I recently received a lovely gift of creamed honey, gathered and purveyed by the Cistercian Nuns of the Redwoods Monastery. Accompanying the jar of honey was the current "Michaelmas" issue of The Valerymo Chronicle, the newsletter of St. Andrew's Abbey, a Benedictine order in California's high desert.
In between "ModPo" assignments, I have been chewing through this very nice publication. To call it a newsletter doesn't do it justice, really. It's more a compact literary journal, with reflective essays interspersed with poetry written by a now-retired monk, artwork, and even a reprint of a homily from a special mass. Come to think of it, it follows the format of our church's Ensign.
Perhaps from my friendly exposure to Jesuits at Georgetown, the Leung heritage as converts from the Maryknoll missionary effort in China, and working in the liberal studies tradition greatly shaped by the role of the Catholic Church over the centuries, I have long felt comfortable with the Catholic vocabulary and perspectives.
From the readings, two themes jumped out at me. One was that the first word of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict is "listen": listen to the wisdom of God at work in our minds and hearts. The second sprang from Genesis 50:20: "And God meant it unto good." I had not paid attention before to this small phrase tucked away at the end of the story of Joseph in Egypt.
Father Isaac Kalina, OSB, who took this scripture as the title of his essay, wrote that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and about how it was affecting his life -- not about how the pains and discomforts are affecting him, but rather how he is trying to use his condition for good.
He writes, "Whenever any kind of disaster strikes, something goes wrong. . .know that there is another side to it, that you are just a step away from something incredible, something miraculous." He calls that step "surrender to God's will," or to put it in our LDS vocabulary, to allow the Atonement to work within us. He continues: "Eventually you arrive at the realization then to do what you have to do, whatever the situation requires. This is the culmination of a life-lived-well, following in the steps of Jesus, our own sharing in [His] crucifixion. We can pray that it become our Resurrection, too! As inseparable as time and pain are for us here, they will never be found later in heaven. . . . Instead, there will arise an incredible stillness from within us, and there we will find a great peace. Within that peace, we will discover unfathomable joy. And within that joy, such a deep love -- one we have never known before on earth. And at its innermost core, there is God waiting for us."
Feeling as I now do, having been given the ability to step back from medical brink, and having done, and still am doing, what I had to do, I'm realizing I am coming out at the other end of the tunnel from this NHL trial of my own. I'm starting to be able to see some good that has come from this. I have been motivated to do things which I would have left undone, and am now very glad to have done. I have been reminded of great love and have received incredible support. The expert at deferred gratification, I have discovered more joy in the here and now, to appreciate the every day, and to celebrate every day.
As I sip now my cup of chamomile tea with monastery clover honey, I give thanks for those who have listened to me, and who have helped me fight to blossom, and not wither, over the past two years.