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Archive for October, 2013

imageTalking with Strangers

You never know whom you’re going to be sitting next to on a plane these days.  That’s why I usually make a bee-line for my seat, mutter a pleasant “Hello,” and bury my face in the paper.

It’s not that I’m hostile or predisposed to dislike my new neighbors.  For all I know they could be the nicest people in the world.  But I never can know that for sure.  And what if they’re not?  Who wants to strike up a conversation, only to discover that you’re stuck next to a crackpot and have to endure a diatribe that lasts the entire flight?  Who hasn’t exchanged business cards with the pleasant person next to you, only to learn that he’s an ax-murderer on the way home from a job?  Actually the latter has never happened to me, and it’s because I never give out business cards on a plane.  No, a plane is no place to go looking for the friends you’ve always wanted.  A cautious reserve is always the best policy, even if you are lonely.

To be fair, this business is a two-way street.  Others are equally wary, even though in my case they have nothing to fear.  I know for a fact that I’m neither eccentric nor boring; but experience has taught me how pointless it is to spend half an hour trying to convince people otherwise.  Some people never listen, which I know to be a fact.  And the rest of them are close-minded.  So I’ve always figured that it’s their loss.

imageLast week I violated my rule against talking with strangers on the plane.  I hadn’t intended to do so, and clearly the woman next to me had every intention of maintaining silence as well.  But when the flight attendant spilled cold water on the both of us, the time to be stoic was over.  There’s nothing like a good spill to get a conversation going, and for a few minutes it was as if we’d known each other for years.

The chat didn’t go on forever, but there was time for her to relate one good story.   Two weeks earlier some guy had spilled a glass of red wine all over her beige outfit.  The flight attendant, who’d had nothing to do with it, looked on in horror and apologized profusely.  The people across the aisle were equally aghast.  I guess each could imagine showing up at a meeting reeking of alcohol and looking a mess.  In fact, everyone had something to say about it, except for the guy who had spilled it all over her.  He was conspicuous by his silence.  No apology; no word of regret; not even so much as a “Have a nice day!”

imageBut with the mess cleaned up, he must have thought he had permission to speak.  To her utter astonishment, he launched into a forty-five minute narrative about his wife.  She was leaving him.  In fact, she was divorcing him.  She had given no explanation, and he just couldn’t fathom why in the world she would do such a thing to him, of all people.

To cut to the chase, my new friend was just about to tell him why his wife was divorcing him, but they landed.  She’d scarcely been able to get a word in edgewise, and by the time they landed all she wanted was to be out of there.  So she ran down the jetway to put as much distance between herself and this clown as possible.  And I was the first person she’d talked to on a plane since then.  I felt honored.

imageIt’s quite a stretch to believe that anyone could be as self-unaware as this guy, but in fact there are quite a lot of such people running around airports these days.  And they also show up in companies and in families and even in monasteries.  In fact, there seems to be a general overabundance of cluelessness in our society, despite all the professionals and all the books that stand ready to help.

Her story caused me to reflect on how monks try to stay in touch with the reality around us, and I have to say it’s no less challenging for us than it is for others.  What makes it work for us, at least sometimes, are the opportunities for self-examination that we build into our day.  The daily reading of The Rule of Saint Benedict certainly puts right under our noses the expectations that we took upon ourselves when we first became monks.  The Rule can be hard-hitting at times, especially if you pay attention.  But of course you can also assume that when Saint Benedict writes about faults that he is describing the other monks.  However, on more than a few occasions I’ve watched as monks came late to table, just as we’re reading about monks who come late to table.  It’s a stretch to think that Benedict is writing about the other monks — the ones who are on time and already seated.  But the human mind is capable of great feats of self-delusion.

imageWe also read the Psalms, which can be a tremendous source for self-awareness.  The Psalms run the gamut of human emotions, and in the course of praying them one discovers an affinity with one or the other emotion.  That too can lead to greater self-awareness.

And then there are the penitential rite of the Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.  Certainly it’s possible to go through such rites and assume they are meant mainly for the benefit of others.  But sooner or later something hits you, and the veil of self-delusion is pulled aside ever so slightly.

But I think Saint Benedict relies most heavily on human interaction to keep monks spiritually and psychologically honest.  Whether it’s the abbot encouraging or correcting the monk, or whether it’s one monk gently taking another to task, it’s that exchange that softens the rough edges.  Sooner or later we discover our weakness and faults, but we also learn that we share them with others.

I’m curious to know what will become of the wine-spiller.  Given the circumstances, he’s headed for a nasty divorce.  Given his social skills, I’ll bet he will never have the faintest idea why she’s leaving him.  And given his general cluelessness, he will never find a happy solution to this.  Too bad he hadn’t talked honestly with his wife, years earlier.  Had he done so, he might still be talking with her today, rather than looking for insight from a total stranger on a plane.

imageNotes

+On October 22nd I flew to San Francisco to be part of a five-day retreat for the Subpriory of Our Lady of Philermo of the Order of Malta.  The retreat took place at San Damiano Retreat House in Danville, CA, and about forty-five people attended.  In addition to the conferences that I delivered, I preached on October 23rd.  My sermon, To Whom Much is Given, can be found in the file Presentations.

It always pays to be well-behaved, even when you think no one is looking.  On the first day of our retreat, as I entered the dining room, there stood my confrere from Saint John’s, Fr. Cletus Connors, whose sabbatical group was also on retreat at San Damiano.  I was equally surprised to meet up with a monk-friend from another monastery, whom I’d not seen in years.  The final act was running into the pastor of the church in Oklahoma City which my sister attends.  It truly is a small world.

image+On October 27th we celebrated the anniversary of the dedication of the Abbey church at Saint John’s.  Recently my confrere, Br. David-Paul Lange, delivered a lengthy presentation entitled The Design of the Abbey Church.  Br. David-Paul spoke at a luncheon for staff members at Saint John’s University, and his presentation was part of a series sponsored by the Benedictine Institute at the University.  I encourage you to set aside some time to enjoy his talk.

+On my recent visit to Rome I had the chance to revisit one of my favorite places, the Church of Saint John Lateran.  This was the seat of the bishop of Rome, and remains so today — despite the popular notion that Saint Peter’s is the seat of the bishop of Rome.  In the Middle Ages a community of Benedictine monks lived there and ministered to the pilgrims.  The photos in today’s post all come from there.

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imageConsensus or Shutdown?

I’m always on the lookout for people who reference the Rule of Saint Benedict for its timeless wisdom, but this one article in the online publication Zenit caught me by surprise.  Judith Valente is a commentator for Chicago Public Radio, and as such she’s likely no stranger to current political discourse.  Through the years she’s become a good friend to the Benedictine sisters at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, KS, and from them she has imbibed of the teaching of Saint Benedict.  From the Rule and its application by the sisters, she’s also learned of the importance of community-building and consensus; and quite naturally she’s mused on how these might be of benefit in other settings.  These, she concludes, are precisely the ingredients that are missing in the most recent political tangle in Washington.

I’m always a little wary of people who expect the Rule to be the magic bullet that will solve any and all organizational problems.  This time, however, I was all ears and willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  “Listen,” she reminds us, is the first word of Benedict’s Rule.  Then she goes on to list some polar opposites that distinguish your typical monastery from your typical Washington playpen.

imageAs a command, “Listen” must sound pretty appealing to your average politician, or to any authoritarian, for that matter.  After all, not a few have dedicated their careers to getting people to listen to them.  But here’s where Benedict must be a huge disappointment, because he doesn’t start off by writing “Listen to ME!”  Rather, he asks his monks to listen to the teaching of the master.  And that teaching is not the product of one person.  Rather, it’s the accumulated wisdom of a long chain of holy men and women who have sought God in the monastery.  Theirs is a wisdom that leads to God, not to bluster or brinksmanship.  Their way of life does not depend on devotion to a guru or to any political savior, because ultimately only Jesus is the savior.  And it’s the abbot who both leads and serves the monks in that quest for the divine.

Valente outlines some of this in her recent book Atchison Blue, and because I’ve not yet read it, I hesitate to offer any critique that might be unwarranted.  But ignorance hasn’t stopped me from making dogmatic statements before, so I will go ahead and take the plunge.  And my quibble has to do with Valente’s implication that 1,400 years of endurance argues for the Rule’s basic validity.  If that is part of her thesis, then I would take issue with one small point that in no way disqualifies her basic proposition.

imageIt’s true that Benedictine life has thrived for fourteen centuries, more or less.  But that is not to say that every Benedictine house has survived unscathed for that long.  In fact, like all human organizations, monasteries have their own cycles of life.  In 1,400 years, hundreds of monastic communities have come and gone, only to yield to new communities that sprout up and carry on the tradition.

The values that guide Benedictines are simple enough, and as often as not we try and give them our best shot.  We at least attempt to put the good of the community above self-interest.  Though we don’t always succeed, we also aspire to cultivate a humility that will keep egomania in check.  And above all, we do listen, because it’s built into our very way of life.

I don’t want to give the impression that we sit around all day listening to lectures on piety, because monks can get pretty good at tuning out that sort of thing.  That same skill allows most people to switch channels when they grow weary of listening to some self-important politico drone on and on.  No, what we listen to, day in and day out, are the sounds of community.  It’s a lifetime of listening to one another that creates the awareness of others that can lead to respect and even to love.

imageAnd what are those everyday sounds?  For one, they are the footsteps of one another.  Through the years I’ve come to identify the footfalls of many of my brothers, and many times I don’t even need to glance up to see who’s coming.  They are the sounds of song and psalms that come from the monks on either side of me in church.  They are the sounds of dishes and cutlery as we eat together in the refectory.  It is the sound of small talk in the halls or during recreation.

These are the sounds of being present to one another, and these are the things to which we listen all day long.  They may sound tedious, and they may appear to be inconsequential.  And no one argues that they achieve miracles of mutual understanding and consensus.  But they are the necessary preliminaries to those sorts of things.  It’s in those simple sounds that we discover the presence of God in one another.

imageI’d like to say that this is the only step necessary to achieve consensus in the monastery, but in fact it’s only the start.  But there’s no escaping this preliminary state, or else you end up going straight to the pointless appeal to which we are all tempted to resort: “Listen to me!”  Monks and nuns in the Benedictine tradition at least part of the time try and listen to each other.

So the next time you get disgusted with the politicians, don’t encourage them to keep up the good fight and fight to the death.  Instead, write and tell your Republican representative to go to dinner with a Democrat.  Tell a Democrat to sit and chat about trivia with a Republican, and do it for a half an hour or so.  And better still, tell them to sit quietly  over coffee, and pause for long stretches of silence and listen to the sounds around them.  It may not achieve miracles, and it usually doesn’t in the monastery either.  But it goes a long way toward dispelling the crazy notion that you’re the only one that matters.

imageNotes

+I learned of Judith Valente and her book, Atchison Blue, through an article entitled Author Suggests Monastic Rule as Solution to Shutdown.  It appeared in the online publication Zenit, and it can be found at http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/38388.

+On October 15th I attended a day-long meeting at the Grand Magistry of the Order of Malta in Rome.  The meeting gathered many of those who are involved in vocational discernment of those considering religious vows as Knights of Justice in the Order of Malta.  As luck would have it, I arrived unfashionably early for the meeting, and I was invited to join the Grand Master and several guests for breakfast.  Over breakfast he mentioned that he would make a brief appearance of no more than ten minutes at our meeting.  However, this was a very interesting meeting, and after two hours he glanced at his watch in shock and rushed out.  Needless to say, it was worth the trip.

+On October 19th I presided at the wedding of Matt and Kristina Melson, at the Church of Christ the King in Minneapolis.  Matt is an alumnus of Saint John’s University, while Kristina is an alumna of Marquette.  It was a delightful event.

image+On October 20th my plan was to drive back to Saint John’s, attend the community Mass, and then take pictures of the fall colors for today’s post.  I turned on the radio to get the weather, and the forecast was “not warm”.  That is a tough one to translate from Minnesota dialect.  “Not warm” does not mean “not nice”, because 40 degrees in April is “not warm” but still very nice.  What it meant on October 20th was “snow”.  So the pictures in today’s post combine fall colors with the first snow of the season.  Now I can move on to spring.

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imageLetter from the Aventine

For centuries the Benedictines have created a culture that has consistently transcended national boundaries.  Despite the local character of each abbey, and despite the languages that separate us, the Rule of Saint Benedict binds us into a common way of life that is immediately recognizable, in whatever abbey you may find yourself.  Take a monk from one house and plop him into another some six thousand miles away, and he will still feel pretty much at home within a few days.

There’s no better spot to illustrate this than the Abbey of Sant Anselmo in Rome.  Perched on top of the Aventine Hill, it is unique in the Benedictine world.  Like every other abbey, it has an abbot.  But unlike the others, it has no monks.  In fact, it is the residence of the abbot primate, the powerless head of the Benedictine confederation of monasteries.  But it is also a house of studies for Benedictine monks from around the world.  They come to do graduate work at Sant Anselmo or at one of the other Roman universities, and then eventually they go home.

I’ve had the chance to visit at Sant Anselmo through the years, but on this current visit I am struck at how much it has changed.  Years ago it was filled with European and American monks.  In fact, it was a great place to connect with monks from across the western world.  And my own community benefitted enormously from the experience of our monks who studied here through the decades.

imageThere are still many European and American monks here, but there are fewer of them.  Stepping in to take their place are monks from Africa and India, and that is what has struck me on this visit.  However, in this we are but a microcosm of the Church.

You can imagine what a chore it is to form a community of monks from forty countries, whose numbers are consistently replenished every three or four years.  At Sant Anselmo everyone has to make compromises, and language is the starter.  For the sake of getting anything done, Italian is the language of instruction and the medium for practical communication.  Though it does seem a little incongruous to my own provincial eyes, it takes getting used to seeing a monk from Kenya speaking in Italian with a monk from Korea.  But it works — just as well as it might in English.

As for prayer, Mass and preaching are in Italian, while Latin is used for the liturgy of the hours.  Because many houses still use some of the Latin chant, that is the music of first resort.  It saves everyone the need to reinvent the musical wheel every year.  Plus, they sing it reasonably well at Sant Anselmo.

imageBesides prayer, it is the refectory table that binds everyone together.  There’s no point in trying to replicate the cuisine of each of forty countries, so everyone has to settle for an all-Italian diet.  Of course that doesn’t please everyone, and at the top of the list of malcontents likely are the Italians.  They know how it should be cooked, and a meal for one hundred is never going to rate as haute cuisine.  I’ll also grant that to some nationalities pasta twice a day might be a little odd.  Most westerners either love it or are indifferent.   But no one really dislikes the food at Sant Anselmo.  Nor do they have a right to complain.  As with the chant, I like the pasta.

Sant Anselmo was built in the 19th century on land carved out from a property owned by the Order of Malta.  The Knights’ palace, designed by Piranesi, sits across from Sant Anselmo, and together they share a small piazza with the Egyptian embassy to the Holy See.  For years this piazza was the safest spot on the safest hill in Rome, thanks to someone who ages ago drove by and threw a bomb at the embassy.  For decades thereafter, a squad of smartly-dressed carabinieri stood guard, just to make sure it never happened again.  Actually, as everybody in the neighborhood could tell you, they sat in their van drinking coffee, reading, and listening to the radio all day.  They also got out to stretch and to chat with passersby now and again.  All in all, it made for one of the most comfortable police jobs in Rome.  There were no bombers ever again, at least that they saw; and the biggest challenge was keeping a fresh crease in their slacks.

imageObviously they were superb at what they did, because no  terrorist dared approach such well-tailored guards.  But they were maybe too good at their job.  Sadly, recent government cutbacks have meant the end of the carabinieri in the Piazza di Cavalieri di Malta.  Too bad for them, because they had to clear out and find real work — maybe at a fashion house in Milan.

The Aventine is one of the loveliest neighborhoods in Rome, and it probably always has been.  It’s only a five-minute walk to the Circus Maximus, and fifteen to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.  This convenient location perhaps explains the nice things that people occasionally dig up here.

imageSant Anselmo itself sits atop what was likely a 2nd-century palace, and a mosaic from the site adorns the entry hall of the monastery.  Further below are storage caverns and rooms that have yet to be explored.  And it’s the same all over the Aventine.  They know so because a few  years ago an overloaded bus broke through the road-bed into something quite empty below.  If such a thing were to happen in the US, it would garner huge headlines.  But in Rome it was both a hazard as well as a further strain on the public archeology budget.  “What — another ancient house?  Good grief!” was the reaction.  They solved this problem by banning any truck or bus, and they patched up the pavement.  Hopefully it won’t happen again.  And who needs more ruins when there are already a ton of them.

imageWhat I enjoy most about Sant Anselmo is both the international flavor of the place and the historic reach of the neighborhood.  From the upper floors of the abbey you have great views of Saint Peter’s in the distance, while across the piazza is the famous keyhole that frames a view of Saint Peter’s.  Tourists line up all day to get their turn for a quick peek.

Nearby are other religious houses, but pride of place in my book belongs to Santa Sabina.  It is a 5th-century basilica only steps from Sant Anselmo, and for ages it has been the headquarters of the Dominicans.  The graceful lines of the church and its original wooden doors mesmerize me.  But I also go to pay my respects to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who once lived there and prayed in that very church.  Imagine!

imageAbove I noted that the abbot primate is largely powerless, and that was by design.  Despite occasional experiments, abbeys since the time of Saint Benedict have jealously protected their independence from one another.  Tired of this inefficiency, Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century tried to organize the Benedictines along the lines of the Jesuits.  He pushed to create the position of abbot primate, to mirror the Jesuit general, who was all-powerful.  But the monks would have none of it until they finally reached a compromise.  They would accept an abbot primate, as long as he had no power.

In frustration, Pope Leo is said to have thrown up his hands and uttered these oft-repeated words:  “You Benedictines are not an order, but a disorder.”  To that we Benedictines respond that once again the Holy Father has spoken infallibly.  Besides, disorder is part of our charism, and it is an art which you can enjoy at any and every abbey, including Sant Anselmo.

Notes

+On October 9th I gave a lecture on The Saint John’s Bible at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX.

image+On October 10th I flew to Rome to attend a meeting of the Order of Malta, and while attending the meeting I have stayed at Sant Anselmo.  The flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam was uneventful, but the flight to Rome was something else.  For those who allege that all airlines have compromised on the quality of their service, I say fly the New Alitalia.  They have stinted on nothing in an effort to maintain their traditional service.  We arrived, predictably, late, much to the despair of eight seat-mates who were connecting to a flight to Palermo.  Even had we arrived on time, they never would have made it.  It took fifteen minutes before the shuttle bus came to collect us from the plane.  But of course the air-conditioning on the plane had stopped as soon as we parked.  Then it took nearly forty minutes before the luggage appeared.  One wheel on my bag had gone to meet its maker, or so it seemed; but in a major defeat for the airline, I fixed it all by myself the next day.  A first in the history of travel.

image+In my short time at Sant Anselmo I have had the chance to visit with my confrere Fr. Nickolas Becker, who is studying in Rome.  In addition, I have visited with our two Benedictine Volunteers from Saint John’s, who are spending a year in service at Sant Anselmo.  I’ve also had the chance to meet with a few friends who teach at Sant Anselmo, including the prior, who was one of my history students at Saint John’s.   The pictures in today’s post were all taken at Sant Anselmo.

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imageCommunity as Purgatory I was intrigued by a comment that Pope Francis made during a visit with the nuns of San Damiano during his recent trip to Assisi.  Actually, a lot of what he says intrigues me, which is well-nigh miraculous in this day and age, and it’s a story best-addressed another time.  In his comments to the nuns, however, he tossed out a throw-away line that must have hit home to everyone in the room.  Pointing out the obvious, he said that “community life is not easy.”  But then came the clincher:  “…make sure that the monastery is not a purgatory.” For those who are married and might imagine the monastery as some sort of idyllic escape from hell, this must come as a bit of a surprise.  And for those who think that life in community is the solution to loneliness or freedom from the petty cares of the world, I have news for you.  The truth is, life in community can indeed be a purgatory, except on those days when it tip-toes across the threshold into hell.  But don’t take my word for it.  Ask the nuns at San Damiano; or for that matter, ask the next monk or nun you meet.  Better still, ask the Pope.  On this issue he speaks infallibly, and he needs no throne or Church council to ratify his observation. imageI don’t want to leave the impression that life in the monastery is one long Bataan death march through this valley of tears.  Far from it.  In fact, there are terrific days, and sometimes those days can stretch into weeks or months.  But if a monk or nun doesn’t bump up against the presence of sin within the ranks, it’s probably because they are residents of the cemetery.  And it’s also because they’ve not looked into the mirror in a while. It’s not that most monks don’t try to do well.  And it’s not that Saint Benedict didn’t try to set a high bar.  In fact, I think he hoped that the community might replicate a mix of the Garden of Eden and the community of believers in Jerusalem, as outlined in the Acts of the Apostles.  In the case of the first, tranquility and a daily walk with God marked the lives of Eden’s residents.  In the case of the Christian community in Jerusalem, all shared what they had, prayed together, and got along swimmingly.  But I’ve never been under any illusion that peace and harmony began to fray just about lunch-time on the first day.  By mid-afternoon they were already pushing the boundaries into purgatory. imageIn some respects Saint Benedict can seem pretty naive in his prescription for the monastery.  All are to have enough to eat, enough sleep, decent clothing, rounded off with a balance of prayer and meaningful work and study and sacred reading.  All are to see the face of Christ in whomever they meet — including the abbot, the young monks, the elderly and the guest.  “How hard can that be?” the non-monk asks rhetorically.  Well, to be candid, it’s easier to see Christ in the total stranger whom you’ll never see again in your life than it is in the guy whom you sit beside for years on end. There’s no point in giving an exhaustive list of cases in which you have to squint really hard to see Christ in your monastic neighbor.  Besides, to paraphrase Saint John the Evangelist, there are not books enough in the world to contain them all.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to cite a few, just to give a sense of things.  Take, for instance, the monk who returns from Saint Cloud with a foot-long scrape on the side of the car.  And worse still, what about the monk who returns the car on empty, and you’re the next driver to use it and  you’re behind schedule already.  Or the monk who’s chronically late for prayer and wears clunky shoes that announce his every step.  Or the reader at table who thinks he doesn’t need to prepare.  And what of the monk who gets up at every meeting to offer some inane comment?  About him I will remain silent, except to note that he elicits a rolling of eyes and a collective “How long, Oh Lord?” imageAnd I’ve not even begun to cover the things we say or do to each other that are actually intended to irritate.  I hope I never forget the dinner at which one confrere muttered within earshot of another whose table manners were less than elegant:  “That guy oughtta be out in the barn.”  This elicited ripples of uncontrolled laughter, partly because it was the pot calling the kettle black.  But we also dreaded the revenge that was sure to follow.  That’s how life-long grudges get started in the monastery, and Saint Benedict was wise enough to devote some ink to the issue of nursing grudges. In short, this is when community life morphs into purgatory.  But don’t be under any illusion that it can’t or won’t get worse.  I’m not about to venture into the really big stuff because, after all, I do have to live with my confreres, and they with me.  But in fairness to monks and nuns everywhere, I would offer that we have no monopoly on these sorts of things.  And I’ve been around the block often enough to know that they happen even outside of the monastery.  As supporting evidence I offer up one of my favorite movies of all time, The Lion in Winter.  After a particularly nasty knife fight among Henry II and their three sons, Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine collapses in a doorway, turns to the audience and confides:  “After all, what family doesn’t have it’s ups and downs?” imageSo there you have it.  Whether monastic or otherwise, every family does  have its ups and downs.  But when purgatory or even hell become an accepted way of life, then we need the conversion of life of which Saint Benedict writes.  Conflict is certainly part of life, but it’s no substitute for a life well-lived.  And a life well-lived only comes with regular self-examination and good communication with your brothers and sisters.  And whether we like it or not, conversion of life must begin each and every morning, and we have to keep it up all the way through to bed-time.  And then we start at square one the next day. I’d be curious to know what effect, if any, the pope’s words had on the nuns at San Damiano.  Did things return to business as usual the minute the doors closed behind Pope Francis?  Did his words prompt a bit of soul-searching?  I’d like to think that there were some knowing smiles.  I suspect that more than a few turned to each other and said:  “Good Lord, and we thought we were the only ones who did that.” imageNotes +The weather in Minnesota shifted decidedly to autumn this last week, but the fall colors have been very slow to come.  Absent any brilliant display of gold and red leaves, I’ve included in today’s post the last hurrah of flowers at Saint John’s.  Tucked away here and there are pockets of color, which all seem to appreciate as they walk by.  Little do the flowers know what awaits them with the first autumn frost.  But for now, let them bloom on. image+On October 4th I attended and spoke briefly at a reception at the home of President Thomas Mengler of Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX.  Since my father grew up north of San Antonio, it is always a treat to return to places that are firm in my own childhood memories.  Also in attendance was the Archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller.   Archbishop Gustavo is a member of the Holy Spirt Missionaries, and he was born in Mexico.  For several years he headed the house of studies for his Order, which it conducted in cooperation with Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.  So he has a strong affection for the Benedictine tradition.

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