July 20, 2010...10:46 am

Why I’m thankful for Brother Shawn.

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It is Thankful Tuesday and I, after having been MIA for almost a week, am back in San Francisco (along with the post-family-visit-blues). This past week has been wonderful, packed with some amazing niece and nephew time, one good steak, one smothered fajita (I’ve got to stop eating like a 20 year old. Seriously. It’s over.), one daring drowning rescue in the baby pool (special thanks to my brother Brooks for snatching my son out while I sprinted in slow motion through water while cussing at the top of my lungs), and two slow, restful days at a Benedictine monastery in the mountains of New Mexico.

And in honor of Thankful Tuesday, I want to focus on the sweetness of my time with the brothers (and sisters!) and their dear monastic home where I was welcomed as a guest in last week. I spent two days at a monastery once before. It was last December for an Advent retreat. I drove by myself around seven hours south towards Los Angeles and stayed at a large beautiful monastery in the desert. The monks I met there were generous and deliberate. Many were academic types: quiet and thoughtful. Though all thirty or so I came across were kind and intentional about our (the guests) comfort and welcome, I never felt pursued. My time there felt as though I were welcome on the periphery of something already happening. And watching the monks in their lives and worship was meaningful.

But what I found last week was a more tender, less reasoned response to hospitality. The monastery I experienced was a bit more raw, more obvious in its needs. It was a third the size of the monastery I visited before. Its monks were aging. The need for youth was obvious. And in the midst of that reality, there was Brother Shawn, a tender hearted, middle-aged man, who never failed to recall the name of every guest there. Brother Shawn was always nearby, always willing to share his life. I was there two days. He hiked with four of us guests after dinner the first night I was there, browsed books with us in the bookstore the second. He shared stories with us.

Brother Shawn would not win any cool awards. He’s the kind of guy who can easily be written off as awkward. But his ability to love in the most simplistic, joyful way was inspiring to me. During breakfast, I’d grabbed myself a cup of decaf at a side table before hopping in line for eggs. Ten minutes later he was at my table with coffee pots in hand refilling. When he got to me, he lifted up the green-rimmed handle pot and whispered, “Decaf, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “How’d you know?”

“Oh, I just noticed.”

That is the kind of hospitality I long to practice. The noticing.

So this Thankful Tuesday, I’m thankful for Brother Shawn for noticing the need, the joy, the details of the people who come into his life. I’m thankful that he has taken his calling to hospitality seriously. And my prayer is that today in the midst of my simple day of post-vacation errands and a play date at the park, I would live out my calling to notice.  Who knows who or what I’ll see if I simply look…


  • noticing….. wow.

    thanks for sharing.

  • That’s a lesson for us all - learning to better notice…food for the soul….wonderful post…

    Have to ask: was the monastery you visited in So. CA St. Andrew’s in Valyermo by any chance? Just curious (near where I grew up and have been many tmies..)…

  • That’s a lesson for us all - learning to better notice…food for the soul….wonderful post…

    Have to ask: was the monastery you visited in So. CA St. Andrew’s in Valyermo by any chance? Just curious (near where I grew up and have been many times..)…

  • Wow! sounds amazing, I would love to go with just me and my wife to a monastery for a weekend! I’m already googling for the nearest one!

  • Love your posts, Micha. When I first started teaching teenagers, I really wanted to connect, better than most teachers do. I knew the power of mentor connection in my own life. Praying one day, probably fuming to God about my own inability to connect with the students, I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper, “notice things.” It changed my way of teaching. I have begun to let the Holy Spirit “highlight” specifics that students inadvertently share, little details they expect no one to remember and later ask them an “update me” kind of question regarding them. A humility and consequent vulnerability seems to move into our relationship as we both recognize one another’s importance…maybe something like you experienced with Brother Shawn. I’ve learned to rely less on my skills and knowledge in relationship, more on God’s gentle, tender notice of us.

  • [...] this monastery leaves with some heart-warming tale of an encounter with Brother Shawn? Stories like Micha’s. It wouldn’t surprise [...]

  • found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

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