by Malcolm Delaney, MH Belgium.
Ahhhh! Springtime in Belgium: birds singing, marsh marigolds blooming, and little green spikes emerging from black earth, promising snowdrops and crocuses and vegetable gardens to weed.
Spring came a tad early this year. But who can understand Mother Nature these days?
And with spring has come moles. Yes, the war is back on. After we eliminated them from the park (thanks to some advice from former MH Combermere farmer Larry Klein), they mounted a counter-offensive in the vegetable garden.
What are those famous words of Sir Winston Churchill? “We will fight them (in the streets, the lanes, the hedgerows, the parks, the vegetable gardens). We will never surrender!”
We’ve also had a wave of welcome visitors—“pilgrims of the Absolute,” both short-term and long-term, individuals and groups who are seeking the face of God and the truth of their existence, people who join us in this great adventure called “Faith.”
And what a wonderful, somewhat overwhelming location we have for them to launch or continue this adventure: an abbey with 900 years of prayer (not to mention plumbing) impregnating the walls, an abbey located in a valley rich with mineral springs and dark forests, a place where, every day, the silence becomes music.
This adventure is rooted in the duty of the moment and our Nazareth way of life. It’s very similar to what visitors are invited to participate in in Combermere. (We even have the men preparing the vegetables as they do there!)
One of the questions we ask our young visitors is, “Is there space in your life for silence?” We start them with just a few seconds, and then a little more. This isn’t easy for them.
One of our first long-term visitors said to me at one point in his stay, “The silence here is killing me!” But he survived, and now returns from time to time—usually with a friend.
When we give a tour to groups of young people we often start in one corner of the cloister and tell them, “There is buried treasure hidden here. Can you find it?”
They look and look. Finally someone notices that, in one corner of the floor, some paving stones are dislodged.
Then we invite them to crouch down right there and become very still. It’s only then, when it’s so silent that you could hear a pin drop, that they discover the treasure. “It’s water!” they cry. “There’s a stream! I can hear it!”
Yes, it’s an underground canal (the Cistercians are famous for them) that has been quietly gurgling there inside the abbey for over 500 years.
Then we ask, “Isn’t it a little bit the same with God? We can’t see him; we can’t hear him. Yet he is there, just like the water, waiting to be discovered—provided we become very, very small and very, very quiet.”
As we continue to welcome these visitors, we are preparing for more to come. For World Youth Day will be held this coming August in Cologne, Germany, which is only 2½ hours east of us. Several groups are already booked to spend some time here before the actual event.
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