😎🐫🎤 Christ’s peace and presence be with you. Today I would like to share the Prologue to Holy Moments A Handbook for the Rest of Your Life by Matthew Kelly.
Once upon a time there was a monastery deep in the forest. It was full of monks, they were full of joy, that joy was contagious, and people traveled from far and wide to visit.
One day a young man asked the Abbot why people came to the monastery. “Most come looking for answers to their questions,” the old monk explained. The young man was curious what type of questions people asked. The Abbot continued, “They come seeking answers to the same questions all men and women ponder. What should I do with my life? Am I wasting my one short life? Where do I find meaning? How do I get the most out of life?”
The young man had traveled a long distance to visit the monastery, and as he walked away the old monk wondered what question the young man’s heart was wrestling with.
Time passed in life at the monastery changed. It was ever so gradual at first. A couple of the monks became cranky. They had slowly closed their hearts to God and each other. Other monks became jealous. A younger monk was more handsome and popular with the visitors. Some of the monks began to argue about things of no consequence, and the poison of gossip crept into the monastery.
Visitors notice that little by little life at the monastery was deteriorating. They perceive the monks were losing their joy, they noticed the monks were not as kind to each other, and overtime they observe the monks growing impatient with their visitors.
The seasons came and went, and fewer visitors came to the monastery, until one day, the people stopped coming all together.
The Abbot rose each morning an hour before his brother monks and sat in the chapel asking God to give him the wisdom necessary to revitalize the monastery. But another summer came and went, and in the depths of the coldest winter ever, profound sadness ripped the old Abbott’s heart. He thought he had tried everything.
For hundreds of years people had come here longing for a glimpse of God in the monastery had thrived. What had he done wrong? He was wrapped with guilt and shame. The gap between his faith and his life and widened, and he didn’t know how to close it.
“Where are you going?” Brother Killian asked.
“I will visit the Hermit in the mountains to seek his counsel on our situation here at the monastery.”
There was a wise Hermit who lived in the mountains thirty miles to the north. People traveled into the mountains to seek his wisdom. The Hermit and the Abbot had been childhood friends, but this the other monks did not know.
“When will you return?” Brother Owen asked.
“Three days,” the Abbot replied.
“Who is in charge while you were gone?” Brother Fabian asked.
“I will let you decide that among yourselves,” the Abbot said. His words were still hanging in the air when the arguing broke out.
There was a time when the other monks would have been concerned about him making such a journey. But they were no longer concerned for each other, only themselves. There was a time when one of the others would have offered to accompany him, but those days were gone.
The Abbot slipped quietly out of the monastery and began his journey towards the mountains. Walking through the forest, and those first miles of his journey, he observed that his heart was anxious. But with each passing mile he became aware of a rising hope in his heart.
As dusk was falling, he came upon a small clearing in the foothills and decided to sleep there for the night. The old man gathered some wood, made a fire, ate a little bread and cheese, and settle down to sleep.
He was startled in the night by the howling of wolves and the screeching of wild parrots. He noticed his heart was racing, but he was not afraid. He did not fear death, he feared the torture of life without meaning.
Late the following morning he arrived at the Hermit’s cave. The Hermit was standing just outside the cave. As the Abbot approached, he said joyfully, “I have been waiting for you!” and the two men embraced like long-lost brothers.
“I’ve something to ask you,” the Abbot said.
“I know, but that can wait,” the Hermit replied.
“First, I want to show you something.” The Abbot was possessed by an inpatient that surprised him, but he followed his old friend.
The two men walked peacefully through the trees and after about fifteen minutes of fine lake was before them. It was breathtaking.
The Hermit sat on a large boulder at the side of the lake and the Abbot sat on a smaller boulder next to him. They sat in silence for over an hour and the Abbot felt a deep peace rising in his soul.
The lake was clear and still. The surface was like glass and the sun was reflecting perfectly on the water like a golden disc. The Abbot was mesmerized.
When the sun had reached its pinnacle, the Hermit began to speak, “A still pond reflects the sun perfectly. God is the sun. You are the lake. When your soul is still and clear you reflect the truth, beauty, and goodness of God to everyone you encounter. As the day goes on, the wind will pick up, the lake will be full of ripples, and you will barely be able to see the sun’s reflection in the water.”
After a few minutes the two men walked back through the cypress trees to the cave. As they sat drinking tea the Abbot describe what had happened at the monastery over the past several years. The Hermit listened closely and when the Abbot had finished asking a handful of clarifying questions. “What have you come here to ask?” was the Hermits last question.
“What wisdom do you have for us? How do we rejuvenate the monastery? How can we best serve the people who come to visit?” The Abbot asked.
“That’s three questions,” the Hermit said with a smile so radiant that the Abbot had to look away. “I will answer your three questions with one answer,” the Hermit continued. “Go back and tell the brothers… The Messiah is among you.” And with that the Hermit closed his eyes and slipped into a deep meditation.
“The Messiah is among us, what can that possibly mean?” The Abbot mumbled to himself. But as he walks slowly down the mountains the full meaning of the Hermit’s words took root deep in his soul.
Back at the monastery the monks were growing concerned. The Abbot had said he would be gone three days and he had already been gone five days. The next evening when there was still no sign of him, they began discussing what fate might have befall in him. The following morning Brother Fabian callously suggested he was not coming back either because he had died in the mountains or because he had abandoned them for some other life.
Just as the sun was setting that afternoon Brother Bartholomew saw a figure approaching the monastery and cried out, “We have a visitor.” It was not a visitor. It was the Abbot.
He whispered softly to Bartholomew, “Gather everyone in the chapel.” The Abbot was radiant as he sat before the whole community on the small wooden stool. He looked 10 years younger. The monks could not remember a time when he seemed so fully alive.
He told the other monks of his journey and shared with them the message he had received, “This is what I asked the Hermit. ‘What wisdom do you have for us? How do we rejuvenate the monastery? How can we best serve the people who come to visit?’ The Hermit replied, “That’s three questions. I will answer your three questions with one answer. Go back and tell the brothers… The Messiah is among you.”
The monks were astonished and gasped.
From that moment on they looked at each other differently, they thought of each other differently, and they began to treat each other differently.
The monks wondered day and night who the Messiah among them was. Was it Adrian, Bartholomew, Killian, Owen, Fabian, or was it the Abbot himself? And as the brothers wondered they began to treat each other with renewed kindness and a profound respect.
As time passed the Abbot noticed little things. There was a new spirit of cooperation. The brothers praised and encouraged each other, compassion and forgiveness return to their hearts, and they were kind to each other.
These little things, these Holy Moments, breathed new life into the community. The monks were flourishing. The monastery was flourishing. Even the flowers in the fields and the cows in the barns seemed happier.
And then one day it happened. The visitors returned. At first it was just one or two visitors like it had been in the past. But then they brought their friends, and their friends brought their friends.
Those that came to visit the monastery noticed that the monks were overflowing with joy. They perceive the monks had a profound reference for each other. And they observe the monks’ unquenchable patients with their visitors.
In a few short years the monastery had been transformed from the brink of collapse and was thriving like never before. A village sprung up around the monastery and the monastery became the center of life for the people in the village. The monks love the people, the people love the monks, and they all live together in harmony and happiness.
One Saturday afternoon the old Abbot was sitting on the bench in the courtyard looking gratefully towards the mountains, when a woman approached. Sitting down next to him she asked, “What happened here?”
The old monk beamed his warm knowing smile and asked, “What do you mean?”
“This place has been completely transformed,” the woman explained.
“No,” the Abbot disagreed gently, “the place is exactly the same. It’s the monks who have changed.”
“How did it happen?” she asked.
“We started living as if the Messiah was among us,” the Abbot replied
The woman pondered that for a moment and then began to weep. The old man put his arm around her to comfort her. She told him about her life and troubles. The woman shared with him the question that was tormenting her soul, the question that had urged her to visit the monastery. And they sat in silence for a long time.
“What advice do you have for me?” the woman asked, breaking the silence.
The two sat quietly for another long moment before the old man spoke, and then he said, “Treat every person you ever meet like the second coming of Jesus in disguise.”
Bless others and be blessed.
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#MatthewKelly – Holy Moments