August Turak

Author Consultant Speaker

The Magical Umbrella: How a Monk's Christmas Present Changed My Life

Christmas is rapidly approaching and each year my thoughts return to the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey. For many years I religiously spent several weeks over Christmas living and working alongside the monks, but unfortunately the last couple have been so busy that I've been unable to get away. But of all my wonderful memories, a single encounter with a monk offering to share an umbrella on a cold Christmas Eve remains the single most formative experience of my life.

Streaming audio version: Listen to Brother John Essay

Six years ago I turned this experience into an essay titled, Brother John, and submitted it to the John Templeton Foundation's Power of Purpose Essay Contest. Of all the wonderful compliments that Brother John has garnered over the years, none means more to me than my brother's.

One day my brother Chris told me that he had mentioned Brother John to a colleague at his law firm.

"You mean to tell me," his colleague exclaimed, "that with no previous experience, your brother cranks out an essay in a couple of days and wins the Templeton Foundation’s grand prize?"

Chris nodded.

"Boy, is he lucky."

"You don’t understand," Chris said. "My brother’s been working on that essay for 35 years."

With the benefit of my brother's comment I realized that this Christmas story was more than an essay. It was a manifesto crammed with everything I've learned from all my teachers and the monks of Mepkin Abbey.

But most importantly, I realized that the man I was when these events took place could never have written Brother John. It was only with the help of Brother John, Father Christian, and all the monks of Mepkin Abbey that I finally received the grace that let me share Brother John's umbrella with others.

With this post so close to Christmas I'd like to offer you a copy of Brother John. I offer it in the hope that you will find this story of a simple monk’s Christmas gift as powerful and inspirational as I did. My best wishes to you and your loved ones in this holiday season.

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Streaming audio version: Listen to Brother John Essay

eBook Version: Brother John eBook