Over twenty years ago, I accom- panied two dear friends on a pilgrimage of sorts to a little-known, out-of-the-way Benedictine monastery hidden away in a canyon northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
For five days and nights we lived with the monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
To say the least, the experience proved unforgettable. My mind drifts back to that formative week very often.
The older I get and the more I am in touch with the poor and those living on the tough and expanding margins of our culture, the more I seem to go back to my experience in the desert.
Our stay happened to fall in the midst of Lent. As a result, we were up all hours of the night praying our way through the Psalms with the monks, all of whom seemed unafffected by the rigor of our schedule.
I remember the solitude and the deafening quite. Upon my return to Dallas, I realized just how loud and intrusive everything about the city seemed to me.
I remember how easy it was to think there and how well I slept on my straw mattress spread out on a narrow shelf in my private cell.
I recall a conversation with one monk. I asked him why he chose to live in such isolation in such an unusual community. He replied, "I am here to pray for churches in Christ everywhere."
For some reason I'm back there again today. It is a good place to stop and to consider what is important.
An Abba said: "No one can build a house from the top down; rather, you build the foundation first and then build upwards... the foundation means your neighbor whom you must win, and you ought to start from there. For all the commandments of Christ depend on this."
-Sayings of the Desert Fathers