Starting Point
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Issue Date:  March 17, 2006

Starting Point


Augustine flew in from Utah where he spent a week at our monastery in Huntsville. I met him at the airport. He said he was hungry, so we stopped at a Wendy’s. I ordered, and we ate in the car. I filled in Augustine on things he had missed while away. He told me how he loved Utah. We talked about our need for contemplative life.

As we spoke, I watched the cars go by. It felt familiar sitting in the car that night, talking with Augustine about life. I later thought about it and knew the “why” of the familiarity.

When we were kids, my twin, Jimmy, and Walter and Greg and I sat for hours in a car in the parking lot of Bond’s Ice Cream parlor in Montclair, N.J. We spoke of many things. Life lay ahead and all looked good.

Jimmy and Walter would be dead not too long down the road. And then Greg and I would go our separate ways. Those nights were of a kind of magic. When it rained, it never mattered.

The best way to get to know a monk is to work with him. Augustine and I have not yet shared a job together, so the time spent with him was good, even if it was sitting for a while talking in a car, watching life go by on Route 138.

It is important to make room for conversation, be it in a cloister or a car. We were made to share life with each other. It is how God “comes through” us. And it is why I remembered with gratitude the God who came to me through friends of my youth. Many I loved have gone home to him -- and many are yet here. It is good to pull off the road and chat. Maybe that is why there are monasteries in our later years and parking lots in our youth. It has taken me a while to connect the two.

Fr. James Stephen Behrens is a monk at Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, March 17, 2006

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