Archive for February 27th, 2012

The Abbey cemetery

Getting in Touch with Where you are Going

Two weeks ago I was driving along, minding my own business, when down the road I spied a big column of black smoke.  It turned out to be from one of those  huge garbage trucks, which was waiting for the light to change at the intersection.  But it wasn’t the smoke that had the neighboring drivers furiously waving, because the back of the truck was on fire.

This was serious fire — not one of those “flickering campfire” kind of fires that soothe us on a cold winter evening.  This was NASA booster rocket fire, and flames shot up fifteen feet into the air.  Unfortunately, the driver was on his cell phone, and it must have been a really important call.  He was completely oblivious to the roaring inferno just inches behind him.  Nor did he pay a bit of attention to the frantic motorists in the adjacent lanes.

Eventually the light changed and he tooled off down the road, still talking on the phone, looking every bit like a cartoon from Gary Larson’s Far Side.  Who knows whatever happened, but as the flaming truck rolled by, my only thought was this:  Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

Actually that last bit isn’t true, because the thought that really occured to me was not so benign.  How in the world could some moron drive a real live fire truck down the road and not know it?  How could anyone be so out of touch with reality?

Last week we celebrated Ash Wednesday, and if there’s one time of the  year that seems to scream out “self-awareness” it’s Lent.  At the very least, the ashes are a not-so-subtle reminder of where we are all headed — eventually.  And while there are various penances that many practice during Lent, we should never forget the real point of the season.  This is the one time in the Church calendar when we should all take an inventory of our lives.   This is a good chance to figure out where we are actually headed, as opposed to where we think we are headed.  Naturally we all believe we are on the path to success and glory.  but it might just be a good idea to look over our shoulder and check to see if our metaphorical truck is on fire.  And if it is, then this may just be a good time to make some serious changes.

The Trappist monk Michael Casey writes that the “monastic life is the diametric opposite of aimless living.”  It is goal-oriented, and it has a tried and true pattern of life to get to those goals.  “The train is running on tracks to a single destination”, he writes, and “if you don’t want to go there, you had better get off at the next stop.”

That’s actually not bad advice, particularly if you have a few things  you’d like to accomplish in your life.  If your to-do list is ambitious, and if you haven’t crossed anything off in a year or two, this Lent may be the chance you’ve needed to sit down and figure out what’s wrong.  Why is it that nothing gets done?  Why is it that I’m still unhappy?  Why is it that I think I’m headed in the best of all possible directions, but I’ve just noticed that my truck is on fire?  Sadly, we actually do see people driving by in burning trucks, every day.  And, unfortunately, I occasionally find myself in the truck with them.  And in my worst nightmare, I’m actually at the wheel, driving to disaster.

But despite popular perception, Lent is actually meant to be a season of  hope.  It leads to spring, and it leads to Easter.  And on a personal level it leads to our own renewal.  We participate in it, not to despair at where we are headed, but to make those course corrections that focus on the destination that we really want to reach.

So if you are at the wheel this Lent, be sure to check  and see if  you are on the right track.  If your life is on fire and on the verge of blowing up, stop and get some help.  If  you’re lost, ask for directions.  There’s lots of people willing to help, and one of them is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, Archbishop Harry Flynn, and Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB

Personal notes

+I received several very interesting comments on last week’s posting on the Theresa tattoo, and one in particular I would like to share.  A reader in San Francisco wrote to say that no one with a tattoo would ever be caught running around with someone named Edith.  She had a good point, but I still wonder aloud about Archie Bunker.  I will grant the statistical possibility that Archie did not have a tattoo; but he certainly did run around with a woman named Edith, his wife.  You just never know.

+On February 23rd I spoke on The Saint John’s Bible at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.  Present for the occasion was Archbishop Harry Flynn, the retired archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis.  A very generous couple from the Twin Cities had donated a set of the Heritage Edition of The Saint  John’s Bible to The Mount, in his honor.  I had a delightful aftenoon and evening, which culimnated in a dinner with Archbishop Flynn, Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, rector of the Seminary, and my confrere Fr. Matthew Luft, who is a doctoral student at The Catholic University of America.

+On February 24-26 I delivered retreat conferences at the annual Lenten retreat at the Abbey guesthouse.  I spoke on the journey through Holy Week, with a special emphasis on the Passion narrative from the Gospels.

+Benedictine-Dominican Ecumenism.  One of the great Ash Wednesday traditions in Rome is the annual visit by the Pope to the Benedictine Abbey of Sant Anselmo, the headquarters of the Benedictine Order.  After a service there, Pope Benedict and the monks processed to the nearby basilica of Santa Sabina, the headquarters of the Dominicans.  At Sant Anselmo the Pope received the ashes, and later, at Santa Sabina, the Pope prayed along with the assembled Benedictine and Dominican communities.  My confrere, Fr. Nickolas Becker, who lives at Sant Anselmo and is a graduate student in Rome, reports that it was a very moving experience.

+On February 22nd the New Mexico History Museum announced the extension of its exhibit on The Saint John’s Bible.  Originally scheduled to close on April 7th, it will now continue through December 20th.  To date over 26,600 have visited the gallery.

The Abbey gardens: the hope of spring

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