In a monastery in New Mexico, United States, there lives a community of monks who have devoted their lives to studies of Jesus Christ. The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, in Abiquiu, is home to Brother John Baptist (who uses his monastic name for reasons of privacy). As we said, we usually think of men of the cloth or spiritual leaders as peaceful, monk almost synonymous with inner strength and patience.
However, it well may be that is all good and well in the isolated peace of the desert, but for Brother John, the real world almost got the better of him recently. There was some confusion with airline tickets which resulted in him losing his cool.
The monastery had paid for a return ticket to Malawi in Africa so Brother John could visit his sick mother. Part of the travel would be with another carrier but United Airlines sold the monk a ticket. He made it to Malawi okay but after realising he would need to stay a little longer he attempted to rearrange his travel plans. This is when things went downhill.
Brother Noah from the monastery called United Airlines on Brother John’s behalf and was told that the company had never received payment for the ticket in the first place. Given that Brother John had already travelled half of his ticket, Brother Noah figured this sounded very odd indeed.
United Airlines then said that the transaction had been a fraudulent one and that the monastery’s leader, Abbot Philip, should visit the desk in Albuquerque; a three-hour drive away. Brother Noah patiently spent another hour on the phone with a supervisor at the airline. Between the two of them, they appeared that they had come up with a resolution and the supervisor had apparently promised to send through an email as confirmation. The email never came. So he called back.
“This was the most frustrating call of the day,” Brother Noah told The New York Times. “Everything became our fault. There was no evidence that Brother John Baptist had been placed on a new return flight. No record of the conversation with Mark. I really struggled to remain calm and charitable. My monastic life is about staying peaceful in all circumstances. I failed during this call”.
When telling the Times of his specific words Brother Noah said, “I said to her something like: ‘Thank you for speaking. God bless you. I will pray for you. But you have not been helpful. It was my tone of voice,” he said. “I know that it manifested anger”.
Eventually the matter was sorted when the monastery put an open letter for help on their website with the airline reinstating the ticket.
“We incorrectly marked the charge for the ticket as fraudulent,” wrote a United Airlines spokeswoman, Jennifer Dohm, according to New York Times, “which is what prevented the customer from making a change and ultimately prevented the reservations agents he spoke to from resolving the issue”.