Monday, January 16, 2017

Praying in the Desert...

Father Chris O’Connor and I have just returned from visiting with Monsignor John McLaughlin in his sabbatical hermitage in Tombstone, Arizona.  Monsignor has been spending this year in prayer in the desert and we joined him for four days in praying for our seminarians and benefactors.
Monsignor McLaughlin and Father O’Connor on the day we arrived.

Monsignor and I outside his chapel, dedicated to Saint Jude, where we celebrated Mass for you each day. 

The Benedictine Fathers have a beautiful pilgrimage site not far away in the town of Saint David.

Here is the shrine of Our Lady of Sierra, about a half hour from the hermitage.  Far up on the side of a mountain the peaceful shrine really provides an opportunity to meditate on the stark beauty of the high desert landscape.

This last picture is of the two of us in front of the fence separating the United States and Mexico.

While we all look forward to Monsignor’s return as Director of Spiritual Life, we should all be grateful for the deep faith and love of the Lord which has led him (literally) into the desert to spend these months with the Lord.  
One last thought as I return from these beautiful days. There are some lessons that only the desert can teach us well. Monsignor and I have often spoken of Carlo Carretto's book, Letters from the Desert. Father Carretto had worked successfully for over twenty years in Catholic Action and then, after the example of Father Charles de Foucauld, went to the desert to pray and write. Here's an excerpt from what he wrote:

"Night came, and I could not sleep. I left the cave, and walked under the stars above the vast desert. I stretched out on a sand dune and gazed at the starry vault above.
I cast my eyes back to Andromeda. The night was so clear that I could just discern it. It is the celestial body that is farthest from the Earth yet visible to the naked eye: millions of light years away. Such is the space in which is gathered the galaxy to which we belong – on a tiny grain of sand called Earth.
Beyond Andromeda are other galaxies, and thousands and thousands of stars which my eyes cannot see, but which God has created.It is true that Jesus said, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” But he also added, “Without me you can do nothing.” It is true that Saint Ignatius said, “Act as though everything depended upon you.” But he added, “But pray as though everything depended upon God.” God is the creator of the physical cosmos as well as of the human cosmos. He rules the stars as he rules the church. And if, in his love, he has wished to make us his collaborators in the work of salvation, the limit of our power is very small and clearly defined. It is the limit of the wire compared with the electric current. 
We are the wire, God is the current. Our only power is to let the current pass though us. Of course, we have the power to interrupt it and say “no.” But nothing more.…
The thought that the affairs of the world, like those of the stars, are in God’s hands – and therefore in good hands – apart from being actually true, is something that should give great satisfaction to anyone who looks to the future with hope. It should be the source of faith, joyful hope, and, above all, of deep peace...."