Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Deep connection with the past



 Hearts_Home_DohleA surprise meeting in our retreat house
Though I do think of my past and its affect on my life, I still underestimate its pull on my inner life.  Last Friday afternoon a couple checked in to our retreat house.  The husband’s name was Mike.  I was at my desk and he asked me if I was the one who posted on Facebook.  When I said yes, he told me his last name and I remembered seeing him there.  He then said we have something common, we both come from the ‘same side’.  It took a few seconds for it to sink in, but he was just looking at me and smiling and then it hit me.  “Oh yeah, I was in the same class as your brother”.  I did not know his brother, not sure I ever talked to him at all, yet like most of my classmates, I remembered him.  What surprised me was how happy I was to see Mike and went out and embraced him as if I knew him all those years in High School.  Even if he was 12 years younger than me, he graduated in 79 while I was in the class of 67.

In the Canal Zone the 7th-12th grades where in one building.  Junior High and Senior High, so it was seven years of being with pretty much the same group of students, that where from the Canal Zone, or from Colon.  There where military students but they where there for about two years before they moved on.  I guess most of my  ‘friends’ where those who lived in Fr. Gulick.  Donna Janzar, who was a friend until she left in the 10th grade and with whom we reconnected in 08 and became really good friends, or a continuation of our friendship in Panama….it was like our conversation just started where we left off in 65.  Her death still affects me she was a very gentle and loving soul.  Tom Estrada, who also lived in Fr. Gulick, though I really don’t know him I have always felt a connection because of his friendship with my older brother Robert.

Though I have a few that I still have very fond memories over who were Zonians.   Nan Detour is one person that I will never forget and glad to be re-connected to her once again.  Shirley Walker, who I am not sure, remembered me when I called the first time, but it was great to get back with her as well.  Dennis Forsgren, I talked with him once; it was good to see he was doing all right.

I was happy in Panama, loved it.  However, school was something I put up with.  I was a lousy student, the second from the last in my class, so I am no rocket scientist.  Also in ROTC I was a pain in the neck for those over me.  My rebellion was inward looking but my arrogance was real and perhaps was needed at that time of my life.  It kept me from drowning.   Yet I knew I had to stay in there to get my diploma.  Glad I did.  The teachers where the best, it was my fault, my choice that I did not become a better student, though when I graduated I knew how to read, write, do math, understood history, though geography is something I never really understood….yeah a tad slow.

High School kept me connected and for that I am thankful.  Much of life has never made sense to me, but as I age I have found relationships are enduring, even if a real connection is not often thought about, felt, or averted to.  So yeah, I had a deep connection with Mike’s brother, even though I never knew him.  I was a watcher, so I observed everything when in High School.  I knew that there were certain things I did not get.  Deep friendships being one of them, for it was obvious that there was a lot of that in High School.  My brothers seemed to have lots of friends, I did not envy it, did not desire friendship at that time in my life, yet wondered how people stuck together in that way.  When in High School, my world was books, the library my favorite place to be.  I knew I was trying to figure things out, so I tried to find books that would help me…..I am still searching and reading…..still scratching the surface.  Though I now understand that I did connect with others, but it  was not until later, like with Donna Janzar when we reconnected in 08, that I discovered that there was a friendship of sorts in High School that went deeper than what I thought. I was just unaware, too disconnected to really understand what was going on.

One of the reasons I like aging is that I now understand friendship, perhaps not as deep still as my brothers, but I find myself being able to connect with others and love them deeply.  I have also learned that deep connections and love can be for classmates and all those of my past, from the Navy, and those who have come to the Monastery and have since died or left.  I believe we bring many with us on our pilgrimage through life and that connection does not stop with death.  The oneness that is felt for loved ones and friends can go a lot deeper, or perhaps is deeper than any of us realize.  The only thing that stops that connection is hatred, which is like a cancer that can eat up the soul until all that is left is a cold emptiness.

The inner world of each of us is deep and vast filled with light as well as darkness.  I also think Carl Jung was right; we all share a collective unconscious.  I believe it is grace that leads us through this inner journey.  We make it in this life, or perhaps at death, when the unconscious becomes conscious we will make the journey then.  If we wish to go ‘Higher up and Deeper in”,  the journey is unavoidable.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery


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