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Aug 28, 2023 440 Brother John Baptist Santa Ana, O.S.B.
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Old Friends

People are often surprised when I tell them that my closest friend at the monastery is Fr. Philip, who happens to be 94. He being the oldest monk of the community, and me being the youngest, make quite the duo; another fellow monk affectionately refers to us as the “alpha and omega.” In addition to our discrepancy in age, there are numerous differences between us. Fr. Philip served in the Coast Guard before entering the monastery, studied Botany and English, has lived in Rome and Rwanda, and is fluent in several languages. In short, he has much more life experience than me. That said, we do share some things in common: we’re both California natives and converts from Protestantism (he Presbyterian and me Baptist). We enjoy opera immensely, and more importantly, we lead a life of prayer together.

It is only natural to select friends who share our common interests. But as we get older and our situations in life transition, we find ourselves losing some friends while gaining new ones. Aristotle says that all friendships must share something in common. Enduring friendships are those that share long-lasting things. For example, friendship between two surfers persists as long as there are waves to be caught. However, if there is no swell or if one surfer gets injured and can no longer paddle out, the friendship will fade unless they find something new to share. Therefore, if we wish to have lifelong friends, the key is to find something that can be shared for a lifetime, or better yet, eternity.

The high priest, Caiaphas, accused Jesus of blasphemy when He claimed to be the Son of God. Far more blasphemous than this statement was when Jesus told His disciples, “You are my friends.” For what could the Son of God have in common with fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot? What can God possibly have in common with us? He is much older than we are. He has more life experience. He is both Alpha and Omega. Whatever we share in common must have been given to us by Him in the first place. Among the many gifts He shares with us, Scripture is explicit about which lasts the longest: “His steadfast love endures forever.” “Love…endures all things.” “Love never ends.” As it turns out, being friends with God is quite simple. All we have to do is “love because He first loved us.”

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Brother John Baptist Santa Ana, O.S.B.

Brother John Baptist Santa Ana, O.S.B. is a monk of St.Andrew’s Abbey, Valyermo, CA. Presently he is pursuing MA in Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. His interests include martial arts, surfing and drawing.

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