When I was elected abbot in December 2012, one of the natures or types or titles of the office that I struggled with was the idea of being a spiritual father. Not that I don’t believe the abbot holds that role in the community, and not that I haven’t taken seriously the responsibility of guiding the community spiritually in my role as abbot. It is the second half of that descriptor I’ve had to come to terms with. The weight, the heaviness of being a “father.” I can only imagine fear in a first-time father’s heart when mother and child come home from the hospital; it is real, and he can’t make his fear about himself as he is called to make a self-gift.
Even as I type this column anxiousness wells up in me thinking about this designation I hold for my brothers as “spiritual father.” I have to laugh, also, as half the community entered the monastery before me, so the thought of trying to have this father/son relationship with them is intimidating. I work to get past the lie that I don’t have anything of significance to share with those who taught me, those who ministered to me, those who helped me find my vocation, those who formed me in my monastic life, those whom I still call “Father” or “Brother.”Read More