Archive for March, 2013

Crucifixion w_creditGood Friday: Jesus Embraces us from the Cross

We don’t often take the time to consider the artistic differences that distinguish one crucifix from another.  In one figure Jesus may gaze out with stately bearing;  in another he may suffer gruesome torment;  and in still another he has accepted death with serenity.  In each case the artist has picked up on an aspect of the suffering Christ and run to the logical conclusion.  In each case the artist has the potential to speak eloquently, or miss the  potential of the scene entirely.

I was particularly struck by the artist’s ability to teach when I first saw the illumination of the Crucifixion in The Saint John’s Bible.  Artist Donald Jackson had portrayed the figure of Christ in a way I’d not conceived before.  The figure of Jesus and the cross itself were pitched forward, almost as a kite ready to go aloft.  And while the corpus is abstract, the gold leaf conveys a sense of energy — an energy that almost explodes on the page.

This is not a defeated Jesus.  This is a Jesus who is undergoing radical transformation.  Death has not crushed him.  Rather, death has unleashed something truly awesome and powerful.  A metamorphosis is taking place.  Death has had no power to destroy.  Rather, Jesus has broken any chains of death, and instead a scene of intense drama has played out on the page.

Crucifix, 15th century, Abbey church

Crucifix, 15th century, Abbey church

To people scared to death of death, the prospect of transformation provides a glimmer of hope.  But to those who have undergone intense pain and suffering in their final journey of life, the figure of Christ at peace offers a measure of consolation.  The 15th-century Flemish crucifix that hangs in the Abbey church at Saint John’s is just such a figure.  Whatever he may have suffered, the face of this Jesus is tranquil and peaceful.  He is now beyond pain, and the inner beauty has returned after the agony of the cross.

There are so many varied crosses because we each carry quite individual crosses — as does each individual artist who tries to depict this awesome experience.  We each look to Jesus for reasons that are unique to ourselves.  Some look to him for backbone, some for guidance, some for consolation, some for hope that suffering will subside.  Oddly enough, all of these hopes that we direct to Jesus on the cross are ones he seeks to address and embrace.

Crucifix, Castile-Leon, 12th.  Cloisters Museum, New York

Crucifix, Castile-Leon, 12th. Cloisters Museum, New York

In the next few days we will celebrate the Triduum, the most solemn days of the Christian calendar.  On Good Friday we will experience the liturgy of the passion, which has the potential to summon to our imagination all of the varied crosses we have seen, and all of the crosses that we carry.  Each of these images contributes somehow to our understanding, because Jesus on the cross embraces the meaning of it all.  He does indeed suffer unbelievably.  He does forgive.  He is compassionate.  He is serene.  And ultimately he is triumphant — because he conquers the cross and reaches out to each of us.

Throughout Christian history there have been several strands of theology that attempted but ultimately fell short in describing the full reality of our belief in Jesus Christ.  For better or for worse we have called those heresies, and we rejected them not for reasons of intolerance but simply because they took us in the wrong direction.  Among those who narrowed our understanding of Jesus were the docetists, who denied the humanity of Jesus.  According to them the crucifixion was an illusion, because Jesus had no body which could be tortured.  It was all a ruse to trick the devil and to rescue souls from the prison of an intrinsically evil body.

Saint Alban's Abbey

Saint Alban’s Abbey

But orthodox Christians pray in the conviction that Jesus was indeed both human and divine.  Son of God, he embraced our humanity and suffered and died just as we all must.  In that he is one with us.  Just as surely our own sufferings are no fantasy, so is Jesus’ suffering no charade.  He authentically shares in all our sorrows.

One of my favorite prayers from the Mass is said rather quietly by the priest at the offertory.  As the drops of water mix with the wine in the chalice, the words softly come:  “through the mingling of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”  That ultimately is the mystery of the cross.  And it is also the consolation of the cross for all of us who are confused or suffer or are tortured by life.  Frail and mortal as we all are, Jesus comes to remind us that we have within us the life of God.  From the cross Jesus invites us to share in his divinity, just as he has shared in our humanity.

Dawn at Saint John's Abbey

Dawn at Saint John’s Abbey


+On March 21st I attended a reception and luncheon for friends and alumni of Saint John’s University.  It was held at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Phoenix, AZ.  Needless to say, the weather was adequate.

+On March 23rd I gave a day of reflection to members of the Order of Malta in Seattle, WA.  I had given the group its first-ever retreat day last year, and it was wonderful to see many familiar faces and to meet several new members.

+On March 21st our confrere Brother Shuuta Maximilian Oka renewed his vows in the presence of Abbot John Klassen.  This ceremony took place at our priory, Holy Trinity Monastery, in Fujimi, Japan.

+In anticipation of Good Friday, our confrere and junior monk, Brother Nick Kleespie, offered a reflection on the illumination of the Suffering Servant from The Saint John’s Bible.   You may see the illumination and hear his narrative at this link.

Brother Oka renews vows

Brother Oka renews vows

+Two alumni of Saint John’s University celebrated the election of Pope Francis in very distinctive ways.  On March 13th, the day of the election of Pope Francis, alumnus Chris Stroh, ’04, recorded an improvisation on the Gregorian chant “Tu es Petrus” (You are Peter).  In this video he plays the organ at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, where he is principal organist.  It was a lovely way to celebrate the arrival of a new pope.

On the day of the installation of Pope Francis as bishop of Rome and Pope, viewers at Saint John’s were startled to see Sebastian Gomes (BA ’07 and MA ’11) approach the lecturn to do the first reading of the Mass.  He was in Rome as part of Salt+Light TV of Toronto, assisting the Vatican Information Services in working with the multitude of media outlets present in Rome..

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Saints Peter and Paul Window

Saints Peter and Paul Window

What’s in a Name?

In my post for March 11th I presented a short list of the traits I wanted to see in the next pope.  I was fully aware that the inventory was riddled with contradictions, but that’s the way it is when it comes to dealing with high-profile jobs.  No one need tell me how unrealistic it is to work twenty-four hours a day while still leaving plenty of time for prayer, recreation, exercise and sleep.  No one expects that kind of near-perfection;  but I wanted the guy to at least give it his best college try.

Other qualities were equally challenging, but I underscored the list with the most unrealistic hope of all.  The new pope must have “the material detachment of Saint Francis of Assisi.”  Of course I never expected anyone to take that idea seriously.  What sort of nonsense is that, after all?

6, side aisleWell, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Pope Francis cautiously stepped out onto the balcony at Saint Peter’s.  What kind of a name is Pope Francis?  Who in the world would saddle himself with a moniker so famous, and with a name that is in many ways the antithesis of everything that is expected in a pope?

When someone emerges into the public spotlight and announces that he will now be called Francis, a lot is going on.  Of course there is the matter of the name itself; but even more fundamental is the business of taking a new name.  Why would anyone want to do that?  In this case, hadn’t “Jorge Mario” served him well enough for seventy-six years?

9, Rose WindowThe custom of taking a name, or a new name, is a curious one; but it’s as old as human history itself.  For lots of reasons people have adopted new names at key moments in their lives.  The most common instance is at baptism, when Baby X becomes Jane or Nickolas.  As we well know, parents will invest a great deal of energy into the selection of that name — except when they don’t.  Less often than before, people will adopt the surname of their spouse at marriage — meant to signal a very important personal transition.  Many candidates for religious life still take a new name, for all sorts of practical and impractical reasons.  And monarchs have been doing this for centuries.  One need only recall that the English David became Edward VIII when he assumed the throne.  Whether he intended to emulate Saint Edward the Confessor or King Edward VII (The Philanderer), is open for discussion, and perhaps best left for Wallace Simpson to answer.  In any case, “King David” was definitely off the table.  It carried way too much baggage for comfort.  It simply would not work, especially if he ever ran into some woman named Bathsheba.

If a new name is intended to mark a clean break in one’s life, the choice of the name itself signals something very important.  Names convey all sorts of information and connotations, and I’ve always felt profoundly sorry for kids who are stuck with names derived from soap opera stars.  Or from the celebrity of the moment who has since gone off to prison.  In the case of the latter, there is just too much to live down.

13On the other hand, Francis carries significance that is equally burdensome.  Everyone knows the story of Saint Francis, and the fact that everyone knows it makes it really tough for someone who takes that name.  Francis renounced any and all claim to worldly possessions as he stripped himself in front of his father and the bishop.  His reasons were deeply profound:  he refused to let worldly wealth determine his character.  In one fell swoop he renounced the old adage that “clothes make the man”, and he left it all behind.  He would be authentically himself, and in the process he professed his kinship with all his brothers and sisters, rich and poor.  It was a life-changing experience for him.

14, Dean's stallPope Francis is in the process of his own life-changing experience, and it cannot be easy for him.  For years he has taken the bus or the tram to work.  He’s lived in a modest apartment rather than in the episcopal palace in Buenos Aires.  He’s done much of his own cooking; he’s kissed the feet of AIDS patients; and he’s paid attention to the needs of the poor.  I’m going to guess that never for a minute did he consider that he was some sort of saint or paragon of virtue.  Rather, this life-style was one that was not inappropriate for a bishop.  For whatever else he may have done well or poorly, he  had not bought into the consumerist mentality.  He was not what he owned.  The name “Francis” will be a daily reminder of where he has come from — lest he forget amid all the pomp.

Pope Francis has already begun to build a legacy, and it will be interesting to see where this goes.  On a practical level his name will hark back to a long tradition of care for the poor and sick in society.  This was one of the few commands Jesus gave when he reminded his disciples that what they do for the least they do for him.  Other themes in ministry get strong support, particularly in an environment like the Roman Curia.  If “Francis” the name does not remind the curialists of this, it will at least remind the Pope of the yardstick by which he has chosen to measure himself.

Tomb of Abbot Thomas de la Mare (1349-1396)

Tomb of Abbot Thomas de la Mare (1349-1396)

Beyond that, only time will tell what might be the impact of a pope named Francis.  Still, there will be some side effects that one should expect.  First of all, this could have a significant impact on traditional Catholic humor, and the once ubiquitous Jesuit jokes will quickly disappear.  It has suddenly become politically incorrect to tell them.  As for the people working in the curia, the prospect of a Jesuit in the chair of Peter is no joke, and it is definitely no laughing matter.   And we will also see the demise of that old punch line “Is the Pope Catholic?”  It will likely give way to a whole new line of humor that ends with the question “Is the Pope Jesuit?”

As for me, I am immensely delighted that I foresaw the signifiance of Saint Francis for the new pope.  In retrospect, what could have been a throw-away comment has become more than a lucky guess.  It’s gotten me wondering, and perhaps it’s time for a career adjustment.  Perhaps I should now focus on the lottery or become a stock speculator.  Or maybe I should just stick to being a monk.  There are worse jobs; and besides, I’ve already changed my name once, when I entered the monastery.  Once should be more than enough.

31, doorNotes

+On March 11th I flew to Miami, where I made several visits on behalf of Saint John’s University.  While Floridians shivered and complained of the cold, I scoffed.  It was still snowing in Minnesota, and I thought the temperatures were perfectly fine in Florida.

+I have illustrated today’s post with additional pictures that I took during my recent visit to Saint Alban’s Abbey, north of London.  There are so many interesting nooks and crannies, in addition to the meditative religious art that survives there.  And it is wonderful that it is a living spiritual shrine, even today.

22, Marian Chapel+As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year the Order of Malta, of which I am a member, celebrates the 900th anniversary of its recognition by Pope Paschal II in 1113.  As part of the celebration, I delivered a talk at events in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, and I have included those comments in the section marked “Presentations.”  In addition, there has been a tremendous amount of press coverage of the celebration that took place at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Among the most interesting items was this report produced by the network Al Jazeera.

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Saint Alban's Abbey

Saint Alban’s Abbey

Wanted: Pope Who Does It All

I was a little startled to read Cardinal Dolan’s comment about the impending papal conclave.  He was celebrating the Eucharist at Saint Peter’s Basilica, and in the middle of a sermon he blurted it, out of the blue.  “We’ve got to keep in mind — even more important than the pope is what we’re doing right now. The life of the church goes on, and the life of the church centers around what we’re doing right now.”  What he was doing just then was celebrating the Eucharist, not electing a pope.

That kind of comment can hurt your chances to become pope, but it can also provide perspective for viewers of the current hoopla in Rome.  We are a celebrity-driven culture, and it’s very tempting to deal with the church in terms of celebrities rather than personal commitments of faith.  It’s so much simpler to argue about the qualities of the next pope than it is to live out the responsibilities of our faith.

Saint Alban's Abbey.12.ReredosIn the last few days people have asked me about what the next pope will be like, and my answer is short and succinct:  “you’re bound not to like him.”  Probably you’ll like him for a few minutes, but only before you know his name and where he’s from.  But once the hysteria has subsided, you’ll realize you’re stuck with a guy whose favorite color is not yours and who likes the wrong baseball team (or worse: he couldn’t care less about baseball.)  Quickly the luster of the new pontiff will fade, and the cameras will turn off, and our lives will be back to normal.

The fact of the matter is, writers and all of us have expanded the job description of the pope to include “savior.”  Today we expect so much of the pope that we’re virtually guaranteed to be disappointed.  For starters, he must be charismatic and able to inspire people around the world.  He must have exceptional leadership skills and know almost all languages.  He must be  an astute manager of people and resources, but he must spend all of his time preaching the gospel.  He must oversee each and every bishop, but he must leave them alone to do their jobs.  He must rein in the curia but let them do their work without a  lot of supervision.  And he must know all about banking and accounting, but have the material detachment of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Saint Alban's Abbey.11.LanternBeyond that, he’ll need to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Though he won’t have time for leisure or sleep, he still should lead a balanced life, as an example to all.  Plus, he’ll have to change and modernize everything in the the church in order to make some people happy.  And he must affirm the unchanging reality of the church to make others happy.  Lastly, he should visit his flock throughout the world, but he should spend most of his time in Rome, tending to business.

Shrine of Saint Alban

Shrine of Saint Alban

Given everybody’s expectations for the pope, no wonder this is such a tough job.  Should anybody be surprised that Jesus gave all authority to Saint Peter and then got out of town? He’d been crucified once already, and now it was Peter’s turn.  And even if a few popes have failed miserably or exploited the papacy for their own benefit, most have tried to do a decent day’s work of it.  Most have tried to live out one of their most ancient job titles: Servant of the Servants of God.  In practice that meant that you were head of a church in which everyone had an opinion on how the pope should do his work.  As pope you may look and dress like the chief shepherd, but it’s the sheep who are really calling the shots.  And the sheep include cardinals and bishops and priests and lay people.  All of them have solid advice on how to run the church.  And all of them will listen carefully to the shepherd, and carry out exactly what they judge to be most important.  And all of them are infallible.

You can now see why I don’t aspire to be pope and have not turned in my application.  Nor should others who are in their right mind.  It’s a thankless job.  You’re overworked; and you live in a fish bowl.  People with thin skin should not throw their hat into the ring for this position.

Monks' Gallery

Monks’ Gallery

Three or four years ago Cardinal George of Chicago wrote in one of his books that Catholics think too much about the pope and the Vatican.  Obviously he referred to the cult of personality, as it prevails not only in the church but in politics and society at large.  But he also had in mind the use of the pope as a reference point in the lives of people.  If some people  don’t like the pope’s teaching, it’s a convenient excuse for apathy or dropping out.  Still others, who may love what a particular pope preaches, will use that message as a weapon.  In either case, they have absolved themselves of personal responsibility for their own faith.  They also tend to absolve themselves from participation in parish life.  After all, what could take precedence over Vatican politics?

Medieval Fresco

Medieval Fresco

In his Rule for Monks Saint Benedict does present a chapter on “What kind of man the abbot ought to be.”  At the end of the day, however, his is a rule for monks rather than a manual for management.  He not only presumes, but he specifies, that people come to the monastery to seek God in the context of community.  But they don’t enter in order to find an abbot they like or dislike.  The onus of responsibility for a monk’s life cannot be pushed off onto the abbot, because it is the monk’s calllng to lead a good life.  If the abbot doesn’t live a perfect life, in no way does that exonerate a monk from  having to try himself.  It’s the monk who must decide whether to seek God, and for that he gets the credit or the blame.

In coming days there will be a new pope, and after three days you’ll either like him a lot or be deeply disappointed.  But remember that the pope is neither the  savior nor the enemy.  He’s there to teach the tradition that has been  handed down since New Testament times.  That’s his job.  And my job as a monk is to get on with the life of being a Christian.  Regardless of whether the pope is learned or simple, charismatic or dull, or gifted or inept, my own calling is to be a fellow pilgrim on the path to God.  I cannot use someone  else’s situation as an excuse for me.

Between the lines and behind the headlines, that’s what Pope Benedict was really trying to say.  And he took his own words to heart; and he was so serious about it that he gave up being pope in order to become a simple pilgrim like the rest of us.  What could possibly be more important?


+On March 4th I flew from Minneapolis to London for a series of meetings and to say Mass for a family gathering at the Farm Street Church, the Jesuit parish in London.  Happily, the plane lifted off from Minneapolis just as the second biggest snow storm of the season was rolling into the airport.

+On March 6th I had the opportunity to visit Saint Alban’s, which is about thirty minutes by train north of London.  It was one of the first spots I ever visited in England, and I’ve been enthralled by this tranquil place ever since.

Founded by the Romans as Verulamium, it became the site of one of England’s most important abbeys.  Built on the site where Alban was martyred by the Romans, ca. 250, the church is now a cathedral.  The shrine has been restored, and pilgrims once again light candles to honor the saint.

Abbey Gatehouse

Abbey Gatehouse

The pictures in today’s post all come from Saint Alban’s.  Among the most interesting is that of the wooden gallery that stands next to the shrine, where monks could unobtrusively stand guard to make sure no zealous pilgrim ran off with the relics.

+Saint John’s University alumnus Sebastian Gomes (BA ’07 and MA ’09) is currently having the time of his life.  Sebastian works at Salt+Light TV, a Catholic production company in Toronto, where he assists Fr. Thomas Rosica, the director.  Last fall Fr. Thomas and Sebastian came to Saint John’s, where they produced a lengthy interview with Abbot John Klassen, OSB.  Now they are both in Rome, where Fr. Thomas is working as a media consultant with Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Vatican Press Office.  If you’ve watched any coverage of the papal conclave, you’ve likely seen Fr. Thomas fielding the questions that come to them in English.

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Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 092How’d the Pope Do?

The shift from actual journalism to “news entertainment” in recent years has transformed the way we learn about events.  Talking heads now spend a few seconds reporting on an event.  Then they get about the business of canvassing opinion from people who scarcely know what they are talking about.  The more off-the-wall the comment, the greater its power to amuse or enrage.  That’s good for ratings.

An event like a papal retirement is a perfect case in point.  Reporters have waited breathlessly for six hundred years for this to happen.  So you can forgive them for a bit of fuzziness on the facts.  I’ll also concede that specialists on the history of papal retirement are in short supply.   However, the inclusion of any and all opinions — no matter how ridiculous — suggests the priority is to entertain, rather than to inform.

Take, for instance, the newspaper report that “more than 120 cardinals will gather in Rome to elect the next pope.”  Since current Church law caps the number of electors at 120, this was a factual error, albeit a minor one.  To my knowledge the paper printed no correction, but I praise the editors for not taking this to the next level of controversy.  Armed with this new bit of data, someone could have penned a fiery editorial demanding to know why the election is restricted to 120.  Given that I am not well-read, that editorial may already have been written.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 018Then there have been the gratuitous appraisals of Benedict’s term as Pope.  Perhaps the most egregious of them came from the Swiss theologian Hans Kung.  In a piece in The New York Times he laid out an incontrovertable fact: the most promising thing Pope Benedict had done  during his entire papacy was to visit with Kung one afternoon.  I’d like to think that Kung intended to answer a different question: “what is your fondest memory of Benedict’s papacy?”  But alas, I have to take Kung at his word when he claims that the acme of Benedict’s papacy was his visit with Kung.

Of course the letter served to remind me that Kung was still alive, unless it was written posthumously.  But where was the de rigueur interview-in-the-street survey?  Someone should have asked puzzled pedestrians whether they agreed with the Pope or with Hans Kung.  A typical answer?  “Hans Kung, hands down!  Who’s Hans Kung?”

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 065I also couldn’t figure out how to process the various evaluations on Pope Benedict’s exercise of power.  Kung stated categorically that Pope Benedict had reverted to an imperious style of monarchy, not seen in the Church for a thousand years, more or less.  Since so many others have complained that Benedict had failed to act decisively on practically everything, I wondered if we were all thinking about the same guy.  Could both views be right?  The nice thing is that when facts don’t matter, then everyone can be right.  Everyone gets a trophy — except the Pope, of course.

On most of this I profess no opinion, save that I’m happy to hear that Hans Kung is still in the land of the living.  As for Pope Benedict’s on-the-job performance, I’ll leave that to the experts, whoever they are.  But when it comes to the fulness of papal power, I do have an opinion.  As a historian, I’ve actually read a book on the topic.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 010First off, about the only people who believe that the pope exercises absolute monarchical power are Hans Kung and the newspapers.  Not for a minute have the curial cardinals ever believed that, and I’m surprised that no one has bothered to ask them about it.  Of course when the cameras are rolling and the pope is in the room, they generously defer on any and every issue — and the smallest ones especially.  Then, when the room is empty, they get back to the daily chores of running the Church.

I don’t say this to be cynical or facetious, because I actually do subscribe to the decrees of the Council of Trent.  That was the 16th-century Church council that put its stamp on the organization of the Church.  The canons of Trent sought to establish a balance of power in the Church, so that no one pope or no one cardinal could set up his own dictatorship or run away with the store.  How did they do this?

Trent produced an organizational chart that for its time was a model of efficiency and the envy of many European governments.  Vatican business was divided into departments, called dicasteries, each headed by one cardinal and a small board of two or three other cardinals.  Each cardinal sat on two or three boards, but could only chair one.  This forced them to work cooperatively.  If you were the ambitious type, your chances of being elected pope increased if you worked amicably alongside your peers.  It stands to reason that the cardinals did not want to elect a would-be tyrant or a crazy man; so the default was set to elect people of poise and talent, who also had a record of collegial behavior.  And if by chance a newly-elected pope tried to make himself all-powerful, the cardinals could dig in their heels.  No one wanted to return to the age of the Renaissance popes.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 008This system tends to be a model of efficiency and continuity, and therein is its strength.  That also happens to be its weakness.  Few absolutist popes have emerged in the last five hundred years, because the cardinals have been there to prevent runaway tyranny.  But in times of crisis, that same Barque of Saint Peter can be very slow to turn.  And when the executive is weak or in ill health, there is little to hold in check one cardinal who wants to be first among equals.  Nor is there anyone to prevent the bureau heads from acting like a herd of cats, each doing his own thing.

That’s the theory behind papal government.  It has generally worked well, though on occasion it can be clumsy.  I’m not about to offer my evaluation of how this government worked during the papacy of Benedict XVI, since I’m saving my comments for when CNN and Fox News call me up.   But I will extrapolate and offer this bit of reflection.  Since all of us already know how the pope should exercise power, there’s no point in going on about that.  Instead, I’ll shift to a topic about which most of us are clueless: the exercise of our own power.

Many if not all of us have power, even if we think we don’t.  Each of us has the power to influence others.  By word and example each of us has the power to build people up or tear them down.  An encouraging word to a young person can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.  A careless or cruel remark to someone can  hurt them for years to come.  Each of us has the capacity to take action, in a way that will get others off the fence and act.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 041All these are ingredients that contribute to good and bad leadership.  But they are also some of the elements that go into a good life.  These few items can help determine whether we make any difference in our own world, or whether our absence will matter to anyone.  I’m hopeful that I’ve used what talents I have to make some little difference in the lives of others.  And I hope the same is true for you.

My advice on power stops there, and happily Pope Benedict needs no further advice from me on that subject.  But advice on his retirement is an entirely different kettle of fish.  So here goes.  First, now that you finally have some time to read, don’t believe everything you read.  Second, even though you used to Twitter, don’t believe everything on the internet.  And lastly, now that you are retired, get a membership in AARP.  They have great travel deals and insurance, and they don’t run surveys on how the pope did.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 015Notes

+On Feburary 27th I drove to Minneapolis to attend a meeting and to do some errands.  The high point of the day was lunch with a very good friend of mine.  The low point of the day?  Being stuck in traffic in downtown Minneapolis.  This was no ordinary traffic jam, because it began early in the morning when a tanker filled with milk overturned in the Lowry Hill  Tunnel, which tied up traffic for most of the day.  The word on the street is that it took a crew of 3,500 cats nearly eight hours to lick it up.  Cats will not be hurried.  Only in Minnesota.

+On Feburary 28/March 1st I participated in the meetings of the Board of Trustees of Saint John’s University.

+On March 2nd I presided at the Abbey Eucharist, and preached a homily that I’ve entitled The Prodigal Son, Revisted, which is included under the heading Presentations.  My earlier sermon, Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, has become the most visited page in the history of my blog.  There  must be a lot of prodigal sons and daughters out there — or brothers and sisters of prodigal sons and daughters.

Frost in Collegeville, February 2013 095+Also on March 2nd, Brother Walter led a crew in the tapping of one thousand maple trees in the Abbey forest.  Spring is just around the corner, and the ritual of making maple syrup has been a treasured memory of the monks at Saint John’s for generations.

+On March 3rd I presided at the Abbey Mass and delivered a sermon entitled Lent, a Pilgrimage of Self-Discovery.  I’m not sure I was back from the previous day by popular demand, but I got out of the Abbey church alive and in one piece.

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