He's probably around 13 or so (though I'm a terrible judge of age). His younger brother and he were over yesterday playing with our kids after school. Before they left I had a sneaking suspicion that someone had stolen some money yesterday.
The boys live in the duplex next door. If you've been around our house at all, I only need to mention the duplex and you've probably already not surprised. The duplex along with one other rental across the street, tend to be the trouble houses on our block. They're the ones we've seen the police at; they're the ones we've called the police about. We try our best to love them, but we also aren't going to put up with some of the stuff that goes on.
The boys are fairly nice boys. I don't think their home life is overly stable, but they have been friendly.
But yesterday when I went upstairs to have everyone clean up before supper, I noticed some coin jars that were out on my dresser that I was fairly certain weren't out earlier. I also only saw two and believed we had three. I had been gone over the weekend, however and wasn't positive if Beth had done anything with them. So I brought it up (reminding everyone--including my boys--that our bedroom was off limits), and I said I'd check with Beth if my suspicions were true or not.
When Beth got home she confirmed that there were three coin bowls and one contained a decent amount of quarters (left over remnants from our rental days of having to do coin-operated laundry). Then I discovered a sack of coins (pennies and nickels mainly in the drawer in our bathroom that contains our toothbrushes. Then I saw the third bowl in our laundry basket in the bathroom. About the same spot where the oldest kid was when I came upstairs.
I had told them before all this was confirmed that I hoped they would be honest and truthful. That I would know if they were lying or not. That we wanted to be able to have them over to play but that we needed to trust them. I had hoped, after I discovered that they had lied and that they had stolen things, that his conscience would weigh him down and he'd come and confess.
Now, it wasn't much money--maybe $5 or so. But I no longer could trust him. He lied. He stole. I couldn't be sure that nothing else had been stolen before (we'd had packages taken off our porch just before Christmas, Anders has been missing his Lego watch, the kids always asks about our computers and digital camera). We felt violated.
So when I saw him coming tonight, I stopped him to talk. I tried to give him an opportunity to confess first. That didn't happen, so I told him what I knew to be true. He still didn't really come out and confess, but he also couldn't hide too much anymore. I'm not sure if he fully acknowledges that he did something wrong. I think he may feel guilty mainly because I confronted him. He gave me some of the quarters he had in his pocket and said he'd bring more over tomorrow.
I hope he does. It's not about the money. I feel for the kid. Growing up where we live, being a black teen, the statistics show that he has a good chance of having a run-in with the law as he gets older. I don't want that to happen. I want a better life for him than what he's got. So I hope that returning things would give an opportunity for him to change.
And even more than that, I want to be able to talk with him about forgiveness. I haven't been perfect, either. I've lied before. I've stolen (I don't think either of these sins is foreign to most of us--look around and see if you've taken anything home from the office for instance). But I've also received forgiveness--from others and from God.
The hard part will be trusting him again. I don't feel I can let him in the house for a while. I'm not sure what he'll need to do to regain our trust.
But I hope we can talk. I hope he'll take some responsibility. I hope...I hope.
It's also a good reminder that with repentance comes change. Simply saying, "I'm sorry," isn't true repentance. Repentance is a 180degree turn. It's turning from our wrong actions toward right ones. I don't always do that well, I confess. So I need the reminder for myself as well that with the grace of forgiveness comes the responsibility of repentance...of change. May it be so.
The incense is placed in the censer. The smoke begins to rise, filling the front of the chapel, drifting towards us. Slowly, the smell reaches my noise. It is sweet, earthy, almost reminiscent of the beach--maybe the scent of driftwood. I breathe deeply as I watch the smoke rise upward, like prayers ascending to God.
We are outsiders--not monks, not even Catholic--but we have been allowed to be apart of the community. At the same time, as men from the same church, we are feeling the increase of own community, growing closer to one another as we share and worship and play.
Being here has being caused us to slow down. You can't rush when you come to pray together. It doesn't matter much, I realized today, that I haven't gotten a bunch of spiritual disciplines accomplished. A retreat isn't about that. It's about slowing down. It's about refocusing, resting and renewing. In this case (as a group retreat), it's about relationships as well.
I guess it's always about relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our relationship with self. That is the focus of the Great Commandment, of course.
Part of the incense vigil, as I understand, is a "cleansing" of the worship space in preparation for the Sunday mass. We are cleansed as well in some ways. We are cleansed from the busy routines of life. We are cleansed from many of the worldly influences that distract us during our week. We are cleansed from isolation. We are cleansed from tedium and routine that prevent us from noticing God around us.
For a weekend at least my spirit is back on track (mostly). I have experienced close community. I have felt God's presence. I have been in worship.
And hopefully, I pray, those things will continue beyond this weekend. And if not--if I need another retreat at some point to remind my of these things--my life is still all the richer. I can recall the scent of the incense and I am back before the altar, bowing to my Lord, remembering that it is His will, not mine that I try to live by.
We had arrived yesterday on Friday afternoon. It was my second visit to be a monastic community. My first had been last fall to St. Benedict's for a day of retreat and renewal. There we joined the sisters for their mid-day prayer. Here we join the brothers--last night at 5pm and at 7pm. In a few minutes we will join them again for mid-day prayers.
I enjoy these moments. I wish that, like the monks, I was able to take a break from work during the day when the bells ring and pause with community to pray and read the Psalms.
I enjoy the back and forth reading and chanting of the psalms. First their side, then our side, then back to the other side.
One thing you learn when praying with a monastic community is that you don't rush it. At first I cringe a little as they pause at the end of each line of the Psalm, not reading it as a complete sentence when that is the case between lines. I awkwardly wait until I know it is time for our choir to say the line. I fear speaking before the group. So I pause and listen.
After a while this becomes second nature, and I appreciate the time to sit and soak in the words--not rushing through them for the sake of getting the reading done, but to savor them.
I ruminate on how the monks bow before the crucifix as the enter and leave, as they say the Gloria and at other parts during the service. Some may do it out of ritual, but I notice the way most do it with meaning. They acknowledge Christ as the Lord and Master of their lives. They come before Him as His servant.
Here the youthful novitiates and the older, wisened brethern sit together. There is honor and respect, but there is also fellowship.
And when the bells ring, the work stops. The work is important, but it is not the full meaning of the day. The prayers are important, but they are not the full meaning of the day. The times of study are important but they are not the full meaning of the day. It is all of it together: work, prayer, study, community, individual, neighbor and Christ.
And so, as I hear the ringing of the large bells outside the abbey, I know it is time for me to pause and get ready to go pray and say the Psalms.
But we've all probably been in theaters, concerts or meetings where someone continues to talk, ignoring everyone else around them.
Today we marked the baptism of Jesus by His cousin John. This event is usually part of epiphany as well, since God verbally revealed His Son--His beloved in whom He is well-pleased. No one present had room to doubt whom Jesus was.
Jesus' baptism has always been a mystery to me...Jesus didn't need to be baptized. He didn't need to repent--He was perfect, sinless. He didn't need to confess or be washed clean. He wouldn't be marking Himself as a follower of...Himself. Nor would He be doing it to identify with His death and resurrection. There is no "spiritual" reason for Jesus to be baptized.
His baptism mainly seems to be for our sake. 1) So that we can follow Him in His baptism when we follow Him. 2) And God makes His Son known to us. In the Gospel of Mark, this is where we meet the Christ. Not in the stable. Not as a child. As an obscure adult from Nazareth. But the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the Father says that He is well pleased with His beloved Son.
Later, after Pentecost--after Jesus has ascended into Heaven and the Holy Spirit has been given to the Disciples, nearly anytime someone becomes a follower of Christ two things happen: 1) they are baptized, and 2) the Holy Spirit descends on them. The three events (believing, baptism and the Holy Spirit) are often connected.
Sometimes I wish I had that experience. Most Western evangelicals tend to put focus on praying a prayer to accept Jesus into your heart (we also seldom note the cost of following Christ). Of course, there is no "magic formula" to becoming a follower of Christ. But there is something special in believing, receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized. I wonder if I'm missing out because I haven't had that seemingly visible experience of having the Holy Spirit descend upon me.
After the sermon at church tonight, we had the opportunity to go to one of four people who were available for us to have them pray for us to receive the Holy Spirit. Not that we don't have the Holy Spirit, but I'm not sure that we're always "full" of the Holy Spirit. I know there's plenty of my "flesh" in my life that needs to get out of the way to make room for more of the Spirit. I also know that I had that that "supernatural" tingling feeling when I was prayed over (it's similar to when I'm receiving sage advice from an elder--something I've been convinced is the Holy Spirit getting my attention).
At any rate, I know that I need more of the Holy Spirit in my life, and less of myself. I guess epiphanies (even if they're a bit obvious like that) still happen today.