The Monastic Journey (Chapter talk 11/14/2020)

Discussion in 'The Spirit of the USA' started by Mark Dohle, Nov 14, 2020.

  1. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Archangels


    The human journey from my experience is not a simple affair. There is an old saying “What you see is what you get”, which implies that some people are more truthful to what they present to others. While I believe that there is a certain truth to the cliché, for the most part is simply not true.

    Who am I? Who am I to each of you in this room? The answers will vary based on personal experience, as well as the past of each one here, for we often like or dislike persons based on how they bring to mind, unconsciously for the most part, people from our past who have in some way helped, or hindered us. The more this is not understood the more deeply we can be jerked around on how we relate to others.

    My vocation was not something I searched for. It was presented to me one night in the library at Ft. Gulick, an army base on the Atlantic side of the Canal Zone, in Panama. I opened a book, a light went on that never went out. When I joined the Navy it seemed as if things were arranged for me so that I would not forget my calling.

    Now that only shows that there are some who enter Monastic life, whose life perhaps depends on it. Not only physically, but spiritually as well. For I often, which is not an uncommon experience, see myself split down the middle, and being tested which turn in the road I will take every day.

    There are many self-destructive tendencies that live within me. Again not an uncommon situation, perhaps in fact, one of the most common for mankind. So either through grace, or instinct for survival, I entered monastic life in 1971, and to say it has been interesting is an understatement.

    There is a side to me that sees life, existence, and just about everything I do as absurd if not grounded in the transcendent, or to put it in Christian terms, on my relationship with God, as chaotic, and rambling as it has often been.

    Now that I am 71, and I guess a senior in the community, as I look back on my life, I see how thankful I am for being called to the monastic life. I did find out, a few months after I entered that living in a monastery was not in any way an escape from living. It was that experience of the struggle here, of the depth of my need for healing, and from the power of the Thanatos principle that was and is a work in me, that has kept me here, even in the darkest of times. Even in periods when I was off the path, for grace always brought me back. I do believe that the Poem “ The Hound of Heaven” truly expresses God’s love and pursuit of each of his human children.

    Entering Monastic at a very young age; I was 22, had its own challenges. So it has been a slow process for me. God seems to like slow, for I have always been on the far right lane when it comes to how fast my love and trust in God have developed. It was my failures, and inner wounds that have driven me deeper in an unwavering trust in God’s love for me, and in that understanding God’s love for everyone.

    There are different types of suffering on the human journey. Some are placed on each of us without our permission. Others, perhaps the larger portion of distress, is more often than not placed there by myself. Yes of course, influenced from my past.

    To be celibate for me means that God is my only true center and all other relationships have to follow in that order. The Paradox is that in doing that I find because of God’s healing grace, the ability to love many, and to pray for those I struggle to love. I have found on my monastic journey that no human being can fill the inner void, darkness, and longing for connection. That when I tried, it only led to my inner wounds to become deeper. So over the years I have learned to not run from pain, well much of the time, and in that I save myself a lot of useless misery brought about by unloving acts.

    I gage on how I am doing by how I react and judge others. The more I lose touch with myself, which means I am closing off aspects of my soul to God, the only way to deal with it is to fight those around me. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the disagreeable of them all”. It a sure truth for me that when I fail to look inward in prayer, the more I will run from my inner chaos, making it present to the whole community. We cannot hide from one another in the community. That is why there are times when the monastic community has to show compassion on those who perhaps cannot return it.

    When I forget my vow of “Conversion of manners”. It is then that my cycles of pain increase since it is in those cold winters of my monastic journey that I am propelled to judge others. We cannot escape ourselves, we either bring it before the Lord in love and trust, or we seek to work it out with others in ways that are often dysfunctional in the extreme.

    The monastic journey is asking each monk to forget himself, to let go of preoccupations that lead to unrest, and to embrace who we are, sins and all, as well as the many gifts given to each member of the community. Humility/self-knowledge really does as the say goes, take the load off. It frees me from the very serious sin of judging others and gossiping. Judging others is a great source of pain since when we judge, the love in the heart grows cold. Judging actions is one thing, to the judge something else entirely.

    I do believe that any vocation is to do the same work no matter the path followed. The death to self that Jesus calls us to is to expand our often fearful, tribal hearts to one of Universal love, and to be loving and gentle when we speak what we believe is true. –Br.MD
    HeavenlyHosts and Rose like this.
  2. Mario

    Mario Powers

    Though you've brought up the idea of tribal love before, I appreciate your honesty in how you view yourself, Mark. Most people on MOG have seen my analytical side, my love for Scripture, my peace-making tendencies, but there would be a lot of surprises if I went and lived in their home for a couple of months. I would think that is the beauty of community life. Can one actually hide their warts if they were part of your community for 10 years? But the call is to continue to love in spite of the pus which may ooze out unexpectedly, even after a number of years. Of course there would be the hidden joys, also.

    To a large degree, married life can be similar. If my beautiful Geralyn ever became a member, she would enjoy a good laugh over some of the conclusions people have made concerning her husband.:censored::LOL:

    Safe on the Father's Lap!
    Mark Dohle and HeavenlyHosts like this.
  3. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Archangels

    The joy of community life is the community as well. Marriage is a high calling, a life of sacrifice, and service for loved ones. I saw how both my mom and dad lived out their lives in loving each of their children and one another.


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