In this series of blog posts, Life lessons from a Trappist Monk, I share the wisdom of my late friend Brother Rene, who was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani for over fifty years. For many years we corresponded by letter, and here I share excerpts from his letters.
God will not fail you since He cannot. All His work is Love, because He is Love. All I can say is trust, don’t give up, believe in love!
–Brother Rene, excerpt from letter, July, 31, 2003
My father’s parents came to this country in the 1920s, through Ellis Island in New York. They were simple people from Turkey, who ended up making a living by running a concession stand in a movie theater. My grandfather and his four sons ran the business. Later on, my father worked as a bathroom attendant in a swanky hotel, where he befriended a business man who helped him get a scholarship to attend college. My father ended up becoming a doctor, and fulfilling his American dream.
Along the way, he had a deep spiritual conversion—ineffable and truly mysterious—and became a Catholic. Through the trials and tribulations of his life, love kept leading him back to this experience of God breaking through into his very being.
Love is big, if we allow it to be. It isn’t something we can contain, or ever obtain. Rather, it’s something we live in. Love is the context and content of our lives. As Gerald May states in his book, The Dark Night of the Soul, “We may be unaware of it, but we are all born with a natural and lifelong yearning for the fulfillment of love.”
Yes, my father had his share of highs and lows in his life: he became a successful neurosurgeon for many years, only to lose his ability to perform surgery because of back problems; he married the love of his life, and then went through the journey of her alcoholism and recovery; and, he moved so many times in search of the “perfect place” that he never felt he belonged anywhere.
Through the years, my father went on many Ignatian retreats, and during one of them, a simple prayer came to him, which he shared with me later in my life: God, I am thankful for all the events of my life. For me, his prayer embodies Brother Rene’s words of wisdom: God will not fail you. God cannot fail you. He is love.
I offer a way to pray with this reflection:
• Find a quiet place to sit for a few moments (even in your car)
• Take three deep breaths and settle into the moment
• Place your hands on your lap with your palms face up, in a gesture of surrender
• Slowly repeat the words: God, I am thankful for all the events of my life. Or, you could use the phrase: God, I trust you with my life.
It may not be an easy prayer to say. I know it isn’t for me. But if you say these words with faith and trust that God will not fail you, that God cannot fail you, then you can hear these words in love, through love, and with love. Blessings to you on your journey of love.
If you would like to read more from my correspondence with Brother René, check out my forthcoming book, which contains excerpts from our letters: Seeking Surrender: How my Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught me to Trust and Embrace Life (Ave Maria Press, April 2015).