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       We have had a very dry summer here at the Abbey. The lawns were brown and brittle and never turned that vibrant green usually seen in spring. The vegetable garden was reduced in size and required intensive watering. Early in the summer area ranchers were baling grain to have food for cattle over the winter and others were selling cattle as pastures did not have enough grass. The little rain that fell in western North Dakota always seemed to go around us, though I was glad someone was getting rain. Local elders remembered the drought of the 1930s. Yes, it was bad. Our prayers were for rain.As you know, our monastic prayer is centered on the Psalms which are recited or sung here at Assumption Abbey four times a day as we gather to pray in community. It has often been stated that the Psalms, these ancient sacred prayers, songs, and poems, reflect the totality of our experiences even today. Reciting and singing the psalms helps bring me closer to God, to others, and also to myself. It has been my experience that even though these psalms are repeated (we go through the 150 psalms every three weeks), new ways of hearing them often happen. One day, Psalm 63 hit a nerve: Oh God, you are my God – it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts. In a land parched, lifeless, and without water. I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you. Experiencing such a severe drought this year, I could grasp this psalm in a new and experiential way. Thus, seeing and knowing how dry the ground was, I could then look within and reflect on whether I truly thirsted for God in the same way as the land thirsted for rain.  Could I experience how unfinished I am when I am not filled with the Divine and know that I will not live just as plants cannot grow without water? By acknowledging my thirst for God, I can better know myself as God knows me. Psalm 63 helped me take a tough situation and turn it into an occasion for placing myself in the presence of God: both to understand who I am and also to continue my prayers for rain. I also know that, for myself and many others, life is generally pretty good and for this I am grateful. However, when normal quotidian activities fill up the day, the result is often that I just skim through life with God off to the side. When experiencing periods of struggle or suffering, it is more natural for me to embrace God. One could say that just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there may be many in the shopping mall. Thus, in a ‘good enough’ year in terms of rain, one’s hunger or desperation are not triggered and life just moves along. Though for farmers and ranchers this would be great, I am not so sure it is good for me! Be that as it may, recitation and singing of the psalms helps to bring God to my center when life is going well and maybe more so when there are struggles. There are numerous ways in which a snippet from a psalm can lead me to new understandings or to express praise of God, or simply to rejoice. For example, I often go to Psalm 1. I use this as a reminder of where I should be ‘planted’ as the flowing water represents the graces of God: He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing water, That yields its fruit in due season; And whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper. Yes, there will be times of dryness, and times when I wonder whether or not God hears. Still, I know that by putting roots down in the psalms, I will be better able to withstand the difficulties in life and stay in God’s presence when things go well. In addition, experiencing those periods of dryness and difficulty helps me put down these roots and build these foundations. If life becomes too easy, then I become superficial and easily shaken and uprooted. When reflecting on discomfort or difficulties, I do not want to give the glib response that we can ignore the sufferings of others because it is good for them or to simply suffer when simple changes can be made. Yet, I do think that we as monks can be a positive force in the world when we can put up with being uncomfortable; to know that everything does not have to go my way because it is more important for God’s way to take precedence. With a sense of humility, I will better place myself in the presence of God.

Thirsting

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Spiritual Reflections
       We have had a very dry summer here at the Abbey. The lawns were brown and brittle and never turned that vibrant green usually seen in spring. The vegetable garden was reduced in size and required intensive watering. Early in the summer area ranchers were baling grain to have food for cattle over the winter and others were selling cattle as pastures did not have enough grass. The little rain that fell in western North Dakota always seemed to go around us, though I was glad someone was getting rain. Local elders remembered the drought of the 1930s. Yes, it was bad. Our prayers were for rain.As you know, our monastic prayer is centered on the Psalms which are recited or sung here at Assumption Abbey four times a day as we gather to pray in community. It has often been stated that the Psalms, these ancient sacred prayers, songs, and poems, reflect the totality of our experiences even today. Reciting and singing the psalms helps bring me closer to God, to others, and also to myself. It has been my experience that even though these psalms are repeated (we go through the 150 psalms every three weeks), new ways of hearing them often happen. One day, Psalm 63 hit a nerve: Oh God, you are my God – it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts. In a land parched, lifeless, and without water. I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you. Experiencing such a severe drought this year, I could grasp this psalm in a new and experiential way. Thus, seeing and knowing how dry the ground was, I could then look within and reflect on whether I truly thirsted for God in the same way as the land thirsted for rain. Could I experience how unfinished I am when I am not filled with the Divine and know that I will not live just as plants cannot grow without water? By acknowledging my thirst for God, I can better know myself as God knows me. Psalm 63 helped me take a tough situation and turn it into an occasion for placing myself in the presence of God: both to understand who I am and also to continue my prayers for rain. I also know that, for myself and many others, life is generally pretty good and for this I am grateful. However, when normal quotidian activities fill up the day, the result is often that I just skim through life with God off to the side. When experiencing periods of struggle or suffering, it is more natural for me to embrace God. One could say that just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there may be many in the shopping mall. Thus, in a ‘good enough’ year in terms of rain, one’s hunger or desperation are not triggered and life just moves along. Though for farmers and ranchers this would be great, I am not so sure it is good for me! Be that as it may, recitation and singing of the psalms helps to bring God to my center when life is going well and maybe more so when there are struggles. There are numerous ways in which a snippet from a psalm can lead me to new understandings or to express praise of God, or simply to rejoice. For example, I often go to Psalm 1. I use this as a reminder of where I should be ‘planted’ as the flowing water represents the graces of God: He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing water, That yields its fruit in due season; And whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper. Yes, there will be times of dryness, and times when I wonder whether or not God hears. Still, I know that by putting roots down in the psalms, I will be better able to withstand the difficulties in life and stay in God’s presence when things go well. In addition, experiencing those periods of dryness and difficulty helps me put down these roots and build these foundations. If life becomes too easy, then I become superficial and easily shaken and uprooted. When reflecting on discomfort or difficulties, I do not want to give the glib response that we can ignore the sufferings of others because it is good for them or to simply suffer when simple changes can be made. Yet, I do think that we as monks can be a positive force in the world when we can put up with being uncomfortable; to know that everything does not have to go my way because it is more important for God’s way to take precedence. With a sense of humility, I will better place myself in the presence of God.

Thirsting

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601