It's World AIDS day, please remember all with HIV/AIDS in prayer
today. Please also pray for Madeleine, who has lung cancer and for
her parents, Angie and Joe. Thanks so much! JL
April 1, August 1, December 1
Chapter 50: On Sisters Who are Working Far From the Oratory or Are on
Those sisters who are working at a great distance
and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time --
the Abbess judging that such is the case --
shall perform the Work of God
in the place where they are working,
bending their knees in reverence before God.
Likewise those who have been sent on a journey
shall not let the appointed Hours pass by,
but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can
and not neglect to render the task of their service.
Look, if you think your marriage vows take a powder while you're
traveling on business, chances are a lot of people pity your spouse.
There are jobs that we do not carry with us. We are not surgeons,
welders or toll booth ticket-takers at home- at least hopefully! But
marriage is not a job, it's a vocation and so is monastic life.
Vocations stay with one everywhere, at all times and places. One is
ALWAYS a spouse, always a parent, always a monastic.
Hey, it is World AIDS Day, and there are a lot of similarities
between monasticism done right and HIV. I should know- I've been HIV+
nearly 13 years and a monk for nearly 11. For rather crass starters,
both get in your blood and if they do, there is no cure! Done right,
both are always with you. Since my diagnosis I have never awakened
groggy enough to forget I was positive. Not once. Even in my dreams,
I am always HIV+, never once have I dreamed of my current self
otherwise. I wish I could say exactly the same of monasticism, but
even there, my dreams that are not flashbacks are most usually about
Jerome, not my secular name Phil!
Writ large across my heart are the letters "HIV" and I am still
working on making "OSB" stand out in equally high relief there! At
some point, if we are lucky, we realize that our vocation really is
who we've become. My high school buddy, Sr. Lany Jo, referred to me
as Phil on the phone last night. As I often do, I jokingly reminded
her that Phil was dead- a distressing half-truth at best, since Phil
can be damnably stubborn about refusing to expire totally... Quickly,
I added, "Of course, if you want Phil, I could resurrect him with
very little trouble. Just give me a really big bottle of liquor and a
piano bar full of good-looking customers. No problem!" Lany was very
quick to assure me that she preferred the monk she Southernly refers
to as Jerry Lee, and to reassure me that, while she loved Phil, she
loves Jerry Lee much more!
Virus and vows! Honey, sometimes I wish I had neither, but I always
have both! Most of the time, I am glad of that, in very mysterious
ways, mysteriously grateful for both. In my case, at least, neither
would have been my totally free first choice, but they are undeniably
where God has placed me and both have done me a world of good, most
often through their hassles, but also through their ordinary days!
Cured of either tomorrow, I would never be the same exactly. Nothing
could completely obliterate the years that either have given me,
nothing could completely uproot their lessons in my heart.
We live in a secular society that urges us to follow our dreams.
Well, m'dears, I have swooned at the poetry in that one for more
decades than I care to admit, but it ain't always true. Why on earth
should we ascribe an infallibility to our own dreams that we are
unwilling under any but the most exceptionally extreme circumstances
to apply to anyone else? Whoops! There's a real passing chance our
dreams may be wrong, may have to be given up. I am living proof to
myself that fighting that surrender is hard as hell and just as
useless. Yes, choice often enters into whom we become, but not
always, and sometimes the things that become us are the ones we quite
pointedly have NOT chosen.
Few, if any, choose to be gay or straight, some do not choose to be
parents, some choose one spouse only to find that person changes
horrifically later on and nobody in their right mind chooses to
become HIV+. Many, many things are in some ways forced upon us, but
those things can become fully graced things of wonder, if only we let
God work. If only we would ...
Love and prayers,
Jerome Leo, OSB
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA