Tuesday, February 03, 2009

John Michael Talbot's thoughts re: recent ice storm...

February 3, 2009

Peace and Good in Christ!

We are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel after what will be called The Great Ice Storm of 09. The ice is melting, and spirits are rising. There is a chance that we might have power restored in the next few days. Even though our main generator died in the thick of the crisis, we are able to replace it through the most generous gifts of our benefactors. We are very grateful to God and to them!

These days have been an experience of working together in more primitive conditions. Working together is always a great community builder. We have worked to restore power for water, heat, and lights through generators and propane heaters. Some of our places have only gotten wood heat. Our few lights go out at sundown, and heaters are always kept on low. Water pumps are turned off at night. All is in conservation mode.

Internet and phones have been minimal, and only for a few. Personally, I have been able to create and follow up on our reports and fundraising efforts with our community e-mail network, websites, chat rooms, and e-mailing list through this crisis. This was most important.

We have learned some important lessons through this crisis.

The most important lesson is to be totally dependent on God. In our technological society it is so easy to become dependent on that technology in order to find our sense of security and well being. When those things fail, we sometimes realize that, despite our religious language, we are often far from real relationship with God interiorly.

The experiences of our secular and religious pioneers come to mind. In times past no electric power was available. Everyone heated with wood. Cold mornings and trips to the outhouse were just the way things were. It was not until the 20th century that we enjoyed indoor plumbing, and it was only after WWII that "electric households" became a reality, and then mainly in the city. But we seemed to do alright.

I recall my first visits to Franciscan and Carmelite houses in Ireland 20 years ago. The only heated rooms in the house were the kitchen and dining room (refectory), and the recreation room. The Benedictine monks of old appropriately called this the "warming room." The church was usually unheated, and one wore the ample tunics, cloaks and mantles of the religious habit of one's community to keep warm. To have a heated private room was unheard of. I remember the brothers getting a good chuckle when I (the "American") innocently asked for a heater in my room!

We are a spoiled generation. Our parents experienced the end of the Great Depression, and after coming back from WWII vowed that their kids would never have to experience such deprivation again. They gave us everything we wanted, and we got used to it. This only made us self centered and soft. So we end up upset a lot of the time, unless of course we get what we want! This has made us consumerists. Consumerism consumes the consumer.

Unfortunately some of us have passed this on to our kids. They say that fewer kids are willing to work their way through school now than ever before. They will not work at menial tasks because they only want the top jobs. And their parents support them in this! No wonder more and more people come in from outside to do the manual work that keeps the social and economic wheels of producing food, clothing, and shelter moving.

Ironically, it is our generation that now faces the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Perhaps our consumerism has run its course? Perhaps this is God's reminder to come back to Him, and Him alone. Then all these other things will take care of themselves through humble and honest work.

A Cardinal of the Church in Rome once told me that he believed that one of the great gifts of our integrated monastic community of celibates, singles, and families was restoring solid values and practices to the Catholic family. He commented that vocations to priesthood and religious life, as well as matrimony, from our generation are often tenuous at best because of the character flaws mentioned above. When we do not "get what we want" from family members we often carry baggage that makes relationships with spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters very difficult.

This is not to say that Jesus cannot call us and correct this through His grace. He did this with likes of St. Augustine. Sometimes it is precisely that life with spiritual fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters that can heal this illness, and bring us back to full health in Christ. But most religious communities of the past wanted candidates from solid Catholic homes who had been properly formed in good faith and morality through the theory and practice that builds good character. Without being self righteous about it, we have a chance to try to change some of this trend with The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion. But even then, without God's grace we will not succeed.

The Great Ice Storm of 2009 has put us back in touch with the basics, and has reminded us to be totally dependent on God, in loving communion with our brothers and sisters, and grateful for even the basics of life. It reminds us of our call to live simply after the example of Jesus and His disciples, and the monks, nuns, brothers and sisters of the entire consecrated community tradition of the Church.

Yes, we will continue to use technology. It is through the computer and internet that I am writing this now. Our fundraising over the last couple of days was only made possible through them. But I hope that we do not forget the truth that we can get by without them if we have to, and should not place our sense of security and well being upon them. That trust, that faith, hope, and love should be reserved for God alone.

So thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please keep them coming! The power is not restored yet! Thank you as well for your most generous donations. We try to use them frugally and efficiently. Most especially thank God for our times of comfort, and our times of trial. They help to make us strong.

In Jesus,

John Michael Talbot
Founder, and Spiritual Father
The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage

We are still in need of donations for the generator. Please make your donation through our Online Store.

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