And then it was just time to come home…
A brief story of a priest looking for the Way
I’m not one to finish a book that I don’t like. I can be in it a couple hundred pages and think to myself, “This just isn’t any good,” and put it on the shelf, never to be considered again. (I’ve even done that with a Stephen King book, but I may try that one again.) Last night, as I sat in my room at the monastery, I didn’t think it wasn’t good, I just thought I had done all I could do and I was ready for home, so I packed up and headed west.
I love serving God, His people, and His Church. I actually don’t know what I would be doing with my life if I was not a priest, but in the midst of all this COVID-19 business, I didn’t feel like I was being much of a priest. IT guy, audio and video guy, social media guy, hold down the fort guy… yes. At first, all this was new and fun to learn. It was a huge diversion from the things that I have been doing for the last fifteen years as a priest, but was I being a priest? I thought, no. Those aren’t priest things. Not only that, but the priest things were also taken away: no visiting, no services, no last rites, no anointing, no…. It felt like I was no longer a priest, so I thought I would head off somewhere that I believed would at least allow me the opportunity to feel priestly. Instead, I felt humiliated, defeated, stupid, wicked, and so far from God-when I compared myself to the monks-that I was unworthy.
To try and work through these things, I attempted to pray with the brothers. Y’all remember how I told you about taking French in high school and failing it? Yeah, well let’s just say my Latin is even worse. I spent all my time just trying to figure out where we were and little to no time actually praying, which only made me feel all the more ignorant and frustrated. (If you see someone new in our church, struggling to find the right page in the right book, do not hesitate… you go to them and you help them, even if you have to sit with them the entire service!) In addition (and I will not criticize the monastery), but when you do not feel welcome in a place (this probably has more to do with the nature of the monastery and not the heart of the monks), it makes it all the more difficult.
When I was in high school, I think maybe my senior year, I attended Christmas Eve Mass. It’s too long of a story to get into here, but before that service ever began, I walked out of the church and did not return for over a decade. Sitting through the morning offices on Monday, I encountered those same emotions, but I did not and do not want to walk away-never have!-but instead of wallowing in it, I sat through those services, just listening, and then that afternoon I went and prayed in the only way I really know how and it was there that I got to truly speak with Mary and then to my King, Lord, and Savior. He heard my cry… and he answered me.
IT guy, audio and video guy, social media guy, hold down the fort guy… yes. Priest… no.
No? “…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Priest? Yes… for such a time as this.
Clear Creek Monastery was only a geographic location. For me, it was not very holy, welcoming, or special. However, along the Way, I encountered Jesus and we sat together in a green pasture during the cool of the day….
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
When I knew these things, I closed the book before it was done, put it on the shelf, and drove home.
You are loved by God.
You are loved.
John+ A Priest.
7 Replies to “Home: Clear Creek Monastery”
Amen. Thanks for taking us along with you. Glad you are home safe, and you are a wonderful priest in and for all times.
Thanks, James. It is good to be home and with you all.
I read every word of your Clear Creek Monastery series. Your writings are often very entertaining. The dedication to live the life of a monk is bewildering. It was good to know that you are well
So good to hear from you!
I’m not a priest. I am a deacon. I’m still trying to figure out how to be a deacon when I am mostly confined to my home. How do I take Christ out into the world? These days it’s via Zoom or the telephone. How do I serve in times such as these?
Two things (for what they are worth):
1) This week I realized that I ‘believed’ I was not doing the work of a priest, because it did not look like it had in the past, but back to the passage from Esther, “for such a time as this”… I came to understand that (although perhaps not perfectly) I was in fact doing the work I was called to. I’m certain, as with all the ordained, your work as a deacon looks nothing like it has in the past, but if you are open to the Lord’s guidance, I believe that you will be doing EXACTLY what you are supposed to be doing.
2) The duties of the deacon are the care of widows and orphans. Feeding them. Clothing them. Etc. Through your Zoom communications and telephone calls… feed, clothe, etc… their souls. The isolation that COVID-19 has caused a dramatic increase in suicides. Hearing from you and (perhaps more importantly) being heard by you is doing much greater work than fulfilling any material need they may have.
You are doing great work in God’s Kingdom.
Thank you for your kind and helpful words. Covid hit just as I was resuming church work after major surgery. I was looking forward to resuming what I had been doing in the past. Now the whole world has changed.