Today is the feast of St. Benedict. Being at St. Meinrad, a Benedictine Archabbey, we had the joy of celebrating the feast with the monks. I found it a real “retreat bonus” as the Mass this morning was more solemn than usual. Also, departing from usual norms, there was a homily at the Mass — and a very good one at that. It gave me a LOT to consider for retreat.
Probably one of the biggest gems that I took away from the homily was a story that the celebrant told about a brother monk. That monk had been in the order for many years and was “tiring” of some of his brothers. He found himself getting more and more critical of people, including his own monastic brothers.
One Lent, he decided that his Lenten penance was going to be to keep a notebook. In the book, each day, he would write the name of one of his brother monks and then, after the name, would write as many good qualities about the person that he could bring to mind.
At the arrival of Easter, the monk found himself a changed man. He had learned to focus on the positive, not the negative. And, in the process, his brother monks had a different attitude about him because he had become more positive toward them all.
I look back at the thirty-four years that I have been a priest and I have to say, with a contrite heart, that I see myself a lot like that pre-Lent monk. I find that I am more critical of people and circumstances than when I first began. I find that I do not give others — or myself — the chances needed. I find that I often focus on the negative, not the positive.
I am going to try to keep that insight alive and employ it in my daily life. It can only make me a better priest!