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Desire and the Monastic Journey

Discussion in 'Coffee House' started by Mark Dohle, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Principalities

    Desire and the Monastic Journey

    What has brought us to the monastery? It is the desire in our heart. Of course we are not going to be as conscious of the force of desire itself but we might say something like we have come to love God or to sacrifice ourselves for others. But the fact is we want something. We want – something. I purposely stress the want – because in that lies desire. St Benedict is aware that it is desire that jump starts our journey. In the Prologue, the Lord lifts his voice and using the words of the psalmist says ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days’ Desire is behind our coming to the monastery.—Dom Gerard

    When I was a young man in High School, I knew that I was searching for a life that I could not give a name to. I was frustrated because when I was 14, after I found out what the life of a diocesan priest was, I knew on a deep intuitive level that, that, was not my calling. So I was in a state of deep frustration. Until one day, when I was 15, I was in the Library at Ft. Gulick an Army base on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal.

    I would often leave the house when it got too chaotic and either walk or drive up to the Library, to just sit and find a book to read. It was a place that was away from family, a needed break for me. So that fateful evening I was browsing for a book to read and a title jumped out at me titled, “The Waters of Siloe” by a man named Thomas Merton, whom I have never heard of. So I got the book and opened it up at random. I came upon some pictures of monks living in a monastery. Suddenly, I knew just as deeply as I knew that I was not called to be a diocesan priest, that this was my calling. It was like a very bright light opened up in my mind and heart and would not leave. It put a deep desire in my heart to seek out my vocation in a monastic setting. I remember that night as I lay in bed, being in a state wonderment about what happened earlier. That desire never left me, though I never told anyone about it until I was 20 years old and on home-leave with my family.

    It was a desire that was awakened, though I could not tell you exactly what that meant actually. So for the next seven years, that fire burned brightly in my heart. I joined the Navy for four years, since I knew, or perceived, that 18 was way too young for me to enter a monastery.

    When I came for my first visit here in November of 1968, my desire for the monastic vocation, and to return after I was discharged from the Navy, was only strengthened. I had no idea really what Monastic life was about and I guess that is still part of my journey that I am slowly figuring out. Yet there was a deep ‘desire’ for something more than what I saw around me as a child, or in the Navy.

    When I finally entered in September of 1971, I was happy, but I soon learned that the desire for the life, or what my monastic life could lead me to, did not become something clearly defined for me. Also, it was a time of radical change in the Monastery, or at least I was told that. I only knew monastic life from that point. I am perhaps the second of those who entered and stayed, right after the changes began. Br. Leo Francis being the first. In fact, things have been slowly moving towards more stability ever since I have arrived.

    What is it I desired? The answer came slowly over the years and was an often painful process. When I was here for about a year, I entered a period of deep ‘healing’ that was experienced as my heart turning into a black, empty, pit, of suffering. I had no idea what I was dealing with. Yet, for some reason, I persisted and did not even think of leaving. If I left I think I would have sought out ways to medicate myself from this pain and would have only made my life chaotic. What made me stay, was that desire that brought me here in the first place and on some level, I understood that going through this was the only way I could finally arrive at what I desired.

    I found out that others could not take this suffering away from me. If I tried, I only found that using others to run away from my deep inner aloneness only made the pain worse. I was like a scab being ripped off of a wound and the healing had to start over again, only worse. I guess you can say I was backed into a corner. It was very frustrating.

    Yet over the space of about 10 years, I felt a deep healing going on that I had no control over. All I could do is to simply let it happen. It was a time of many failures in my monastic life, but grace always brought me back to the path that I was called to walk. I do believe that if I was more faithful in my Monastic journey, the healing would not have taken so long. That process is still taking place. It just manifests in different ways at this time of my monastic vocation. My inner struggles and suffering point to the fact that I must still walk my Monastic path in faith and hope.

    I am not unique. While each of us here in the Monastery has a different story and different struggles, yet they are human ones. All of them intense and often can seem overwhelming. Most go through periods of restlessness, of seeming failure, yet if we continue to simply get up in the morning with the desire to live out our vocation, we will find that in the end, it is the Lord who is faithful.

    The mind-of-man is one filled with fears, anxieties, passion and often felt as anger. The mind-of-man seeks to dominate so as to make life more manageable, but others cannot be controlled or changed or herded. In consciously experiencing this and taking responsibility for my inability to heal myself, it is then that for me, the reality of the Mind-Of-Christ becomes a reality.

    I know of my need for community and the support and love of the brothers here. What I can sometimes fail to understand, is that is a desire that we all have I believe. When I forget that I can isolate and withdraw from the chaos and struggle that is part and parcel of living with others. However, withdrawal also takes me away from the love and joy that comes from living with likeminded men who also have that deep desire that keeps them here, that they may not be able to articulate.

    We seek to be seen, known and loved. Once we realize that we do have that already in our relationship with God, we come to the understanding that what we desire is already there/here, we just need to allow our hearts to expand in its ability to allow that reality to become a lived experience…..in that we become fearless knowing that we are safe in the arms of our loving creator.

    We can only become childlike when we understand that and can truly be ourselves and share our inner selves with others. Without empathy, self-knowledge, and compassion, we cannot connect with others, we can only strive to manipulate and control…..which is kind of like being in hell.

    To tell you the truth, I still don’t understand where the pain came from, that deep wound, or the pain that flowed from that. I also do not fully understand the ‘desire’ that brought me here. That, however, is ok, I do not have to figure everything out, but I do need to live out the mystery of my life, as I believe we all do.
    padraig, Rose, josephite and 4 others like this.
  2. josephite

    josephite Powers

    Mark I never recieved a revelation about where I was to spend my life! I always wish I had!

    In fact by the age of 16 my life had became so chotic I was In a daze, Literally!

    I was confronted with a persecution from my peers, because I was religious! and attended mass every day!

    So the powers that be [that is the other students in my school] shunned me mercilessly, it was a nightmare that I was not prepared for! in the end I believed that God had left me and I should join the rest of the crowd that look only for popularity [that was the god at that time].

    This was very destructive to me as a person and to my conscious self!

    I swam in waters of discontent, and in waters of disobedience, and eventually in waters filled with drugs and passion. I don't know what got me back on the right path because all was against me, even my family which had disintegrated and I was alone!

    I came back to God on the wings of a family member starting to hear Gods call to the charismatic renewal.

    I eventually married and had nine children but I often wonder what could have been or should have been, because I still feel discontent in my life.

    This is because of many reasons

    Please continue to pray for me and my family

    Thank you!
  3. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Principalities

    I believe that God is equally envolved in all of our lives. Your first love that you had for God was never lost, so he was able to let you drift but when the time was ready, and your were ready, grace brought you back in. Seeds sprout in their own time, yet it is God who waters. Thankyou for sharing so deeply my friend.......and yes I pray for you and your family everyday.

    josephite, Dolours and Rose like this.
  4. padraig

    padraig New Member

    A very remarkable testimony, Mark. Wonderful. I am adding up the numbers...46 years a monk? ...and to have been called so young too! I was specially touched by your humility:) It's beautiful God calls soul in this way. I think I remember somewhere reading someone describi9ng monasteries as, 'Schools for sinners'.

    Your reference to, 'Wounded by desire;, reminds me of course of the Song of Songs.

    I suppose if we were already filled up God does not fill us. It reminds me of sometimes when I am camping and walking in the woods I hear the sound of the Angelus Bells on the town below, distant and am filled with such strange longing.

    It is great you are posting about these things on the web. I know the Contemplative life is very special and often such souls feel called to withdraw but so much good can be done by souls like yours who write as you do, One thing I have learned and that there is such a hunger, such a need to learn of the things of God, the ways of prayer.

    I am trying to imagine what it might be like to spend so long in a monastery. What a blessing.:):):)

    Thank you again for your writing and the witness of your life and fidelity to your voaction
    Rose likes this.
  5. padraig

    padraig New Member

    I am curious Mark, living in a monastery as you do, have you ever encountered any whom you consider to be a saint?
  6. padraig

    padraig New Member

    I love what you wrote about the 10 years of healing, it is wonderful to be able to look back on the journey and see it so clearly.

    I would say for myself the great feeling is one of going backwards. Of seeing areas, huge areas of darkness in my life that need healing. It always gives me a real shock to shown these darknesses and to have been so totally, totally unaware that they were always present. Yet on the other hand to lie in confidence with the discovery knowing that though I am a very great sinner Jesus is a Very Great Saviour. A bit like becoming poorer and poorer in my own regard yet richer and richer in being clothed in God's Mercy.

    I love the Jesus Prayer,

    'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner'.

    I think one of my greatest consolations I have nowadays is Devotion to Our Lady. When I find my self so wanting I turn to her who has never turned away; always been there and have total confidence she will stand with me at the Judgement Seat of God.
    Mark Dohle and heyshepard like this.
  7. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Principalities

    Yes I have, though many who come here for retreatI would considered holy, very holy, as well.

  8. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Principalities

    Well said m my friend. Self-Knowledge is not new, just to us LOL.......the Lord only alalows to see what we can handle.


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