And then when I was late teens, which was the height of the 60s, like a lot of my contemporaries, I left the faith. I had all kinds of good reasons, I thought, and I stayed away for nearly 20 years. So the first time I came here in the early 90s, I had just barely started to open the door back up to faith. So it had quite a huge impact on me to come here for the first time, especially coming from a Protestant background. I had never really even been close to a priest before, much less monks. So it was very startling to be here. I was married at 19 the first time, married for 13 years, went through divorce. That was all during that era when I was very far away from church and faith and everything.


And just kind of had one of those tumultuous 60s-style aftermaths, I guess I would call it. But remarried and have two stepdaughters, two kids of my own. Now have four little grandkids. So it's a very busy, busy life. We live on four acres down in Arroyo Grande and raise lots of different things like olives and veggies. And we have beehives and chickens and the whole thing. So it's a kind of Benedictine life, which we didn't really plan that way. We started off on that before I even came to the Hermitage. We've been there almost 30 years now, been married almost 30 years. And I taught for a number of years at Cal Poly in the English department and then quit at 50. And I did that primarily because of you guys. There was a real draw, just a very powerful, deep draw to a quieter, more contemplative life.


And I was very, very blessed to have the ability to do that. My husband is 10 years older than me and he had just retired after 30-some years of high school teaching. So he said, let's live on my pension and see what happens. And our kids have by then launched into the world, so it was possible to do this. And I tell you, that was just a really blessed time to have. It was about five years before the kids started getting married and having babies and our parents got to the point where they were really needing a lot of help. We had this little zone in there where I think it was a very important part of my own spiritual life. Recently, about three years ago, I was invited to begin teaching again. And this time it's in a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. So I have five grad students a year and just mentor them through the first year of the program and then send them on to the mentor for the second year.


And again, coming back to teaching after this period of just being home and only writing, trying to practice as much as I could of what I had learned here. I became an Oblate, I think, in 1999. Is that right, Janet? We did it at the same time, so one of us should remember this. Yeah, so it's going on 15 years now, I've been an Oblate, and about 20-plus years of coming here. And I have a feeling some of you have been coming longer than me, you know. And so I'm very curious myself why you would choose a workshop with a name like this. Is that all there is? I thought this should be an interesting group of people who show up. So what we thought we'd do just to start off, and trying to make it quite brief, because there's going to be plenty of time to share your whole story this weekend.


That's going to be part of the whole thing. But if you could just maybe in a sentence or two say, why did you come to this retreat? Do you want to start? And you can tell us your name, just tell us your first name. My name's Wendy, and I live in Capitola. I've been coming here since about the same time, early 90s. And I mostly came here because Vida's a dear friend and read my dissertation for me. And I just like hearing the sound of his voice. And I haven't met Paul, I've read some of the things that you've written, and I thought it looked like a good combination. I can always use a little spiritual comedy, you know. So that was another part of it too. Thank you. Yeah, there is this need to go back to the well, isn't there, sometimes. Yeah. What about you? I'm Jeff, I've been here for a little over a month now.


I think I'm out of a particular location. And I was attracted to the name, really for the subtitle, which was Spirituality Built to Last, or something along those lines. For the long haul. For the long haul. And it struck me, because I'm considering a contemplative life as a vocation, this is really an important question. I'm making a lot of great discoveries, but just the concept of meeting people like me, who've been at this for a really long time, it does raise the question, how do you do it? Really? Come on, it's not that long. It's only 30 years. So, that's about it. I guess I came for two very obscure reasons. I'm a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. My name is Brian. I've been here since mid-September, almost April. Probably some of you have a similar experience, maybe not as dramatic as mine,


as finding this place healed. I almost didn't make it. And so, I asked my bishop to give me a chance to recover myself here, and I think I have proven that homopoly works. The two obscure reasons I came is, one, because of a homily that I heard at the North American College in the 90s by Monsignor from Boston, was about Peggy Lee's song. I mean, it's a pretty good homily. That's all there is to it. Peggy Lee, that's right. And I was a little embarrassed. Many of my classmates said we had no idea who Peggy Lee was or what he was talking about. I said, it's quite all right. But I just thought that, since that was such a good homily,


this is bound to be a very interesting homily. Well, it'll be interesting. I can promise that. I know who B is, but when I saw the thing and said, oh, well, I like that. This is Paula. Paula. Not Paula, anything. So I said, well, she must be somebody. It's good. And you will. I'm Elizabeth, and I'm also good by Lisa. So I've actually wanted to come up here for at least seven years. So when I was in high school, I said, have you ever heard of this place? Are you kidding me? I've never wanted to go. And it was really special to me,


because actually Paula was one of the first books I read that I started in my discernment. And it meant a lot. And I just got your most recent book. So I've been super excited to hear you speak and be involved with the retreat that you're involved in. So I can turn it on now. Great. My name is Michelle. I'm from California. I've never been here before. I don't know that I was attracted to, not so much Is It Solar? In fact, I didn't even know what it was called, to be honest, because I really wanted to go on a spiritual retreat and continue my spiritual path. And when I looked at it last week, I was like, this is the title. This is perfect. Because we were having a discussion at work, like, is this it? Like, this is our lives in a cubicle.


And, you know, looking at the computer and doing the same thing, is this it? And I was like, this is perfect. So I'm really grateful to be here. My name is Julie. I'm thrilled to be here. I am a newbie at New Comorley. I came for the first time in August. This is my third time since. I have many years' practice kind of on the outside, contemplative practice. I have a very close friend who is an outlet here, so you may know her now. We went to college together. She's been dragging me, trying to get me here, for years. And I finally did it. And Paula, my husband met you last spring at the Mercy Center, at the Lenten thing, and brought home some of the Lenten practices


that I had read some of your things before this. So I was attracted to that. Also, I'd heard about you and your background in psychology and medicine. So just a lot of different pieces. I'm really longing to have my own soul fed and then have what's here integrated. Great. Excellent. My name is David Kusmar, and I have been a Catholic since birth. And I've had 17 years of Catholic education. I was married in a Catholic church and been married for 44 years. Retired from having been an office jockey and working in an office for 42 years just last year. And this title, I've always been in the church, I guess you might call it. But this title just seems to work perfect


in this part of my life, because it's like, okay, I've passed through that whole work stage. I don't feel much different than I did 30 years ago. And so I'm retired. I've been a Catholic. I feel good in my skin about that. But I also have found with Maulville, and for the six or seven years I've been coming here, have always brought me back from situations that I needed help with. And I don't feel like I need help now, but I feel like I could grow more. And maybe you will tell me some of those secrets. One or two. And I'm Susie Kusmar, and I was hoping for the secrets as well. I'm really disappointed. I would say threefold purpose. When I first came, I also regret the holy way.


I was just too chicken to talk to the monk for years. And that's what got me through. And it was, I resonate with you, and a lot of us, when we walked in, we've come here, and we know we belong here. And I felt that so deeply, and your book got me through so much, and I just want to say thank you. You're very welcome. We've gone through a number of these reflection times, retreats. I always enjoy you, and I saw the title. Perfect. Perfect title, and I'm just really looking forward to your presentation. Well, you know, this notion of feeling at home and being at home, and have that become a stronger thing over time, I think is a key element. We've heard that. Well, it was true. I mean, I transferred here. I was at another monastery. It's a very rare thing to transfer. Monks just don't normally do that, but I did.


So it's often an experience people have, there's something that feels like home about this. It is one of the things we'll explore, what it means to be at home, and how we become more at home. I'm Denise. I live in Cambria, and I probably passed by this place since the 60s, but never stopped until probably, I guess maybe two years ago. I'm not sure. And what about coming home? I just, it's hard to describe it. I just felt, this is where I belong. So I met with Robert Kendall and started the program into being a monk later. So I'm still a newbie, and I have a book that I'm reading, but I've been on a spiritual journey and in ministry for probably 30-something years, or more, I don't know. So I just wanted to know more,


and I found your name on the Aggie Arts magazine. Oh, yeah. And so when I saw your name, I thought this would be good to start that, and that's how I got to come. So this is my friend, so I'm glad to have her with me. I'm just saying, glad to come. I wasn't sure. My name's Lori, and I live in Cayugas, and I wanted to come, I'm going to try not to cry. I'm a widow, a recent widow, and I need to know that there is more. I know there is. I know in my mind. Sure. I need it. I just need it. Sure. Great. Thank you. Back to... My name is Deanna. I first came up here in 1978,


and crying, I left. I just loved this place. Again, it felt like home. Any excuse to come up here, I love it, I like what it's going to be. I'm going to support all of us, and give it to you. Mr. Virgil, I love you. Great. My name is Chris, and this is my first time here. I was, I think it was in October, finishing my Master's, my own paper, and I was reading the New York Times, and this, the Hermitage was described in an article about things survey, and I went, bingo, that's it. I just, you know, I wanted to go, and there were no rooms, but I called a few days later, there was a cancellation, so that was really cool. Yeah, I just, I don't know, just kind of getting me, I was raised strict Catholic, and I have not been


observant for a long, long time, but I always say, you can take the girl out of the church, but you can't take the church out of the minister. I've been going to Italy a lot, and I know it's like this thing there, that drew me back. So it all just kind of came together, and I'm glad to be here. Welcome. My name is Lou Neal, and I'm here because my college freshman roommate, Kathleen, looked at our schedule and said, I think it's between 930 and 945 on Tuesday, you know that kind of thing, because we live in two different worlds, and so I'm really pleased to be here. I think I've been trying to do a retreat at Big Sur since the 60s, when we met, and I have a meditative practice, it's sort of an intellectual approach to spirituality, which is all very interesting. I teach at a Jesuit university, so this is some kind of antidote or something.


Gonzaga? Oh, sure, yeah. And they do say Gonzaga, I know it's Gonzaga. But they say Gonzaga. It's very odd. Okay, well, welcome. My name is Catherine, I've been coming here since the 90s. My first sort of monastic home was Osage in San Francisco. Oh, of course. And then I've been to Chantilly. So I've had this journey, and I have recently spoken at a lot of huge life changes, which I've gotten to that part of it, but it is true, now what? You know, what is, so I was very attracted to that, and now I could get it very well. So, you know, I've had a practice, a contemplative practice. I'm not, I'm happy in the monasteries, but I don't live in a monastery. I'm Nancy Benedict,


and this is my first time here. I live in South Orange County. I've been happily married for 40 years. I grew up as a Methodist, and I knew from the time I was little that there was something more. I had a couple of experiences, and I was always searching for that something deeper that I couldn't get. In the Protestant faith, a lot of my friends were Catholic. I converted to Catholicism in the late 60s, and then I faded away. I just wasn't quite getting what I was needing in my heart, and then 17 years ago I found Self Realization Fellowship with Paramahansa Yogananda, and started practicing various techniques of yoga, of spiritual yoga and meditation, and I found that through the years with that, my whole


love of Christ and Christianity just went, just this little torch was lit inside of me. I felt this conflict. Do I go one side or the other? What is it? And then I was invited to come up here, and everything has been put together this week. It's amazing, like all my questions have been answered. I was, one of the monks had led me to the books of E.D. Griffiths, who had lived, and was in an ashram in India, and he's been putting the two together, and from reading his books, I've been just going, oh yes, all week. It's been one of those, oh my goodness, all my questions are being answered. You didn't have to do anything. I've also learned that there's a wonderful Benedictine Abbey closer to me in the Oceanside.


Sure, yeah. And so I can consult with them. So I guess I've been into spirituality for the long haul. And I learned how to unite the East and the West. So we did break the rules, we did allow one very beginning person to come, and that would be Mia. My name is Mia, and the reason why I'm here is I want to find out whether there's all there is. That's the reason. Always to the point, Mia. I've been coming here since 94, and I'm wondering if I beat you by one year. I think so. I came in 96. I came in 94 with my husband, and we both are converts to Catholicism. He became a deacon, and he functioned here as a deacon. He passed away about four years ago.


But when we found the new commodities, again, we found we were home. But our background is similar to Nancy's. Before we were Catholics, we belonged to the Self-Realization Fellowship, which taught us to meditate, and here, I feel I really have a chance to go deeper in meditation, and that's my main goal, to find God as it is with all of us. Right. I hope to find Him tomorrow. 945. 945. That's in session three. I'm Carol, and I'm from Long Beach, and Mia brought me here three years ago, and we've come each


year since then, and I just love this place because it's a voice that's in the desert. I'm so tired of overpopulated areas and noise, and come up here and it's so quiet, and I'm on the downside now. I'm 85 years old, and I know there isn't a lot of time left, and I was a church organist for many, many, many years, but as an organist, I was involved with having to do a service, do Masses, and didn't feel that I was really worshiping as I would like, but after retirement, and I was a caregiver for many years, then I found a time, and this is actually my spirituality is what I really wanted to work on, and that's why I come here. Excellent. So happy feast day. Yes, great.


Today's a feast of St. Cecilia and all the musicians. I'm Sister Mary, from Los Angeles, and this is my second time here. I was here 45 years ago. Oh my gosh! And I didn't ever expect to come back again. But I did through the generosity and love of my friends here. I actually didn't know the name of this workshop until this evening. But when Mia said it to me, I said, I might as well. I mean, God is full of surprises. There's always something awaiting everybody, so I said, just put me in. We're glad you're here. Yes, special welcome to those first-timers. It's not always easy to get away,


and it's not always easy to get here, and so you have managed to do both, so that's really wonderful. So I just want to extend a real warm welcome. And to those who have been here before, it's about time you got that. And in some ways, this will be like a one-room schoolhouse, because what I'm hearing is that everybody is in different places, different stages, you know. But I think this is going to all still be able to gel. And we were saying we don't want to hold them too long tonight, but how about if we start our interview? Right. Okay. Let's do it. So we're going to sort of interview each other a little bit, and then we're going to hand off the questions to you to think about, and then when you come back, we'll be encouraging you to do that with each other, and then we'll mix things up and we'll go along like that. Yeah, and of course this is going to


have a monastic umbrella over it. We're specifically talking about a monastic way, you know, because that's where we are as a monastery. So Beat, I think you already answered question number one, which was, at what point in your life were you drawn to monasticism, and what were you hoping for when you signed up? Right, so I'll just say a little more about that. I was 29, well, 30. I entered actually when I was 29. I took my vows when I was 30, my first vows. So I was looking for community, I was looking for a liturgical life, you know, based in Scripture, and I was looking for a contemplative life. So in my first monastery, I got two out of the three. I didn't get a contemplative. I didn't quite know that that's what I was looking for back then. But my spiritual


director, a wonderful nun from the Benedictine Sisters that were across town, she says, you know, our way of life here in Kansas, she says, it's a monastic life, but it's not a contemplative life. The Benedictines in almost every case in the United States, especially those that came in the 1800s, they came to meet the pastoral and parochial needs of the immigrants. So they weren't founded to lead a contemplative life. They were founded to have schools and take care of parishes, and that's what they've done and continue to do and do well. So I had two out of the three. And it was only later that I was able to get the third part by coming here. How did you know about the contemplative life? I mean, you're 29 years old. How did you come to that? I'm going off script here. I didn't really know that's what


I wanted. Okay. You just knew you weren't getting something. Well, apparently whatever I was talking about with her was not what I was going to get there. And I think that was the point that she was making. We do things, some of what you want and you'll find here, and other things you won't. And she's the one that first used the word contemplative. So it was a new concept for something you had been seeking without really understanding what it was. When I was in 8th grade I had read Seven Story Mountain. The Dominicans got a bunch of boys together on a Saturday and we read and talked about that book. Of course it was a vocational thing, but I didn't realize it at the time. I thought it was just extra reading stuff that I had to do as a kid. So I knew a little bit about it, but I had no personal experience with it. And how did you find the Kamaldolese? My


original, my undergraduate degree is in biology, so I had a very scientific mind at the time. So I was doing a lot of research, and I was reading about places. And I read about New Kamaldolese back then, so this would have been like 85, no, 80. And I thought, no, this would be too strange. And I was right, not that the place was strange, but it wouldn't have been a fit for me at that time. I really needed, I think, immersion in the community life. And back in those days, Brother Gabriel, who was one of the, I would say, one of the founding members of this community, those earliest years, there was just a real emphasis on solitude. And that was more than I would have been able to have handled at the time. And besides it was California,


I'm from Wisconsin, and I had no desire to move out to the land of earthquakes. What turned out, what would you say was your biggest challenge, or your biggest stumbling block internally, to making a monastic practice work, or a monastic life work? Well, I thought, and I've thought this in various parts of my life, that if I just put in the right kind of effort, that I could make all of the pieces fit together. Wendy, who is also a psychologist, she'll appreciate this. When I was doing some of my training in that area, even before my doctorate, I wanted all the pieces to fit. And I said, I'll just read voraciously, which I did, and then it'll all come together. And, you know, it didn't.


And it doesn't. But some things did. Some things came together. So for me, I would say part of the stumbling block is that I thought this was something that I'd be able to do myself. So like the notion of surrendering to a process, or to an experience, or to a relationship. I mean, those were categories that were... I didn't have categories for those kind of experiences early on in my life. And that only came with time. With time. So you were kind of achievement-oriented? Oh yeah, very much so. Driven. Was there a particular person who helped you see this? Did you have some kind of a spiritual mentor who helped you? Or what may have helped you finally understand?


Yeah, I would say a number of people did, you know, personally helped me over time with that. And then I think in the great desert tradition, just the experience of falling down and getting back up again. So, you know, mistakes, or tripping up, you know, and it's not as though that really, as you all know, ever really ends. Sometimes the older we get, the harder it is to get up. Both physically, as well as spiritually. I had fallen and broke a bone in my foot. this was actually some years ago, ten years ago, and I remember in the emergency room the nurse said, you know, it's harder to fall the older you get. And that phrase has always sort of stuck with me as having a richer


meaning than just the physiological facts of that. It is sometimes harder to get up again. So it's the multitude of mistakes. That you finally got used to making. Yeah, I am fairly used to it. Sort of comforting right now, right? Well, you know, it actually is. Do you want to go on with that? Yeah, I don't find that I beat myself up like I used to. I just get going again. I'm sort of used to that. One of the monks here, Peter Damian, you would remember him. He would be the person who reacquainted me with New Camaldoli when I did my transfer here. So it would be because of him, actually, that I came. I knew him for many years before coming here. But he had sent me a little drawing


of some monks. He either got it out of a book or did it himself. He was an artist, but it was always we get up again. You know, which is a strong and recurrent theme in the desert tradition. And I think that's true. So even though it's harder, it's the falling down and getting up. After years, 30 years, of monastic practice, do you see any evidence in yourself of transformation on a personal level? And what is it? And how were you able to recognize it? So there was an elderly sister in Acheson. That's where my other monastery was. And she was a wonderful spiritual director. She described herself as a great allower. And I remember when she first said that


I thought, well, that's a stupid thing to do. What are you allowing people to do? You know what they're doing. You know that's not going to work. Why don't you just tell them that? And I never said it to her. Thank God. But I did have that. I probably should have, actually. She could have corrected me earlier. I'll tell you something. But that made no sense to me. But it makes tremendous sense to me now, this sense of allowing. The spiritual life is one of relationship and experience and engagement. And it isn't a matter of when I was when I first, I love to this is the obsessive part of me. I used to love to make schedules. And then I'd get up at this time and then I would have this time for Lectio


and then I would go for a walk. So maybe I don't go for a walk. And I still am drawn toward that sometimes as though having a schedule and following these external things is going to save me. And the external things do save me because one of the things that I've discovered in myself is that I couldn't do this without the support of my brothers. I'll say the word, but I don't really mean it this way. I'd be a failure. I don't really mean I'd be a failure, but it just wouldn't work. I just know that I need the support and sustenance and structure that the monastic life and my brothers and my sisters, the larger Kamalvalese community gives me. I'd be lost without it, just lost. Does that answer something?


Yeah, no, it does. Have there been any points along the way where you felt like you had broken through somehow in your relationship with God? Were you just going along for 10 years or 12 years or whatever, and then something major shifted? No. It's always been a matter of very small things. So for me, I can't say, I had this experience. I haven't. I've had lots and lots of little experiences, and some of those have had a profound impact on me. Here's one. One of the monks here was driving me crazy. So we're no different than anyone else is as far as that goes. He was just driving me crazy. I was standing right outside our door


and I just happened to see him just walking along. And then all of a sudden, I don't want to say he didn't drive me crazy anymore because he still drove me crazy, but something shifted in the way that he didn't bother me as much as he used to. And it wasn't anything that I hadn't been trying. Sorry. I hadn't been trying to get over this. I just hadn't. So what I say, I would say that that was an experience. It was a graced moment. I look at it, something changed in me and my sense of him and then ultimately other people too. So that was of the Lord. It's not a big thing, but that's just one example of many, many small things. So yeah, the answer is no. Interesting. How's your original


vision of what monasticism was going to be changed in these 30 years? Oh, well... After learning what the word contemplative meant. Right, so here I am treasurer, which is not something that I actually enjoy doing. But we don't tend to get too many MBAs and people with accounting degrees joining the monastic life. So I think I'll do this till I die, probably. But I guess what I've come to understand is that there's a certain way of being, and it doesn't much matter what the tasks are. And that, you know, the Italians always say this phrase, you know, we're an Italian-based community, we come from Italy.


There's only, there's less than 90 of us in the world, there's a couple hundred women. Huge numbers in Africa, actually. And in fact, yesterday was a day of celebrating the contemplative life in the church. It's always the 21st of November. And the Pope went to our Monastery of Women in Rome and prayed there with them and meditated with them. Why was I talking about that? I don't know! I was wondering how your original vision of monasticism changed, if it had. So, you know, there's a sense of engaging in a flow of the life so that contemplative experiences permeate the day and the life


and are not just limited to what might be considered classic contemplative practices. But that's not much different from other religious traditions, too. You know, in the Buddhist tradition, Zazen is not meditation. Zazen is a way of life. So I would say it's similar to that. And finally, what would you say to someone who's just starting on this kind of monastic way of spirituality, whether they're becoming a monk or becoming a friend of the monastery or an oblate or something like that? Well, it's a grand adventure. You know, it certainly has its difficult moments, but that's no different than anyone else's life. What I have found over time is that there's been


a greater depth of experience, a greater self-acceptance, less of a need to perform. You know, I still make up lists that I hope that I'll accomplish, but I have less trust in those these days. And if anything, it's a warning sign that something's gone wrong if I have to start making lists again. So I would say it's led me to a much greater self-acceptance. And surprisingly, I'm much more of an allower now than I was back then. Our past comes to haunt us. I visit a friend every number of years


if I'm doing a workshop in Cincinnati, and I just did one recently. And we go back many years, and he always reminds me of things that I said to him that I just wish I had known. So that's actually kind of a good check for me, too. You know, he said, didn't you remember when you said this to me? And then I have to admit that I do remember. And then I'm sometimes just appalled that I would have said something like that. So progress means becoming appalled sometimes. And then having some joy in the changes that take place. Thank you. That was a good interview. And you're supposed to do this to me for me, but I think maybe we should wait until tomorrow. Don't you think? Yeah, let you all go to bed. What about that for an idea?


So we can just meet back here, and I'll pass out these questions, though, for you if you'd like to. I'll interview you tomorrow. At the beginning. You'll break into some pairs to sort of interview each other a little bit. So this way you can give your... Meditate on me. These will be questions that you'll be asked. And also that you'll be asking someone else in this group. So just to get a little head start. So tomorrow morning we don't have vigils. Did you... So that twice a month we don't have vigils on Saturday. So the first office is at 7 o'clock instead of 5.30. So... And you should feel free to come to office at Mass


as you would like. And if you don't want to, and you prefer to have more solitude or whatever, that's perfectly fine. You do want to make an attempt if you didn't get a chance to see it tonight, to pay attention to the sunset tomorrow. This time of the year here, it's just spectacular. I remember when I first saw a painting by Arthur, one of our monks, with this red sky. So he made that up. But no, he didn't. God made that up. So you know, use the time. And we don't have a... We're probably not going to go over more than 45 minutes usually at a time. So you'll have time for rest and reflection. We won't be meeting tomorrow night. It's at 5... 5 o'clock is the last one tomorrow. 5, okay. Just before...


Before Vespers. Then you'll have the evening free. We'll meet in the morning on Sunday and then you'll all join us and join the Manassas community for lunch that day. Okay? Do you have your flashlights? Because you'll need them to get to work. Yeah. I'm just hoping that you'll be able to have a real retreat in the midst of a retreat. You know, sometimes retreats can get so busy and packed and you're taking notes so fast that you can't just be in the place that you've come. That's kind of what we're hoping for. Right. This is more of a process than a didactic. Right. Okay. Thank you. Have a wonderful evening.