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JAMES BEHRENS: Faith is a part of us, even when we're not pondering the mysteries of it

The monastery is a place that offers a hope of a contemplative approach to God, with the added hope that he is somehow found.

I believe that those hopes can be realized, though not in the ways that we are accustomed to associate with finding and keeping. I suppose that my strivings to better understand God are based on hunches, hints, hesitancy, and a desire that rarely subsides. The more I look, the more I see.

I am not at all sure as to how it all "fits" into the larger scheme of things. Are so many wondrous things in life harbingers of the Divine? I do not know. But I cannot get beyond them.

The living details of everyday life brim with such beautiful possibilities. We carry within ourselves something, maybe someone, that has carved within the heart a hunger for the beautiful.

Even though that has led many people astray in that they try and grasp what can never be possessed, there is beauty to be found in that detour as well.

If we are patient, and look hard enough, and perhaps take risks in searching for beauty in what seems wayward, dark and void of the sacred, traces of beauty can be found. Tragedy carries within its womb the promised birth of new life.

The last week here was akin to a roller coaster ride. The early week started smoothly enough. But on Tuesday, our main water pipe burst. We had switched from our own well water to city water and the pressure was too much for our old pipes.

We found ourselves dealing with floods and puddles. We had no water on Tuesday through part of Thursday. Plumbers arrived and patched and rerouted different pipes as best they could, so by Friday things were much better.

But there will be problems for months to come. We are in a waiting mode, waiting and hoping that the water runs smoothly through our available piping.

Augustine, who as procurator has the job of handling the nuts and bolts (and, unfortunately, the pipes) of our buildings and property, handled the crisis with a remarkable finesse. He also was the main celebrant this week and gave wonderful homilies. I do love the way he preaches. But this week he outdid himself.

As water was pouring out of our old pipes and onto the floors through the ceilings, words poured out of Augustine. Beautiful words. One morning he spoke of the existential nature of faith, that faith is a living part and parcel of our very being -- even though we may not consciously think about it all the time.

I thought to myself when he said those words that faith is perhaps most operative when we do not ponder its meaning. Faith moves us into the wondrous play of life. Faith moves us along, receding from conscious view so that we can better see all that is before our eyes, our hearts.

As Augustine was up to his knees in water, his faith was no less active and alive than when he tried to phrase its operation in the pulpit.

Yes, faith is existential. It flows through our lives, taking twists and turns, ebbing high and sometimes low.

And as we found out this past week, it can get us very wet, but miraculously manages to keep our spirits high, dry, and, in Augustine's remarkable gift of words, inspiring.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.