Starting Point
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Issue Date:  October 29, 2004

Starting Point


The bulletin board on our first floor is the “main” board for in-house notes. It holds reminders of schedules and dates, complaints, thank-yous, where-are-yous, and many other tidbits of the patina of monastic life. A board downstairs has more to do with the world at large: prayer requests, posts from our other houses, letters from guests, and so on.

On my way to vespers this evening, I saw on the first-floor board a notice penned in large, handwritten script. It looked ominous. Then I read it.

“To whomever removed my laundry from the dryer and folded the shirts so carefully, thank you. It did my heart good more than the shirts. Care on -- God bless -- Matt.”

I came here for the first time 24 years ago. I had left the priesthood, bounced around a bit, took a bounce to Atlanta to stay with my sister, and she bounced me over here for a few days. I wanted to meet one of the monks. Matt came over one night and we talked till the wee hours of the morning. He sensed my interest in the life and told me that when and if the time was right, I would come.

I remember that visit and the time and care he took to listen to a disgruntled and worried young priest. His words offered me light.

Fourteen years later I called the monastery and got Matt on the phone. He remembered me and was, as luck would have it, on his way to New Jersey. We met in a Kentucky Fried Chicken place and I laid out my plans to come here.

It is now 10 years later. His shirts are folded. He was touched by some anonymous monk. It was a small thing, yes, but something of the eternal shine and light that is care, the way God comes to us through the small events of everyday life.

Reading the note reminded me that all the while I look for the Great Revelation in this supra-professional holy place, there is the roar of the small and how easily I can miss it.

“To whomever removed Matt’s laundry from the dryer and folded the shirts so carefully -- thank you. It did my heart good more than the shirts. Care on.”

Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, October 29, 2004

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