Starting Point
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Issue Date:  October 27, 2006

Starting Point


There are many paths here at the monastery that wind through ample acres of fields and wooded areas. When I go for walks, I often take the same ones but every now and then I will venture onto one that I haven’t tried before. The change of scenery is refreshing. Walking seems to get a good string of thoughts going.

We live here to better take to heart the mystery that is life. I find that there are no magic answers here. Being a monk does not grant one access to the unraveling of mystery. We have our struggles, our good days and bad, our weaknesses and strengths. I often wonder if there is any significant modification or transformation of human life here. So far I have not found that. If anything, all the foibles, quirks and admirable traits of human life are more “close-up” here.

But perhaps there is one important dimension here that I find to be real and wondrous.

There are many ways offered in this day and age to seek and grasp a better life. And so people follow certain paths to “get there.” And, walking those paths, it is hoped that there will come a discovery as to what life is about and what it offers at its best.

We pray a lot here. The life is structured so that we are in church at least four hours every day. It may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s the same sense I have when I see a new path ahead of me and it looks long but when I opt to take it, its length seems to fade as I walk.

Prayer is a walking with the mystery. The psalms keep me close to the ground and constantly familiar with my experience on the road of faith, walking with my brother monks. It is a good road, when I take it. Different from other paths, perhaps, but I am learning that all of life’s roads can be prayers since all of them are paved with the mystery that is God.

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

National Catholic Reporter, October 27, 2006

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