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What Are We Preparing For?

by on October 30, 2022

What Are We Preparing For?

by Br. Mark Dohle

Monastery of the Holy Spirit

Most readers know I am not a deist. However, I have known Br. Mark, a Cistercian (Trappist) monk, for over 25 years. Of the many monks and nuns I have known in my lifetime Br. Mark stands out as one of the few who fully engage in candid and respectful dialogue with people of all perspectives. I hope readers will avail themselves of this opportunity to do so. All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. (Marco M. Pardi)

What are we preparing for?

Life is hard, though also filled with beauty, and wonder, and yes there is always hope. My eyes that look out upon the world today do not see the same things as I once did when I was a callow youth. I have lost a certain innocence as I aged, and I think that is a good addition, as long as it does not lead to bitterness or cynicism.

I actually like aging, even though there is a lot that goes with that. Deepening faith and a growing trust in God help me deal with the more uncomfortable realities of aging.

My body is not the same as it was when I was a young man and strong, in good shape, with little or no pain in my body. Now of course that has all changed. My ears don’t work like they used to, but I have hearing aids. My eyes need more attention as the years go by, and I can’t take for granted that every day I will be able to read easily. Fatigue is with me much of the time, some of it deep, making it hard for me to sit for more than ten minutes without falling asleep. All I need do is have a book in my hands, and my head will droop, and I doze off. Pain is a constant companion, though not usually over a 7, which I can handle without too much trouble. So in order to deal with that I guess I have developed what St. Paul calls “patient endurance”. I think this is what allows me to enjoy life perhaps even more than when I was young.

As we age, we come to realize that we are actually dying, albeit slowly. Sometimes when I am sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, the shortness of my future in this world comes across strongly, but not depressingly, but just a matter of fact. There is both relief and some fear in that thought.

Family members die, which is a great sorrow for me. Friends as well. Yet I find more peace in my later years than when I was younger.

About two weeks ago, as I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I got a strong inspiration that simply came across with this simple statement: “Just look to me”. I was surprised at the strength of the inner movement of my soul. It is true…..all we need to do is look to the Lord. The problem with simplicity is that it can actually be very difficult. The complex can be fun and challenging, but simple (?), well again, patient endurance is needed.

I have found that the more earthy concerns, that come from my thought process, often rooted in my far past, are simply one big circle that I run around in, with no way out. It traps me in my head and becomes more and more compulsive if I do not make an effort to stop the movie from running.

Fear comes for me, as anger, and anxiety when I start to try to do it all by myself. Grace draws me out of my intense ‘subjectivity’. Which is in reality a hellish experience.

It is grace that allows us to love others, forgive, and listen. Both to God, as well as to those around us. Love is the gateway out of our hellish inner lives when we get stuck with ourselves and our personal infallibility.

Each of us is the beloved of God. Sin flows from our fear of truth, pain, and just life. When we self-medicate we only get worse. To embrace life means to accept in faith that all that is, and happens, is somehow within God’s permissive will. I can’t figure myself out, so I have no doubt that the deep mysteries of life are also beyond my reach. However, the mystery is not unknowable, but eternally knowable. So one of the gifts of aging is that we do slowly learn to understand on a deeper level, and that is one of the many gifts of aging.

Pray, trust, love, and get through one day at a time.-Br.MD


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  1. (Name withheld by request) 
    My body agreed with every word. Pain and peace are my frequent companions.
    My mind may bounce between stay or go quite a bit more than I’d like. And, at this point, I suspect I’m here for Missy (pup) and the grandkids. Whatever comes…I’ve enjoyed the ride and so far survived the bumps along the way.
    Because of an NDE and being with folks as they have passed, I have more curiosity than fear of what’s ahead –
    Your thoughts are comforting to me.


  2. Thanks so much, Mark. As I say that I feel a twinge that maybe I’m thanking you for suffering along with me. I don’t mean it that way. I remember sayings from my youth, such as, “We each have our cross to bear”. Like yours, mine seems heavier at times. But you have certainly found ways to adjust to the burdens.

    Sometimes, as the memories flash out of sequence, I feel as if I’m caught on some diabolical game of Twister, stepping quickly from square to square, wondering if I’ll ever land on a memory I enjoy having.

    Yes, it does seem like a cosmic plan. And when I think of one day getting my hands on the planner I remember POGO’s dictum: We have met the enemy and he is us.


  3. mkdohle permalink

    Thanks Marco. I guess each stage of life has it challenges. I believe that old age is perhaps the most important and challenging, though being a teenager was high on stress and seeking out some answers.



  4. Tilly permalink

    Thank you Br. Mark for this post. I am most struck by your final comments: Pray, trust, love, and get through one day at a time. So much of life is spent worrying about either what has passed or what will come to pass. I find this to be a self destructive loop. Your advice is so simple yet so complex. Let us just get through one day at a time as
    we know not how long we have on this earth. Beautiful !


    • mkdohle permalink

      Thank you Tilly, we do like complex, sometimes needed, but the interior life is best lived walking on a simpler path rooted in trust.



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