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Archive for November, 2013

imageThanksgiving Musings

The ad was as simple as its promise was startling:  “The key to an extraordinary life is quite literally a key.”  Actually, it wasn’t the key that promised the extraordinary life, because that was the job of the Maserati that the key set in motion.   Yes, believe it or not, ownership of a humble Maserati spells the difference between a merely ordinary and a truly extraordinary life.

This guarantee appeared recently on the back covers of issues of the Princeton Alumni Weekly and Yale Alumni Magazine.  That in itself I found disconcerting, as should all alumni of those two august institutions.  For years I had entertained the fantasy that degrees from those two places had made a smidgeon of difference in my life.  Now I realize what delusion I had lived under.  Worse still, I now know that I should have invested in a Maserati rather than in all those years of education.  Had I done so, I likely wouldn’t be living in a monastery.  Instead, I would be at the wheel of a Maserati, living a life chock full of meaning.

imageActually, I don’t regret non-ownership of a Maserati one iota, and the answer is simple.  Ownership would have set in motion a whole train of actions that would be dizzying.  For one thing, I’d need a top-notch garage to protect it from hail and ice and fine dust particles.  I’d need an endowment to fund the insurance and maintenance.  I’d need a house commensurate with the dignity and stature of Maserati ownership.  Of course I’d need a second car to drive, since I’d not want my Maserati to mix with the common herd on the streets and highways of Minnesota.  And last but not least, I’d need plenty of time to meditate on how my Maserati had made the critical difference in the meaning of my life.

Such is our existence when things — even nice things — become the be-all and end-all of our lives.  It’s not that things are evil in and of themselves.  Far from it.  Rather, it’s the unfulfilled promises that ownership subtly extends to us.  With a Maserati we will at last cherish in our hearts the happiness that has eluded us for so long.  At the wheel of a Maserati personal fulfillment will at last be ours.  With a Maserati in the garage, we will at last make a critical difference in the world.

imageI was reminded of these absurd promises in a conversation with a friend recently.  We were remembering a couple who had made a decisive impact on our lives, and my friend commented on the gradual shift she’d seen in them in recent years.  The couple was bright, talented, hard-working and fiercely competitive.  But somewhere along the way from rags to great wealth they seemed to have lost sight of the purpose of all that drive and energy.  They had raised a lovely family, had made provision for their grandchildren, and had acquired the trappings of a very successful life together.  Their equilibrium had wobbled, however, and they had crossed the line from wealth as a resource to be used, to wealth as a treasure to be protected at all cost.  And they had paid a heavy price for this, because they had become servants rather than masters of their wealth.  People who had once been a spark-plug to everyone around them had now become custodians of a fortress.  They had radically re-written the job description of their lives, but had scarcely noticed what they were doing to themselves.

imageYou don’t have to be fabulously wealthy to slip into this frame of mind.  Even relatively poor people are subject to the same temptation.  And the root of this is the temptation to re-value our lives, so that the gift of life itself has a meaning that is secondary to the possessions under our roof.

Thanksgiving is the one time of year when we should be sure to recognize the real gifts we have.  The gifts of life, of family and of friends certainly are among the greatest of our assets.  Spiritual insight and faith are among them as well.  And integrity, generosity and a willingness to sacrifice for others ought to count for something too.  It would seem to me that these may be even more important than a Maserati in the garage and first place in lines for Black Friday sales.

imageSo on this Thanksgiving for what will I be thankful?  Well, first I will give thanks that I own neither a Maserati nor a great garage to put it in.  I also intend to be thankful that my family and my confreres in the monastery saw enough potential in me to invest in my education and in my future.  I’ll also give thanks that they taught me the values that I try to live by — albeit not perfectly.  I’ll give thanks as well that I have learned from others the importance of generosity, of inspiring others, and of seeing the potential in others and encouraging them to rise to the occasion.

In the monastery we pray the psalms every day, though we’re scarcely the only people on earth who do that.  Scattered throughout the psalter are prayers of anguish and suffering, prayers of petition, and prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  As any monk can tell you, God doesn’t need to hear all these prayers, because God has more than enough to keep busy already.  But if God doesn’t need to hear them, we still need to say them, and we need to say them pretty often.  If we give thanks to God every day, sooner or later we’ll realize what it is for which we should be most grateful.  Surely that’s worth a thought, more than once a year.

imageAnd that brings me to the last item in a Thanksgiving reflection.  I think it’s great that we set aside one whole day a  year for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes we need that sort of jolt to remind us of all our blessings.  But I think Thanksgiving should also be a way of life.  It should be a part of our lives each and every day.  At the very least it will help prevent the gradual re-write of our life’s job description.  And it might be the necessary ingredient that helps us be the spark-plug that energizes people around us.

Happy Thanksgiving.  And let’s not forget to give thanks 365 days a  year.

imageNotes

+On November 19th I spoke at a gathering of friends and alumni of Saint John’s University, held at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Phoenix, AZ.  The occasion was a presentation of a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to the Center.  This gift was made possible by a group of generous alumni, and in future years visitors will be able to see the volumes on display there.

+On November 23rd I presided and preached at the Abbey Mass  at Saint John’s.  You can find the text of  my sermon, Jargon vs. Conversion, under the heading Presentations.

+On November 23rd I joined my confrere, Fr. Joseph Feders, in a presentation to a class of 21 students and professors from Gustavus Adolphus College, who were at the abbey guesthouse for a three-day retreat.  Among those present was a long-time friend from Gustavus, Professor Florence Amamoto.

image+The surprise of the week came from the hands of a couple of friends from Norway, who attended the reception in Phoenix earlier in the week.  They delivered a wonderful cookbook from Sister Sheryl Frances Chen OCSO, a Cistercian nun at Tautra Mariakloster in central Norway.  Sister Sheryl and I were classmates at Yale, and later she entered the monastery at the Cistercian Abbey in Dubuque, IA.  Several years ago a group from Dubuque established a monastery in Norway, next to the ruins of a medieval cloister there.  Sister Sheryl was one of the founding nuns there.

+The photos in today’s post are from the parish and pilgrimage church of Maria Steinbach in southern Germany.  An 18th-century church, it is filled with frescos and mementos of thanksgiving for favors received from Mary and the saints.  I had the opportunity visit here in August.

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imageOnly One Thing at a Time, Please

An interesting person passed away recently, and I regret not meeting him or hearing him speak.  Clifford Nass was a scholar of multitasking, according to the obituary by Steve Chawkins that appeared in the November 9th issue of The Washington Post.  He died at the tender age of fifty-five, and no doubt his students at Stanford will miss him.  But the world will miss him even more, because we’ll never know his final verdict on the interaction between humans and computers.

When he first beheld students at Stanford doing three or four things at once, he was intrigued.  Could this be the future?  Could he adapt to it?  His subsequent research suggested that it could indeed be the wave of the future; but it could very well be a future we may not want.

The conclusions of his research were succinct and startling.  The apparently brilliant multitaskers at their computers “were terrible at various cognitive chores such as organizing information, switching between tasks and discerning significance.”  “We could essentially be undermining the thinking ability of our society,” he concluded.

imageThat synopsis scarcely does justice to Nass’s work.  But if you’re hungry for more, read his book, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop.  And it’s that title that stirred some soul-searching on my attitude toward technology and the brave new world of electronic “people.”

Last week I got into a big argument with a computer, and I lost.  I had gotten a nice personal letter from a computer at the health insurance company, asking that I give them a call to discuss a billing.  “How hard can that be?” I thought to myself.  Well, it turned out to be harder than I ever imagined.

For starters, the menu of options that the tech-voice gave me did not include “If we asked you to call us, please press ten now.”  No, it was more along the lines of that playful 911 recording that offered this range of choices:  “If you’d like to report a regicide, please press one.  If you’d like to report an embezzlement, press two.  If you’d like to report a case of blackmail, press three.”  But nothing about traffic accidents or “burglars in your house even as we speak.”

image It wasn’t long before I’d gone through a succession of ranked choices, and with each new set I got madder and madder.  Finally, I did what any sensible human should do in this situation.  I started shouting and yelling.  But all that did was to elicit a very pleasant (though I thought sarcastic) “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”  That happened four times before it switched from a masculine to a feminine voice which asked what the issue might be.  But the voice was so nice that I began to be suspicious.  Might this be an artificial voice as well?  “I assure you, sir, I’m real; which is why I gave you my name.”  I guess I hadn’t caught that, maybe because I know several computers who have names.

Anyway, I told her about the letter asking me to call, and here I was.  To my feigned horror, as well as complete lack of surprise, this was her God’s-honest-truth reply: “I’m sorry, sir.  But our billing computer is down this morning.  Can you call back this afternoon?”  “Maybe.  Better yet, why don’t you call me  when everything gets up to snuff in the computer department.  Have a nice day, and I hope your computer gets well soon” were my sign-off words.

imageI don’t know what technology has done for you lately, but it’s done great things for me.  It’s given me instant access to information.  It’s kept me from being hopelessly lost while driving at night in a big city.  And it’s helped me find good deals on air fares.  It’s also made me irate, and left me feeling chained to the computer with two hundred emails that need a response asap.  And trying to juggle all that has left me crazy at times, just as Nass suggested it might do.  Should life be this way?

In more tranquil moments, I realize that life need not be this way.  One need not live a frenetic existence in which computer programs dictate your life.  In fact, we can and ought to take ownership of our lives, before we lose them.

imageIn his Rule Saint Benedict asks monks to do a lot of very different things, but he doesn’t ask us to do them all at the same time.  In fact, he creates neat compartments in the daily schedule in which things should be done.  For example, monks should spend a specific time in church, but when they’re done, they should get out and get on with the next task.  Nor does he suggest that we read the newspaper during dinner.  And work itself should be an exercise in concentration.  We know what happened when copyists in those medieval scriptoria let their minds wander when they wrote.  Mistakes happened, and sometimes they were big mistakes.

Contrary to multitasking wisdom, Saint Benedict’s formula for life leads neither to wasted time nor to lost opportunities.  In fact,  his recipe quite possibly leads to greater efficiency and a much higher quality of product.  Perhaps that’s why he marked off separate and distinct times for praying and eating and working and reading.  Given those doses of intense concentration, perhaps the mind can flourish far better than when we multitask.

imageAs for me, I now see more clearly some of the choices I have to make.  For one thing, it’s folly to keep having arguments with a computer.  All I do is lose control and yell.  That’s why I’ve decided that the next time I meet an obtuse computer, I’m going to be the one having the fun.  I may just ask what might be its favorite color.  I might ask how the weather is where it is.  And when the answer fails to satisfy me, I’ll respond that I don’t understand the answer.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll offer to connect it to my own computer.  Then there’ll be a true meeting of minds.  Or not.

I also now realize the foolishness of treating a computer as if it were an equal.  Nor should I put it on a pedestal as if it were some god.  I know from experience that the health company’s computer had clay feet, just as did the ancient Roman gods.  Had it had keener intelligence, it would have known already that the billing computer was down for the day.   Had it been more mature, it would have appreciated the irony of that.  Had it been human, it would have chuckled along with me.

imageNotes

+On November 11th I presided and preached at the Mass for the School of Theology at Saint John’s University.  Earlier that morning I was among a small group of monks who witnessed the oblation of a good friend who made promises as an oblate of Saint John’s Abbey.  While not members of the Abbey, oblates promise to incorporate the values of the Rule of Saint Benedict into their lives, and attend periodic retreats and other events at the Abbey.

+On November 14th I was in San Francisco, where President Michael Hemesath and I hosted an evening event for Friends and Alumni of Saint John’s University.

+On November 15th I participated in a memorial service for the brother of a close friend of mine.  The service took place in Sunnyvale, CA.

image+On November 16th I presided and preached at the Mass of Religious Profession for Fra Carl Noelke, KJ.  Sandwiched into the liturgy were two very lengthy and ancient rites that first dubbed Fra Carl a knight in the Order of Malta, and then witnessed his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  In addition to the pictures in this post, you can see other pictures in the sermon that I delivered that day: Speak, Lord.  Your Servant is Listening.

+Dr. Michael Hemesath, the president of Saint John’s University, writes a blog that gives periodic — and brief — reflections on the value of a liberal arts education.  More specifically, he addresses the residential, liberal arts, Catholic and Benedictine character of Saint John’s.  In a recent post he considered the theme of career adaptability, and the importance of planning for a career, rather than just for the first job.  As an example, he cited Marine Captain Garrett Litfin, who graduated from Saint John’s in 2003.  When he left Saint John’s to take on his first job, Garrett definitely had not planned to pilot the helicopter that flies the president of the United States to and from the White House.  To read or receive Michael’s postings, visit Q136, which happens to be his office number at Saint John’s.

+The first six photos in today’s post are from the facades of buildings in Amsterdam.  There is huge variety there, with surprises at every turn.

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imageMartin of Tours: Ripe for Recycling?

Is Saint Martin of Tours one of those saints whose time came and went and now is ripe for recycling?  At first blush, he seems to be a most unlikely candidate for imitation today, at least to me.  But then again, there might just be another round for him, and it’s worth taking a look at this question on his feast day, November 11th.

Born to pagan parents in Hungary in 316, he followed his father into a career in the Roman army.  As a youth he thought about Christianity; but only later, as a soldier, did he come forward for baptism.  He is famously depicted in art as the guy who cut his coat in half to share with a beggar.  Later still he resigned his commission in the army, became a monk in Gaul, and very soon was dragged from his monastery to become a bishop.  In the course of his ministry he worked many miracles, did lots of pastoral work, and converted whole villages of barbarians.  That’s it, in a nutshell.  But is that much of a role model for Christians in the 21st century?  The truth is, it really doesn’t  give us much to work with.

imageOur earliest source of information about Martin comes from his disciple, Sulpitius Severus, who wrote a short biography soon after the saint’s passing.  I’ve read that text many times, but I hadn’t looked at it since I left the classroom several years ago.  So as his feast approached, I thought it might not hurt to give it another shot.  Was it still the historical novelty I recalled?  Or was it something more?  What I discovered is that much of the story remains typical of saints’ lives of the era.  What I also found were themes that glow a little more brightly in the era of Pope Francis.

What strikes any reader are the many miracles that Sulpitius attributes to Martin.  Whether you believe that he did them all or not, however, is in some measure irrelevant.  Sulpitius Severus had a larger editorial purpose behind his selection of material.  First of all, his miracle narratives use language that deliberately evokes the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels.  Second, he interprets Martin’s life through a clear and  unmistakable  tone:  Martin cared about the poor and the suffering.  This is best seen in the sharing of his cloak with the suffering man on the side of the road.  Later, in a dream, Martin realized that the beggar was Christ.  That vision drove all of Martin’s work ever after.  For that reason the Church has revered him as a patron for those who serve the sick and the needy.

imageThere is another strand to Martin’s life that I used to dismiss rather patronizingly. For a long time I ascribed Martin’s ambivalence about becoming a bishop to false humility.  I saw a parallel to the ritual three-fold “I am not worthy” that medieval popes pronounced on their election to the throne of Saint Peter.  I’m still convinced that their lips may have said “Lord, I am not worthy,” but their eyes were searching the room for the chair.  “Get me to that chair before anyone asks for a recount.”  But now I realize that Martin’s hesitation was likely authentic, and I believe it was so for several reasons.

One legend has it that Martin was so adamant about remaining a monk that he hid in a pen of geese to avoid a mob of townspeople that was looking for him.  Unfortunately, the honking of the geese gave him away, and the mob dragged him off for consecration.  For that reason a goose often shows up in many depictions of Martin, who by then is wearing a mitre.

imageOf course one could still say that this was merely pro forma humility, since hiding with geese is the worst place you could choose to hide.  It was akin to advertising “I don’t want this job, but here I am if you’re looking.”  But it was Martin’s post-consecration behavior that convinces me that he didn’t want the job.  Once installed as bishop, he returned to his monastery for a life of prayer and pastoral wanderings.  In Sulpitius Severus’ biography, Martin never once appears at the cathedral to say Mass.  He never shows up even once at the chancery office to sign dispensations or make parish assignments or do long-range diocesan planning.  Instead, he went out to meet and to nourish his flock, and to add to their number.

This behavior did not go unnoticed by his fellow bishops.  By then the office of bishop in Gaul had begun to morph into a powerful job.  By the 4th century bishops managed significant wealth and wielded growing responsibility.  And a few were already successful at installing their sons and grandsons on the episcopal throne.  To them Martin was neither doing his job nor setting a good example.   What was worse, aristocratic sons were joining Martin’s monastery.  All this threatened the status quo, and the neighboring bishops gave Martin lots of grief.  They resented his simple way of life as well as his disinterest in the trappings of episcopal power.  In short, Martin threatened to undo everything they had worked so hard to put in place.  Martin threatened the aristocratic episcopacy and all their apple carts.

imageYou can certainly fault Martin for not putting in an occasional stint at his cathedral or at the chancery office.  But on the other hand, I have to believe that he fulfilled the hope of Pope Francis that a bishop “should smell like his sheep.”  Given Martin’s lifestyle, I suspect he smelled like his sheep, both allegorically and literally.  But whatever his faults, he never wanted the job, and he never asked for the job.  He genuinely cared about his sheep, and he drove himself on the idea that in each of them he would see the face of Christ.

Saint Martin went on to earn wide popularity across Europe.  And he earned it among the Benedictines as well.  Saint Benedict, for example, built an altar at Monte Cassino in honor of Saint Martin.  Not surprisingly, threads of Martin’s life weave through Benedict’s biography by Saint Gregory the Great.  Gregory was careful to point out that, like Martin, Benedict preached to the neighbors and went out to meet the barbarians — all the while living in a monastery.  No wonder monks drew their authorization for pastoral work from Saint Martin.

imageAcross Europe you still find pockets of devotion to Saint Martin.  But despite the decline in his popularity, I would argue that his usefulness for the Church is not over.  His day in the sun may yet return.  For one, his hesitation about honors in ministry is an example we might want to encourage in the Church today.  For another, his vision of Christ in the poor and the suffering is still the best reason for ministry that I can think of.  And thirdly, while we should be glad that our bishops show up at the cathedral a little more often than did Martin, it would also be nice to see them out in the field a little more.  Martin’s wanderings for the sake of Christ’s little ones is  something we may want to insert into pastoral  job descriptions.  It might not do any harm, and it might even do some good.

imageNotes

+On November 4th I spoke on The Saint John’s Bible at Clarke University in Dubuque, IA.

+On November 7-8th I participated in the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Saint John’s University.

+On November 10th I presided at the Abbey Mass, and my sermon, I Believe in the Resurrection of the Dead, may be found in Presentations.

+On November 4th we received the sad news that Father Peter Kawamura, aged 64, died from a heart attack at our priory in Japan, Holy Trinity Monastery.

image+On November 9th, the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Abbot John instituted Brothers Lew and Nick into the office of Acolyte, and Brothers Isaiah and Clement into the office of Reader, as part of their preparation for priesthood.  Brother Clement is a member of Saint Leo’s Abbey in Florida.

+The uppermost picture in today’s post illustrates Saint Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar.  It is at the cathedral in Utrecht, The Netherlands.  The statue of Saint Martin, with the goose at his feet, is from the Church of Saint Martin in Tannheim, Germany.  It was once a Benedictine abbey.  The remaining photos come from The Lateran Basilica in Rome.  They are appropriate not only for the recent feast day, but the year of consecration was 324, making the earliest parts of the church contemporary with Saint Martin.

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imageTo the Anonymous Saint

Among the vivid memories that I treasure from childhood is the seating chart from first grade.  From day one I was slotted into row three, seat three, and there I stayed for the entire year.  So formative was that experience, that ever since it’s been my seat of choice.  Faced with an empty room, I’ll still bolt for it every time.

Part of this, I suppose, is due to being a creature of habit.  Many of us prefer neat and tidy worlds in which some things remain constant.  But for me there was more to it.  As a shy kid who shrank from the limelight, I soon began to appreciate the fact that seat three in row three was simply great strategy.  I was convinced that in the first row the odds of being called upon were far higher.  Far better was the relative obscurity provided in row three.

But if the front row brought risk, the back row was something to avoid at all costs.  Even in the first grade we all knew the dangers that lurked there.  Back there people whispered and smirked and passed notes.  We all knew that when teachers went looking for trouble, they peered right over our heads and straight to the back of the room.  And there they usually found the trouble they expected to find.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the entire back row has since gone off to prison.  Even in the first grade we in the middle rows could see that coming.

imageNot surprisingly, I grew fond of seat three in row three.  There was safety there, and I could remain hidden for as long as I chose.  It was like sitting in a duck blind.  I could see and hear everything just fine; but I was invisible until I was ready to raise my hand for attention.

That may help explain why the Feast of All Saints is one of my holy days of choice.  This is the one day in the liturgical calendar when we revere all those hard-working saints who did the will of God, day in and day out, without a lot of fanfare.  These were not the saints who always bolted to the front of the room and made spectacles of themselves.  Nor did they have agents to plead their cause for high-profile canonizations, with tens of thousands in attendance.  Nor were they aggressive enough to even think about their own private feast day in the Church calendar.  No, they just went about their business, did their Christian duty, and now sit in heaven’s equivalent of row three, seat three.

imageYears ago I came to appreciate the affinity between All Saints and the Benedictines.  For better or for worse, Benedictine spirituality has been described as the least flashy in the Church.  We don’t produce baroque, larger-than-life saints like the Jesuits.  Nor do we have romantic figures like Saint Francis of Assisi.  No, we are communities of men and women who go about our daily business with some measure of regularity and balance, trying to spy out the presence of God in the most ordinary of circumstances.  There’s nothing baroque or romantic about it, which may explain why there are few, if any, Benedictine superheroes.  It also explains why there are no blockbuster movies about us.  It all goes against our emphasis on humility.  It’s why we don’t give easy admittance to superheroes when they come knocking at the door of the novitiate.

imageOn All Saints Day I thought about the hard-working and quiet Benedictines who are in heaven already.  Assuming they set their own schedules (it’s heaven, you know), they would definitely opt for a more serene life than those of the more popular saints.  Those saintly Benedictines likely cringe at the very thought of their statues being paraded around in some Italian village festival.  That has to be the absolute worst form of tooting your own horn.  Nor would they envy Saint Jude, who has endless office hours during which he has to listen patiently about lost causes.  Or consider the avalanche of petitions for lost stuff that must drive Saint Anthony to distraction.  Since there’s no email in heaven (after all, it’s heaven), at least it can’t get much worse than it already is for him.  Still, the price of fame that Anthony and others must pay is far too costly for Benedictines.  So if life in the heavenly mansions means no privacy or down time, then I and most Benedictines would settle for a cottage in the woods.  It sounds like heaven to us.  And it will be, especially if that cottage has an unlisted number.image

That’s one of the big problems with the calendar of the saints.  Through most of the year we venerate the memories of very high-profile saints, but their exploits are far beyond the reach of most of us.  And then we reserve one day in the year for the saints who seem to have come in second.  Ironically, that’s where I, and most of us, find our best chance of success.  What are we to do?

Pope Francis hinted at this dilemma in his All Saints homily on November 1st.  He opened with the comment that the secret to holiness is not “some rare privilege for the few.”  The call to holiness comes to each of us at baptism, and the chance to do something decent comes with the daily gift of grace.  And then he cut to the chase with one comment that I really appreciated, and it should console all those who prefer to sit in the quiet middle rows.  “Saints aren’t superheroes, nor were they born perfect.  They are like us, each one of us.”  In practice that’s a comfort to all of us who have no vocation to convert peoples, end poverty, or bring peace to the Middle East.  Obviously, for most of us the path to sainthood will be a far more prosaic route.

imageI would submit that sainthood will come for most of us through martyrdom, but not via the spilling of any blood.  It will be the slow martyrdom of doing the best we can, day in and day out.  Ours will be the martyr’s witness that quietly reveals the presence of God in our lives.  It will be the martyrdom of love and service that doesn’t change nations, but does touch a few other people, every now and again.

The old adage suggests that you go to heaven for the weather, and go to hell for the company.  If that’s true, but you want both, then Purgatory might very well be the place for you.  But I would argue that you can have both the good weather and the good company in heaven as well.  And while you’ll find good company occupying the choice real estate, I’ll leave the heavenly mansions to the superhero saints.  As for me, if I make it, I plan to head right to heaven’s middle rows.  There I expect to run across some of the best people you’d ever hope to meet.  And even better, I’ll know many of them already.

imageNotes

+On October 29th I spoke at a reception at a home in Fresno, CA, in conjunction with The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible at Saint Agnes Hospital.  This gave me the chance to visit with friends I had made on an earlier visit, and it was an absolutely gorgeous evening.

+On November 3rd I spoke at the University of Dayton, again on The Saint John’s Bible.

+On November 1st we celebrated the feast of All Saints, and a goodly number of students and guests joined us for Mass.  Most visitors to Saint John’s are unaware of the relic chapel in the lower level church, but it sits there quietly to welcome the occasional guest.   On All Saints we carry many of the relics of those saints to the upper church for veneration.  Pictures in today’s post illustrate a few.

image+On November 2nd we celebrated the feast of All Souls with one new tradition and one venerable tradition.  Following morning prayer we gathered around the altar for the dead, following the Mexican tradition of El Dia de los Muertos.  Br. Lucien, accompanied by monks playing violin and recorder, sang two traditional Mexican songs.  Later in the day, after Mass, we processed to the Abbey cemetery, where we recited mid-day prayer.

+Autumn colors are becoming faded and spare at Saint John’s, which is to be expected in early November.  In today’s post I’ve included some of the last traces of color.  Happily, the green spruce and pine will cover for the oaks and maples and ash during the winter.

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