Who am I?
I am a young man of Bruges (on the photo on the left), Belgium. In this beautiful city of the Middle Ages I did my primary and secondary schools, although our family has lived two years in Brussels as well. After that I started my studies in Journalism, which I completed in December 2010. While studying this trade my heart already called me in another direction.
How did I come to know the Lord?
After the divorce of my parents my family had a kind of restructuring and we moved to Brussels. I was about 12 years old. I entered puberty and I felt lost. For several years I tried to hide my discomfort up until the time I did not want to lie to myself and the people around me anymore. I said, "Too bad, if I' m sad, If I don’t want to talk to anyone, so be it. I will be quiet and live in my solitude. "More and more I shut myself in. I was so anxious that any meeting with anyone caused me great stress. My only refuge was my room where I fled from reality to watch TV all day long. My conscience was gnawing even at my dreams and woke me up at night.
I lived like that for several years. I didn't find any meaning to life and to be franc, I wasn't living at all – my life was ‘on pause’. Little by little I got closer to my cousin who made pilgrimages on foot. He seemed so happy and I discerned a kind of light in his eyes which I hadn't seen before.
One day I decided to make a pilgrimage of my own. I decided to walk for three days from Bruges to Tournai (to the house of my grandparents). I wanted to do it without money, the old fashioned way. During this walk a huge sense of freedom and happiness came over me. I felt like I was breathing for the first time. Upon returning, and following the words of my cousin, I attended the Easter Mass in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges. It was the first time I went to church alone. I sat in the fourth row and I do not know why but tears flowed down my face without stopping from beginning to end. I felt so comforted, so loved.
How did I come to know the Monastery?
During the same period, when I spent half my time in school and the other half in escape from reality, my cousin and a distant cousin took me to visit Syria. I must say that my cousin had just returned from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had been especially charmed by the Syrians for their hospitality. And above all, he had been struck by the nuns of a certain monastery in the Syrian desert. When I came for the first time in this great monastery I was surprised by one of the sisters. She could not stop smiling. She seemed so happy, it connected very deeply with me. This is where I had the joy to talk at length with the Mother Superior, Mother Agnes. And for the first time in my life I felt like I was talking to someone who actually understood me, but without me having to say many words. I really felt comforted.
A year later I decided to spend six months at the Monastery of Syria. I wanted to study why (after my first visit) this place remained like a light in my soul even during my time in Belgium. During these six months I really got to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way. The sisters made me realize that the only way to overcome my fears was to root myself in the reality of every day life, and face my fears. I also started working with my hands. Gradually, with the help of Mother Agnes’ lectures and guidance, who introduced us to Saint John of the Cross, and thanks to the silent prayer of Jesus to which she was instructing us, I was at peace, near the Beloved I was looking for without knowing it for so long. After that I returned to Belgium to complete my studies in Journalism. But my heart was made up: "After my studies I would be a monk in Syria! "
How I live the situation during the war?
I think to be able to experience this war living in community, in the painful absence of Mother and Sister Carmel, is a great blessing for us. I think sometimes of the sentence of the Lord: "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you," John 16:7. It is not easy for a young Community to be deprived of its Mother Superior and her “right arm” (Sister Carmel). But in this difficult experience with the war, we must abandon ourselves in the arms of the Lord and beg Him for the Holy Spirit.
We made this little video for our first website in 2011. At that time I wasn't wearing the habit. None the less, the words I said then are the words I would say today.