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The resurrection in the light of a Nazareth morning

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Years ago, when I began to feel a calling to enter a Benedictine monastery, I was surprised.  The books I had read about monastic life tended to romanticize the more austere monasteries- the Trappist Cistercians of the Strict Observance, the great Carthusians that have “never been reformed because they have never been deformed.”  The Benedictines, however, were, well, the Benedictines.   They didn't pray more than other monasteries, or do more penance, or do anything really that was particularly remarkable or extraordinary. . .


And yet God wanted it so, so I packed my bag, kissed my mother, and moved to Pennsylvania to enter a Benedictine Monastery. 


My first job was to choose a spiritual director.  This was difficult for me because there were many monks and priests to choose from, but finally I asked Fr. Jacques Daley, O. S.B. if he would direct me.   Fortunately he accepted, and we began a marvellous adventure together.  I vividly remember our first meeting.  I was struck by the many pictures of saints that he had lining his walls.  I was familiar with just about all of them.  But behind his head there was one “saint” that I didn't know yet.  She was a little woman with big, chestnut eyes that was seated upright in a bed.  “Who is that,” I asked.  “Oh,” he smiled, “that's Luisa, you'll have to read Luisa.” 


The next few months were surprising.  I got to know Fr. Jacques and liked him very much.  Still, I noted that he wasn't particularly extraordinary as far as monks go.  Other monks prayed more than he did, and were on their knees more.  Others were more scholarly.  Others had more dynamic apostolates.  It is true that Fr. Jacques was a regular guest on EWTN, the international Catholic Television channel in the United States.  But as far as monks go, he was, well. . . pretty average. . .


. . .except in a few things.  Fr. Jacques was probably the funniest person I ever met.  He was as charismatic as a Hollywood actor.  He also had a tremendous peace about him, a radiant joy, and oh, yeah, one other thing. . .he was the most loving priest I ever met.  


I still didn't get it though.  I guess I'm a slow learner.  Several times that year I asked God, “are you sure you want Fr. Jacques to be my director?”  The answer that always came was, “yes, be patient.”  I'm no mystic, but I knew that's what God wanted. 


So we went on.  I began to read “Luisa,” and gradually over the course of about two years I fell in love with her writings on the Divine Will.  I also began to get over my infatuation with everything extraordinary.  I began to appreciate the genius of good old St. Benedict who wrote “a little Rule for beginners.” (RB Prologue)  His way was moderate, balanced, liveable by everybody, the strong monks and the weaker ones alike.  All of this together: Benedictine life, Fr. Jacques, and Luisa's writings all pushed me in the same direction, to a hidden, un-extraordinary place that I later learned was absolutely extraordinary: Nazareth. 


I even wrote a song about it called “Nazareth Morning.”

Just a Nazareth morning,

Nothing extraordinary to see at all,

Just a little boy rolling a ball of string at the feet of a carpenter.

A mother sowing by the hearth-fire,

A raison cake upon a steaming tray,

And a little boy rolling a ball of string at the feet of a carpenter.

Don't blink or you'll miss it, it's hidden like treasure that rests in a forgotten sea,

More precious than diamonds or emeralds or rubys is the Holy Family.

Just a Nazareth morning,

Nothing extraordinary to see at all,

Unless you see with the eyes of faith. . .PERFECT LOVE.   


So what does all this have to do with Resurrection?  Well, perhaps we too have been blinded by the extraordinary, and have missed the ordinary.  This Lent we spoke about the Passion, the Agony in the Garden, the Flaggelation.  But did we stop to think about Nazareth. . .about a little boy playing at the feet of a carpenter- about Jesus' hidden life?    


Consider this passage from August 13, 1923, when Jesus told Luisa:   “With my human will united to the Divine, there was no human act which I did not place in relation with the Supreme Volition. With the Divine Will, I was aware of all the acts of all generations, with the human will I kept repairing them and I bound them to the Eternal Volition. There was not one act which could escape Me, which was not ordered by me in the Most pure light of the Supreme Will. . .in order to form the great plane of the human will in the Divine, to bind all the relations and links which had been broken by it, I had to place my whole interior, my whole hidden life, all my intimate pains, which are far more numerous and more intense than my external pains, and which are not yet known.  It is enough to say that that it is not just forgiveness that I impetrated- remission of sins, refuge, escape, defense in the great dangers of the life of man, as I did in my Passion, but it was the new rising of the whole interior of man.”


Luisa's writings lead us to ponder the Resurrection in the light of a Nazareth morning.  When Jesus was rolling a ball of string at the feet of St. Joseph, when He was laughing, smiling, thinking, and speaking, he was “aware of all generations,”  and was repairing, renewing, and redoing everything.  He was repairing my life and yours, redoing all our acts with infinite and perfect love. “There was not one act which could escape Me, which was not ordered by me in the Most pure light of the Supreme Will.”  Therefore this Easter, when we celebrate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord, let us remember that our lives: every act, thought, word, and heartbeat, “the whole interior” of every man, is risen through Him, with Him, and in Him.  Alleluia!

Padre Elia
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