SO HERE I am trusting the grace of obedience. The grace of the duty of the moment as I begin once more to write!

The old binders of notes from years ago are on this desk, vigils are lit before my icon wall, prayer prayed while writing becomes prayer.

Outside this little room in this little house, built like all the others in this area during the last great war of the world, to house the workers who made the weapons, trucks, bombs and other utensils of fraternal destruction, the mid November winds blow from across the great inner seas of this continent, harbingers of the snows which even now determinedly ascend from the arctic wilds, and the western altitudes of the Rockies!

How my being rejoices each year as winter approaches with its vastness of liturgical riches from Advent to Easter, its frozen stillness, the cities ablaze with lights from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Even the children of commercial darkness cannot easily resist the allure of light even if they refuse to adore Light from Light.

IT HAD all happened so quickly.

One moment I was a monk, struggling with the survival of my vocation.

One moment more and I was dressed in outdated secular clothing, sitting on a torn upholstery seat in a train wrenching me across the broken expectancy of the adolescence dreams which had been mine seven years earlier.

Now I was a work hardened, somewhat handsome, raw young adult returning to a world no longer the one he had left.

 I was an immigrant heading into new country.

What had happened to me?

How had my seemingly unchangeable until the grave monastic life ended so abruptly?

What had I missed?

What was wrong with me?

Why was God hurting me again in my life?

Why didn’t He like me anymore?

What would I do?

What would become of me?

What had become of me?

Where would I live?

Why would I live?

Who would I know?

Who would want to know me?

Well, if I was out of the monastery without explanation other than, as the Abbot intimated, there had been a consensus among the monks I didn’t any longer have a vocation, and, if God was allowing me to be tossed from the safety of that idyll into the jaws of terror and confusion, then I might as well be out of the church, out of faith, out of God.

Indeed it seemed to me it would be folly to remain close to a deity so easily fickle as to change His mind when such change meant so much pain.


Distance from such a God would be wise indeed.

I remembered the grainy photo I had seen in a major news-magazine showing the shadowed nude body of a young man in the new style of ads.

Perhaps I could find him and he would be for me what God clearly could, or would not be: the affirmation of my being.

I recall reading somewhere John Henry Cardinal Newman, in a sermon; spoke of how doubts arise from disobedience, which itself is rooted in a life corrupted by bad company or evil books. This all, ultimately, ends in disbelief, which is the deliberate chosen refusal to believe, to reject the gift of faith, and is one of those genres of sin which is terrible above all: sin against the Holy Spirit.

PRISONS OF FINITUDE! Like every other being, man is born in many prisons. Soul, body, thought, intuition, endeavour; everything about him has a limit, is itself tangible limitation; everything is a This and a That, different from other things and shunned by them. From the grilled windows of the senses each person looks out to alien things which he will never be. Even if his spirit could fly through the spaces of the world like a bird, he himself will never be this space, and the furrow which he traces in the air vanishes immediately and leaves no lasting impression. How far it is from one being to its closest neighbour! And even if they love each other and wave to one another from island to island, even if they attempt to exchange solitudes and pretend they have unity, how much more painfully does disappointment then fall upon them when they touch the invisible bars — the cold glass pane against which they hurl themselves like captive birds. No one can tear down his own dungeon; no one knows who inhabits the next cell. [am]


SOMETHING exploded as I wrote out the above paragraph from those original notes which never came to my heart before about Von Balthaser’s cryptic, yet profoundly insightful, notion of the human condition: not only, which is why I use the quote, does it reflect how I was when, literally, my face was against the ‘ cold glass pane ‘ of the train compartment, but there is also here, as everywhere if we dare open wide the doors of our being, the tender presence of Christ seeking to penetrate through the pane, of our pain: He gazes, He speaks, He touches….{Song of Songs ch.2:9, 10 & ch.5:4}

In a few hours I would be back in the city, which was no longer my city.

A city which, as the train entered its outskirts was a foreign country.

I was returning to a place in which the remnants of my family lived, but which was a building I had never inhabited, peopled by persons I’d never really met.

I was terrified.

Undoubtedly, looking back these forty years, I was having a nervous breakdown.

I could not afford to be that vulnerable.

I needed to survive and I would.

The tree of addiction, that towering mass of sin and neurosis which overshadowed my being may have been cut down, its parts burned in my monastic life of penance, but the roots had lain dormant, for none had known, least of all my own self, of the need to uproot them.

Now, even as the train rumbled into the unfamiliar yet recognizable city, those roots became tendrils which would become a new great thorn tree and engulf my being.