Father David, Sister Mary Catherine, Sister Lanette, and me
How does an Assemblies of God minister from Southern California find himself a monk in a Catholic-based community in Eureka Springs, AR? It’s simple, really.
Shortly after I graduated from Bethany Bible College in Scotts Valley, CA, I read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. That book had a profound effect upon me, introducing me to a level of spiritual thinking that I was completely unaware of. Foster often quotes early Christian writers-and I’m not talking about writers from the early in the twentieth century. I’m talking about writers who lived over a thousand years ago. I was enthralled with the deep level of commitment made by these men and women, and at the same time, a bit ashamed that my own life with God did not even come close to emulating theirs. They were, and remain, historical mentors that have challenged my life in dramatic ways.
Celebration of Discipline also gave me a hunger for a deeper sense of God than I ever had before and showed me that my own Pentecostal tradition was woefully lacking when it came to teaching me the spiritual disciplines that helped create some of the giants of our faith. I felt a compelling need to investigate this type of spirituality further. Eventually this led me to a talk with John Michael Talbot, whom I met shortly after I graduated from college at the wedding of his brother Terry, where I was the wedding photographer.
After reading Celebration of Discipline, I kept wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. My mind kept going to John Michael, and somehow, I knew that he could answer some of my deepest questions. I had heard that John was at Terry’s house for the Christmas holidays, and so I called Terry and asked him if John would be willing to visit with me. John said yes.
We sat down in Terry’s living room, and I told John about the things God was doing in my life. We talked about my singleness, my reading, and my search for something deeper in my spiritual life. John recommended some more books for me to read, and then he did something I didn’t see coming. He invited me to visit the Little Portion Hermitage in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Little Portion is a Catholic-based, ecumenical community that has monks, nuns, single men and women and families living on the same property. The integration of all these different expressions is part of John Michael’s original vision for the community, and is the reason I could join and not be Catholic.
Naturally, I was a bit skeptical about going to a monastic community, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. Finally, two things convinced me to make a visit. One, John was the first person I had met who could answer some of the questions that were weighing on my heart. Two, it was just enough out of the ordinary that I wanted to do it. It may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve never been one to play things safe, strive to be “normal,” and live according to the status quo. Therefore, on my twenty-seventh birthday, I took my first-ever paid vacation and flew out to Arkansas to visit the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at the Little Portion Hermitage.
I stayed there a week, spent hours talking with John and members of the community, and finally returned home. I was working in a cabinet shop in Newberry Park at the time, and I remember trying to put together cabinets while my mind was back in Arkansas. I simply could not get the community off my mind and out of my heart, and I finally made the decision to return. Two months later I was living at the Little Portion Hermitage in Eureka Springs, AR.
I was a monk for four years, and left before I took permenant vows. I married Barbara almost two years after leaving the Little Portion. Although we attended the same Assemblies of God church in Berryville, AR, I didn’t really know who she was until after I left the community, but that is another story.