Pater Johannes Paul, who was ordained to the priesthood last Sunday, entered the monastery at the same time as I did. Watching him be ordained, and then next day celebrate his first Mass, was extraordinarily moving. Pater Damian, who was also in our novitiate, preached at the first Mass, and recalled the our entry into the monastery, when we had lain on the floor of the Church (in the same place where later we were to lie for the Litany of Saints at our ordinations) and how the Abbot had asked “What do you want?” and we had answered “The mercy of God and the Order.”
Pater Johannes Paul has always been a great example to me of the monastic life as a passionate response to the question “What do you want?” He has often recalled how his own path into the monastery began when he was listening to a CD with quotes from Pope John Paul II. At one point Pope John Paul said: “Do not be satisfied with mediocrity!” The future Pater Johannes Paul says that he realized that his life was mediocre–that he did and thought whatever happened to be fashionable, and wasted his time on mediocre joys–he decided to try to find life in its fullness.
And that is the promise of the monastic life: fullness of life, a life directed entirely toward the infinite good, that tries as far as possible to resist resting in the second best. As St Benedict puts it in the Prologue of the Rule:
And the Lord, seeking his laborer in the multitude to whom He thus cries out, says again, “Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see good days” (Ps. 33:13)? And if, hearing Him, you answer, “I am the one,” God says to you, “If you will have true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33:14-15). And when you have done these things, My eyes shall be upon you and My ears open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say to you, ‘Behold, here I am’” (Ps. 33:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9). What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.