Starting Point
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Issue Date:  November 19, 2004

Starting Point


I went for a walk earlier today. I heard voices and then laughter but could not tell where the voices were coming from. They sounded close but I could see no one. Then I looked up and saw two men at the top of our water tower. They were painting it blue and silver.

The men were very high -- the tower can be seen for miles. I could not make out their words but their laughter came across loud and clear. I watched them move with ease around the tower as they painted.

I have heard that the tower is a landmark for those approaching the monastery from a distance. It is the one “sure sign” of the monastery’s location.

People come here looking for some sign of God’s presence. There are notes of gratitude that appear on our bulletin board with regularity, notes that express thanks for what guests have found here.

I guess we monks get used to being here. It is life for us, with all the routines and ups and downs that are a part of every life. Maybe one big difference is that we live in community and much of what each of us goes through is shared and given some sort of focus in a special, “God-languaged” setting. I doubt “languaged” is a real word, but I think you get the point.

What are the borders between the sacred and the profane? Maybe from on high, if those men looked down, the borders are hard to see. Green grass and forests, then towns and streets, can be seen for miles. The monastery looks pretty nice from up there. It needs a painting, too, but distance absolves a lot.

The men were painting away, and I thought as I watched them that God was working through them no less than God works through the rest of life here.

Brightening up the water tower in nice shades of blue and silver, they were going about the labor of God, the labor of the creator. I wondered if God laughed through them, too, and somehow spoke through them, way up high. I think so.

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

National Catholic Reporter, November 19, 2004

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