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THE (SURPRISING?) CONNECTION BETWEEN CONFESSION AND VOCATION DISCERNMENT

"I kept it secret and my frame was wasted

I groaned all day long

But now I have acknowledged my sins

My guilt I did not hide"

                                               ~Psalm 31

Judging from the comments we hear from priests who visit to the Monastery, it appears that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is--to put it mildly--an underutilized sacrament in our UGC Church.  This is problematic on many fronts, the most serious of which is that most people needlessly live under the burdensome weight of often serious--and even mortal--sin.  Yet for those Catholics--of all ages--who are still trying to figure who & what they are, and what they are being asked to do, the lack of time in the confessional is preventing them from utilizing one of the greatest tools of discernment.  St. John Paul the Great, who in his earlier years desired to make himself a "captive to the confessional," had the following to say about this critical issue:

"Moreover, the sanctification received through the regular practice of confession and a lengthy, conversational review of one's life in all its dimensions would lead to vocational clarity.  The penitent would come to know what he or she ought to do, as well as who he or she was.  A career was not the purpose of life.  Life was vocational, and one of the confessor's privileges was to help the penitent discern the vocation to which God had called him or her.  As he once told (an unidentified parishioner) whether one lived in a convent, in marriage or as a single person in the world, "You have to live for a concrete purpose.""

                                                                                                                                                                    ("Witness to Hope," by George Weigel)

If you consider the matter, why wouldn't this be the case?  Is it so strange that Our Lord would desire to speak to each of us through our Confessor?  Might He not want to reward us for the the faith, time, effort and humility necessary for making regular confessions?  Does He NOT want each of us to discern our true calling...or our later-in-life second, third of fourth callings?  Many good things will happen in the lives of who makes regular trips to the confessional and as unexpected as it may sound, the "vocational clarity" that St. John Paul the Great mentioned above would likely be one of the most life-changing.

If you haven't visited our site before, please scroll down to the related information on our Midlife and Deliverance ministries. 

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DOES MY SUFFERING COME FROM A PHYSIOLOGICAL OR A SPIRITUAL SOURCE?

THE CASE OF DESPONDENCY AND DEPRESSION

Having spent nearly 18 years in the pharmaceutical / biotech industry, six years of which were with mental health innovator, Eli Lilly, I have great respect for the role of evidence-based medicine for the treatment of our various maladies.  This experience has been valuable to deliverance ministry because for the most part, those who are sent to me have been through counseling and have usually taken various meds to control mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ADD, OCD, insomnia, etc.  Because of this, when discussing the ubiquitous spirits of depression and anxiety, this question often comes up:

“How do I know whether my current  symptoms of depression / anxiety / mania are from an unclean spirit?”   

Before acquiring a recent book called, “Time and Despondency,” (by Nicole M. Roccas) I sought the answer to such questions by revisiting the person’s experience with psychological counseling and discussing the meds the person took, often for several years, but which in the end never gave them their desired results.  But despite covering relevant medical history, the question above is still a perplexing one, which deserves a better answer.  Fortunately, I believe I stumbled upon a more informed answer with my fortuitous purchase of this timely book.  In the essential task of defining despondency, the author says:

“Leaving aside the discussion of sin for a moment, let us address depression and despondency in greater detail.  To be sure these conditions share much in common, so much so that they can be difficult to distinguish or clearly diagnose.  Like two circles from a Venn diagram, they overlap on many of their symptoms—irritability, fatigue, restlessness, boredom and hopelessness are just some examples.  Nonetheless, despondency and depression are separate circles; the two concepts have entirely different historical roots and are associated with divergent paradigms concerning the human person."

“Our knowledge of depression is rooted in the body-centered perceptions of Western medicine, which sees this affliction through the lens of physical processes like biochemical imbalances or weakened mood regulators in the brain.  Concepts of despondency, on the other hand, originated in the soul-centered worldview of early Christian monasticism.  That is not to say despondency has no physical manifestations, but simply that it begins in the soul and works outward to poison and paralyze the entire human person.”

““Whenever the soul becomes ill,” wrote Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, “instead of being nourished by God, (it) sucks the body dry.”  As far back as the 4th century, Evagrius (Ponticus c. 346-399) mentioned a host of physical manifestations of despondency that included bodily weakness and excessive sleep.  Considering the outward destruction despondency can cause, Evagrius described it as the worst of the legismoi (eight evil thoughts or terrible temptations from which all sinful behavior springs) —when left unchecked, he noted it can lead to suicide.”

“To sum things up, the Church has historically seen despondency  as one of many indications that a person is unwell...a symptom of brokenness that can fragment and distort all levels of our experience.”

To learn more about the process of Deliverance, please scroll down to our postings on "Midlife" and "Deliverance."

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NEW ICON WORKSHOPS!

Please check out our Icon page for a new workshop with Fr. Damian

and an advanced class with Raymond Vincent in Olympia, WA.

Thanks!

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MIDLIFE.

Of all the metaphors for this critical period in one’s life, the storm-tossed ship on a violent sea may be the most appropriate for many who are (roughly) somewhere between 40 and 65 years of age. Midlife can be a time of great tumult, uncertainty, fear and confusion.  It can be the time when we awaken to a question that seems cliched but feels very real if disillusionment has set in:“Is this it?  Is this my life?”  But despite—or maybe because of—the pain, midlife can also be a time of great opportunity.  It can be THE time for figuring out who—beyond the roles we’ve played throughout our lives—we really are.  Midlife can raise necessary questions about the true value of big homes, money, prestige, fame and stuff.  It can be a time of self-knowledge, healing, great purpose, peace, faith and the entry point into living one’s authentic life.

Not shown in the picture above is the person who thinks he or she is in charge of the ship. Shivering, gaunt, lashed by the wind, the rain and the waves, he or she still clings to the ship’s wheel with the skeleton hand of one who would sooner drive ‘their’ vessel to the bottom of the sea than relinquish control of its direction.  Anxious, depressed, struggling with insomnia, GI disorders, migraines, mysterious illnesses (that resist accurate diagnoses and successful treatments) and distressed relationships, this person either cannot or will not perceive that none of us ever really controls the ship.  And so they—and those around them—will suffer as Our Lord waits patiently for their realization that He is the One who is in charge of the vessel.

Mt. Tabor can help people struggling with these questions, afflictions and fears.  We can help you find where things went off track, where callings were missed or disregarded, and more importantly, what to do for the road—the voyage—ahead.

For more details, please call or write Br. Gideon at (707) 485-4162 brgideon@monksofmttabor.com

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MT. TABOR DELIVERANCE MINISTRY

Prayer is the monk's most effective tool but some situations require additional tools.  Hopelessness and despair can erode our well being until all we see is darkness.  Unforgiveness--for ourselves and others--can stifle healing and spiritual growth.  Resentment towards God begins in subtle ways but can metastasize until our very faith is threatened.  Rejection, abandonment and un-love afflict us with their wounds--often during our early years--before re-emerging to play havoc with our lives in adulthood.  Unfortunately, many of us try to medicate our suffering in ultimately destructive (not to mention ineffective) ways or eventually grow resigned to the "fact" that, "It's just something I'm going to have to endure."

But we can renounce these afflictions, reclaim the authority in our own lives and find lasting healing & peace.  How?  The Gospel gives us the power for this work, Our Lord has given us the people and the Monastery on our Holy Mountain has given us the place.  

For additional details and a confidential consultation, please call, email or text Br. Gideon at (707) 485-4162; brgideon@monksofmttabor.com      

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NEW ICON WORKSHOP SCHEDULE FOR 2018!

Back by popular demand are Fr. Damian's Icon Retreats for the New Year.  Below is all the pertinent information.  See you soon!

                                         Feb 12th - 16th:  St. Gertrude's, Cottonwood, ID; Call Krista Green @ 208 962-2004

                                         Apr 18th - 22nd: The Oratory, Rock Hill, SC; Call Judy @ 803 327-2097

                                         May 7th - 11th:   Holy Transfiguration Monastery w/ Raymond Vincent Call 707 485-8959 **

                                         Jun 25th - 30th:  St. Josephat's, Edmonton, AB; Call Fr. Peter Babej @ 780 993-8037

                                         Jul 16th - 21st:   St. Francis, Stoneville, NC; Call 336 573-3751

                                         Jul 30 - Aug 3rd: Holy Theophany, Olympia, WA; Call Mother Seraphina @ 360 491- 8233

                                         Aug 26th - 31st:  St. Placid Priory Spiritual Center, Lacy, WA; Call Sr. Lucy @ 360 438-2595

                                         Sep 10th - 15th:  St. Basil, Sterling Heights, MI; Call Fr. Rosmarinovich @ 568 268-1082

                                         Sep 26th - Oct 1st:  Immaculate Heart, Spokane, WA; Call Sr. Mary Eucharista @ 509 385-7271

                                         Oct 23rd - 28th:  Greenbough House of Prayer, Adrian, GA; Call Steve or Fay @ 478 668-4758

                                         Nov 26th - 30th: St. Angela Merici, Orange County, CA; Call Ceci Wtchey @ 714 745-6117

                                         **The cost for this retreat is $550 for the week for 'boarders' and $350 for daily commuters

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TESTIMONIAL

In striving to live the Eastern Monastic life as we do (which itself is a tall order) we often see only our failures, both as individuals and as a monastery.  A month or so before the fire, though, a young man reminded us that we hold no monopoly on the perception of this place, which remains the sole right of any individual who chances upon these grounds.  We often speak of "old souls," and though that designation might not fit our recent visitor to a T, we certainly saw, heard and felt a generous amount of wisdom in this 28-year old, which we share not to pat ourselves on the back, but to challenge ourselves to live up to his perception of our home...and by extension, us.  We share it with you because we know that many in our troubled society are searching for the place he describes, and that many of the disillusioned among us may think that such a place can only be a Shangri-La or an El Dorado.  It that's the case, then it's apparent that an old adage about such things may be true, as well: "Beneath every legend, there is always a kernel of truth..."

"Brothers of Mt. Tabor,

I've often dreamed of being able to travel back in time, to join in the intense, singular worship of the early Christians.  I had no idea that this was possible until I arrived here Tuesday night.  Your morning service is one the the most beautiful things I have seen in my life.  We are so lucky to have you men here, keeping this way of life alive.  I wanted to thank all of you for being so kind and welcoming, for including me in your prayers, for helping me to follow along in the services.  Thank you to those who shared your own stories with me; hearing of your journeys touched me deeply and helped me to develop in faith.  The only thing I regret is that I couldn't have stayed longer.  Peace be with all of you. ~ Paul "    

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NBC NEWS VIDEO OF MT. TABOR & ABHAYAGIRI MONASTERIES DURING/AFTER THE FIRE

NBC News made a nice little clip of the impact of the recent wildfire on Mount Tabor and neighboring Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery

but I have been unsuccessful in getting the segment attached to this site.  Please take a look at:

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Mendocino-Monks-Return-From-Fiery-Exile-451529893.html

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AFTERMATH

We have returned home safely.  Isolated fires still burn on our mountain but with several decades' worth of downed trees, branches and other dead fall cleansed from the forest floor by the flames, the scattered blazes have nowhere to go...so they burn in the night like lonely beacons.  Cal Fire used our Monastery as their base for a couple of days as the flames slowly descended towards the Retreat House, and seeing the handwriting on the mountain, they finally cut a huge firebreak from the high ridge all the way down to Tomki Road, thus sparing our vulnerable structures, including the Sacred Temple.  We have received a huge (and humbling) outpouring of sympathy from hundreds of the Faithful, yet in all honesty, we regard our sufferings as slight...mere inconveniences compared with the majority of Tomki residents who were seriously injured, lost their homes and in a couple of cases, lost their lives.  Sadness manifests itself in many forms but one of the more poignant of these is the sight of a person literally sifting through the ashes in the hopes of finding those lost things that might have withstood fire and temperatures so intense that burning cars wept rivulets of liquid chrome. 

After seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling such things, the above picture of St. Jude Thaddeus, set against a backdrop of destruction, pretty much says it all.  Some might wonder where his Master was as the flames raced up our vulnerable canyon, leaping from tree to house to barn to car and then repeating, and that's a fair question to ask.  The answer is impossibly long and diverse but after talking to so many who ended up on the sharp end of the flames, it is apparent that Our Lord was guiding the hands of those who fled in their cars through a gauntlet of nearly impenetrable smoke and flames.  He was calming the pounding hearts and racing minds of some who were sliding down the slippery slope of panic.  He was answering the prayers of those who awoke to the nightmare, aghast, with those four life-saving words on  their lips and in their hearts: "Lord, help me...please," and from the beginning to the end, He was slipping His mightiest of shoulders under the yokes of all those affected, helping him, her and them to bear what must be borne with grace and peace.

Though it looks bad and smells worse right now, the forest was in desperate need of this cleansing and who knows what new growth might emerge from the ground next spring, unlocked and activated by the rare but indispensable heat of these flames?  The cleansing of our hearts and souls is a more difficult-to-predict matter, so only time will tell if this catastrophe will not only unlock that knowledge of what matters most, but will affect a lasting re-prioritization of the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical aspects of our lives.  After awakening to the flames on that tempestuous night, our first priority as a small community of monks was to pray an ancient office used in times of disaster, and though our focus has shifted to intentions for recovery, healing and thanksgiving, our prayers will continue...albeit with the heightened awareness of people who felt the heat, but were largely spared from the flames. 

We are grateful for the heroic efforts of Cal Fire, the various local Fire Departments, the Sheriff's Department, all official emergency personnel, the hard-working PG&E crews and all those other assorted heroes who took it upon themselves to give their neighbors a hand, in large ways and small.  Along with those who suffered as a result of this unprecedented fire, all involved will remain fixed in our prayers for the foreseeable future.

May God Bless You All. 

The Monks of Mt. Tabor

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