Dad, I wanted to share these experiences with you.
This story starts before I left. For nine days, as instructed, I recited the prayer to St. Joesph, paying attention to the question, “Why am I going on this trip?” On the ninth day, I remember finishing my recitation then lifted my head and spoke, as if someone was speaking through me, “To know my faith.” This, still to my knowledge is my answer to the prayer.
Then, while I was home in Brentwood. You shared with me the story of Abba Anthony speaking to Moses. You told me to try to speak to Moses. Perhaps you did not mean this literally, but I took it those instructions as literal. So, I stepped outside for a long time, focused on Moses, truly opening my heart to the prospect of meeting him. That night, I had a very strange experience while asleep. I woke up and my room had become pitch black, unusual considering the lights that shine from the now new car dealerships. I felt my body flying at magnificent speeds, experiencing what would be turbulence on a plane. Then a dream appeared to me. I was in my bedroom, though there was no furniture. Before me an elderly man who was speaking though I could not recall all the words. He was, as I took in the dream, a holy man with a long beard. I did not look up to see his face out of respect. But, towards the end of the dream, in a joyful, reassuring tone, he said, “Do not worry about the trip, you will be alright and everything will work out.” I remember I even questioned him, “how could it all work out perfectly!?” “well,” he admitted, “of course there will be bumps, but you will be alright.”
Finally, the first night that I spent at the monastery here in Belgium. I sat in the chapel for an hour or so before I chose to eat dinner. Between recitation of prayers and sitting silently, I squeezed my heart and asked St. Charbel, “Why am I here? Why was I placed on this trip?”
Immediately, similar to my experience with the Prayer to St. Joesph, I looked up and said as if someone else was answering, “why are you so impatient?” I remember laughing out of joy to this response and then being moved to tears about how obvious and direct an answer it was. I suppose I have been impatient because all my life I’ve been asking why, why, why. However, as I’ve come to realize all lessons unfold only by the willingness to walk through the Mystery.
As I’ve stayed my weekend here at the monastery, I came across a story in the St. Charbel book, page 11, story 27, which tells a story of three Fathers who frequently pay visits to St. Charbel, one of which who rarely did speak. I think of this because as I came here I hoped to study about St. Charbel and more about the Maronite faith, but there are no books and the monks keep to themselves. But the last line of the story, “enough for me to see you, Father,” reminds me that learning does not come through reading or even words. Learning can be experiencing from the heart. So, as I sit in the chapel and contemplate I am learning a lot, I suppose. He’s a saint that works with a lot of healing, certainly.
Though it does not stop there. An hour before our Sunday dinner, Jacquline, the lady who deals with hospitality here, informed me that there was a Maronite mass that night at 6pm. I become so excited as before I was only told that there was no official mass being performed. I sat in the back and in comes all these Lebanese people filling all the seats. I could not tell if the mass was presented in Aramaic or Arabic as I could pick up a few Arabic words and phrases from my studies. But I never felt so at home in that space. I could feel my soul rising from its ancient history and sprouting shoots from its deep, deep roots.
While I know I wanted to know my faith better, what I did not know is that I need to be around Lebanese people, and of course, my own family, to truly experience and come to understand my faith. “It’s never too late to get to know your family,” as Rose and I would joke about knowing all the Attea’s. But it has made strong considerations of where I shall end up when I get back home in the states. I want to be near a Maronite church. That is the only way, I believe, I can truly feel that sense of relateability to my faith.
Anyways, still time is young. There is no telling how these experiences will unfold into valuable lessons or insightful stories. Thank you for all your advising and your suggestions of things to contemplate. Keep doing so and please keep praying for me as I move forward on this passage in life.