April 13, 2005
“What does it benefit a man who gains the whole world and looses his soul in the process?”
The monk is one who desires to change the whole world, by changing himself first.
He is smart enough to know what is his own role in God’s marvelous work of salvation, as it applies to himself, and he is smart enough to get out of the way to let God be God.
He knows to come before God as God is, not as he wants or needs him to be, but as God is. He stands as a humble I before an awesome Thou, as stated Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher who had a great influence on the Holy Father’s thought.
He is brave enough to hear the wisdom of the desert fathers who say that the one who has the courage to face himself, can face God.
He has the courage to face himself daily, and thus turn from the old ways of sin and selfishness to embrace life and repentance.
“What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world and loose his soul in the process?”
In some mystical way, by changing himself the monk changes the whole world. By saving himself, even without attempting it, he saves the whole world.
The false monk, as well as the false believer, is the one who enters into a vocation to save others. He only finds himself empty and frustrated. But the one who enters into his vocation to save his own soul will gain not only his soul but the whole world as well.
The world is a place of great beauty, but there is also something terribly wrong with it, that’s because there is something terribly wrong with us. G.K. Chesterton said that the only verifiable doctrine of the Church is that of Original Sin. Just read the newspapers, he said, or see life as it is, one can see that there is something wrong.
To begin fixing the world we begin by fixing ourselves, in this way all will be right, when we are right.
And so here we are, a Maronite monastic community, and a Maronite eparchy. Each of us are monks and hermits, even diocesan priests and bishop, so to speak, we are alone with the Alone. When Pope Paul VI was near death, after everyone who was close to him came to bid their farewell, he then asked them to leave and said, now Lord, it is between You and me.
Although communal life has its place, each monk is also a hermit of sorts. Benedict desired to form “a school for the Lord’s service”, and in this school, men truly learned how to be men, disciples of the Lord. It is the goal of the monastic community and of the eparchy to bring each man to full stature in Christ. Great abbots and great bishops used to pride themselves in not loosing one monk, one soul.
It is thus with great joy that I visit you, Abbot Driscoll and monks of Petersham, because I feel that in a special way I am part of this community, a monk among monks, working out my own salvation along with you with fear and trembling, and with great hope.
Your foundation is a source of pride and comfort for me personally, and for all in the Eparchy of St Maron. You reveal the true purpose of every eparchial and parish effort. That purpose is none other than the glory of God, and the good of others.
I pray that you will always take the mission and hopes of the eparchy to heart and that your prayer, and your contemplative way of life will bring greater clarity and perspective to all that takes place inside and outside of these monastic walls.
May the prayer of Saints Maron, Sharbel, Rafka, and Hardini, be with you, and with all who are associated with you, and may the prayer of the Mother of God assist you in contemplating her beloved Son, the Eucharistic Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)