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Archive for August, 2015

imageGive the Pope a Helping Hand

In three weeks Pope Francis will step onto American soil for the first time in his life, and it will be interesting to see his reaction.  No doubt he’s read about America and seen the movies, but I suspect he’s not been thinking about the place morning noon and night every day of his life.  Had that been the case, he’d have come here a lot sooner.

Anyway, his schedule will be jam-packed, but that’s not deterred people from drawing up lists of things that should be squeezed into his itinerary.  Some ideas have been thoughtful, and others off-the-wall.  But what most of these suggestions have in common is that they are just a little late.  If these things were all that important, why didn’t people send them in months ago, when the pope could have done something about it?

imageOne recent article struck me in particular.  Without so much as a “Dear Pope Francis,” the author plunged right into seventeen things that the pope absolutely must do while he’s in America;  otherwise his trip will be a total waste of time.  This came from the pen of a respected columnist, so I’m not about to question his good judgement on the issues he raises.  Still, I do question both his timing as well as the spirit in which he offered this.  For one thing, he should have put a stamp on it and sent it off  to the pope weeks — if not months — ago.  Second, why is it that the pope has to do absolutely everyting on the list?  Doesn’t the writer have any personal ambitions beyond writing a column that tells other people what to do?  Why can’t he help the pope out by offering to do even one or two things on the pope’s behalf?  I’m sure the pope would be grateful, and he might even scrawl out a personal note of thanks.

There is a larger issue here, of course, and I think it has to do with the tremendous burdens that we heap upon our leaders these days.  We demand action from our leaders — including the pope — but at the same time we don’t want him telling us what to do.  To be more precise, we want our leaders to tell other people what to do, and we’re more than willing to supply the talking points.  And that goes for the pope in particular.

imageI don’t want to sound too shrill about this because my real concern has to do with behavior in which we all indulge, and which Jesus took to task on more than one occasion.  Jesus was certainly not the first to notice that people are eager to impose heavy burdens on others, and these are burdens which they generally prefer not to carry themselves.  They are arm-chair critics of all those they deem unworthy, but they seem hesitant to reach out to help others carry those burdens.

In our hyper-critical society, that sort of behavior is as prevalent today as it was in the time of Jesus.  We love to point out the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters.  We delight in demanding that others jump through hoops of our own making.  And most egregious of all, we expect that our lealders, religious and otherwise, be perfect.

So it is that when Pope Francis comes to America with a relatively short to-do list, he’ll have scarcely enough time to do it.  But given the high expectations that some have placed upon him, it’s a recipe for failure, or at least for disappointment.

As much as some want Pope Francis to be a ruthless dictator, and others prefer him to be an indulgent and all-forgiving parent, I suspect he’s going to be his own man.  Certainly he is aware of the pastoral tradition of the Church, and as such he’s going to be far more complex and skilled a pastor of souls than many might expect or want.

imageThe monastic tradition also offers insights of which Pope Francis is well-aware.  Saint Benedict advises that the abbot should be a wise physician.  He also advises that the abbot should challenge the strong so that they might grow even sturdier; while he should take care lest he bruise the reeds and break the spirit of the weak.  And above all Benedict reminds his monks that the abbot is human, like everyone else in the monastery.  And so it is that the abbot can ask impossible things of his monks.  In those situations the monks should just do the best they can.

Such is the case with Pope Francis.  I tend to place him in the category of the wise physican, but he will disappoint many because he asks too little of some people and from others too much.  But in response I suspect he’d be the first to admit his shortcomings and ask for forgiveness.  After all, he’s only the pope.

And as for those long lists of suggestions, I suspect he’d welcome all those good ideas.  Then he might very well look up and ask us to get started on them.  After all, who wouldn’t want to help the pope carry his burdens?  There’s no time like the present to do our share of his work.

imageNotes

+On August 29th I concelebrated at the funeral of Mary Nigon at Holy Name Church in Medina, MN.  Last spring I had the opportunity to travel with Mary and her husband Dick on a tour through Umbria and Rome, and she was a delight.  We will all miss her, and she departed from her family and legions of friends far too soon.

+Today, August 31st, is the first day of classes at Saint John’s University.  Gone is the tranquility of summer, replaced by an abundance of activity and energy.

+As we enter the home stretch of summer, many of the gardens at Saint John’s are past their prime, while the summer rains have left the greenery soft and lush.  Some gardens continue to do well, and I was surprised by a flock of monarch butterflies that had taken over the Scary Mary Garden.  Meanwhile, there is a touch of autumn around the campus, as the color on one tree indicates.

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imageBargains Made with God

The readings for last Thursday’s Mass were a preacher’s nightmare.  In the first, from the Book of Judges chapter 1, Jephthah vowed to sacrifice to God the first person he might see leaving his house, if God would grant him victory over the Ammonites.  Jephthah went on to win a decisive war, but he was shocked to see his daughter — his only child — emerge from the house to greet him on his return.  But a deal was a deal, and after a two-month reprieve, he offered her up to God, just as he had promised.  How inspiring, I thought to myself.  And how might a homilist handle this?

The gospel didn’t offer fare that was much better.  In a parable from the lips of Jesus, Matthew relates how a king sent his servants, and then his son, to invite the neighbors to a wedding feast for his son.  Some neighbors gave pretty lame excuses and beat the servants, while others killed the son.  Enraged, the king slaughtered all the neighbors and burned their cities.  Could such be the kingdom of heaven?  I’d always hoped for something a little more tranquil.

You can imagine my delight when I realized that these challenges would fall to Fr. Hilary, the celebrant for the day.  He is among the monastery’s most thoughtful and eloquent preachers, and I prepared myself for the definitive wisdom that would explain — or explain away — the conundrums in these two passages.  So you can imagine my reaction when he began his  homily with words similar to these:  “Today we rejoice that it is the feast of Saint Bernard, which gives the perfect excuse for not dealing with these two readings.”

imageWell, I could scarcely blame him, since Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is among my favotire monastic saints.  As Fr. Hilary went on to point out, Bernard was a golden-tongued preacher, and his written prose is surpassing in its beauty.  On account of that, monks have revered him through the centuries, and the Church honors him as a doctor of the Church.  But if Bernard was such a great light when it came to preaching, what did he do when these passages came up for Mass?  Humility prevented him from changing the subject to focus on his own sanctity, particularly since he had yet to be canonized.  So I wonder if he didn’t dodge the bullet by preaching instead about the goodness of God, or some other benign topic.

As for me, I was left disappointed, pondering the point of stories like these from the Bible.  The parable from the gospel I can sort of figure out in my own mind, but what can we do with a father who will slay his own daughter just to repay a debt to God?  What kind of God could demand such a payment?  And what kind of twisted logic could someone use to rationalize the killing of an only child, or of any innocent person, for that matter?

imageThere are no good answers to any of these questions, but there are ways to appreciate the larger scope of what God might be trying to tell us in the Book of Judges and in the Bible itself.  First off, the Bible presents the story of God’s people, and it’s definitely a story of growth and development.  So it is that there are practices sanctioned in the time of Moses that would not make the cut by the time Jesus was born.  These included the sacrifice of first-born sons and multiple wives; and I assume that a Jew living a thousand years after Jephthah would have found the sacrifice of his daughter to be an abomination.  So the Bible is the log both of individuals who grew in age and wisdom, and of a people that grew in age and wisdom.

The second lesson that I might draw from this story has to do with the endurance of our deal-making with God.  Of course we don’t offer to sacrifice children or spouses if only God will let us win the lottery, but we’ll instinctively promise anything if God will allow our favorite team to win.  The same with recovery from illness and reversal of ill-fortune.  In our heads we will bargain with God without ever considering the absurdity of it all.  God doesn’t do deals like that with people — or at least not since the earliest books of the Old Testament.

imageBut if God doesn’t negotiate with us, at least not on our terms, what are we to make of these two passages that could bring some measure of understanding?  Common to both readings is the killing of a child, and perhaps that helps to put into perspective the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  In one respect the sacrifice of Jesus makes no sense at all.  But on the other hand it showed that God was no longer open to the business of doing deals to get us to behave a little better.  Rather, Jesus was freely given, and from his death and resurrection came life to us all — free of charge.  In one fell swoop God at least tried to remove from our troubled minds the temptation to save ourselves.  Salvation, like love, was and is freely given.  That, it seems to me, is the big take-away from the mystery of the cross and resurrection.  We do not save ourselves, because Jesus does that.  He lifts that burden from our shoulders, and hopefully we can all rise to new and better life because of it.

Accepting that will always remain one of the great challenges in our relationship with God.  I’m convinced that each new generation has to find this out for itself.  And each person has to go through this business of negotiation with God.  People will continue to give up candy or cigarettes or any of life’s other little pleasures, without realizing that God has no real interest in this sort of stuff.  As Jesus reminded his disciples and us, God remains unimpressed with our latest version of bullocks and whole burnt offerings.  God is pretty much satisfied with a pure heart.  And that seems to be it.  No bargaining necessary.

imageNotes

+This was a very quiet week for me, until on Friday the 21st I flew to Orange County, CA, to preside at a Mass of religious profession for Frá Jeffrey Littell, who made his final vows as a Knight of Justice in the Order of Malta.  Present to receive the vows was Frá Ludwig Hoffman, the Grand Commander, who had come from Rome for the occasion.  In attendance as well was Bishop Ed Clark, auxiliary of Los Angeles, who is also a chaplain the Western Association of the Order of Malta.  The liturgy was as beautiful as it was unhurried.  At two hours it must have been a struggle to keep those cell  phones turned off.  The Mass of profession took place at the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Costa Mesa, CA.  I was also privileged to preach at the Mass, and readers may access  the Sermon at the Rite of Final Profession through this link.

image+This weekend an additional wave of students arrived at Saint John’s University, further relegating to the past the peace and quiet of summer.   Classes will begin within a few days, and even now I still miss those first heady days of the new semester — but only a little.

+The first four photos in today’s post illustrate the Sacred Infirmary, which the Knights of Malta constructed in Valletta, their capital in Malta.  By the standards of the day, the hospital was huge, holding nearly 500 beds for men and a smaller number for women.  The photos dramatically illustrate the primary work of the Order of Malta throughout its history — service to the sick and the poor..

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imageSacred Leisure or Wasted Time?

For those who track department store sales figures — (and who doesn’t?) — last week’s reports were not at all reassuring.  It seems that same-store sales at most chains have been flat or trending downward in recent months, and that has some economists worried.  And worry they should, because ours is first and foremost a consumer society.

Financial gurus immediately rushed in with all sorts of explanations, but two in particular seemed quite persuasive.  One pointed out that people have begun to shift their spending to experiences such as meals together and family vacations, and this has come at the expense of trips to the mall.  And a second theory had the ring of common sense about it.  This analyst noted that people have filled their closets with clothes and shoes and knick-knacks, and many have now run out of space for any more stuff.  Until they clear some of this old stuff out, there’s no room for new purchases.  So lack of storage is a partial cause of this shopping log-jam.  And in my eyes at least the solution to that is easy:  we need a crash program to build more and bigger garages and storage sheds in every corner of the country.

imageThis unsettling trend is nothing less than a challenge to our national ethos.  If shopping is no longer the central plank of our national mission statement, then what will become of our consumer society?  If spending time with other people begins to edge out the accumulation of things as our raison d’etre, an entire way of life — to say nothing of a few malls — could vanish.  It’s a frightening prospect.

For a long time I’ve railed against the notion that “we are what we own.”  From the Bible as well as from the Rule of Saint Benedict I’ve derived the theory that God did not plop us on this earth for the sole purpose of amassing material goods.  That said, I’m under no illusion that my words are to blame for these recent commercial trends.  While I appreciate the fact that several people read my blog, there simply aren’t enough of them to turn our economic ship of state onto a different course.  Clearly it’s somebody else’s fault, and I’m not entirely sure who that might be.  But it’s not me.

In a recent address Pope Francis spoke about the need for balance in the routine of our lives, and specifically he stressed the importance of taking time off to spend with friends and family.  He pointed out, among other things, that even God took a day off in the work of creation, and I suppose that if it’s good enough for God, then it’s good enough for us.  “Days of rest, especially Sunday celebrations of Mass and time with family, are important reminders that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is not a ‘slave to work.'”

imagePope Francis could have found no better source of inspiration for this than in the monastic tradition, which has always valued “sacred leisure.”  This is not some euphemism for idleness or laziness, because in fact it sees in leisure the chance to sit back and reflect.  And with that can come insight and creativity.  Not coincidentally, sacred leisure provides the opportunity to renew ourselves and to appreciate one another in an entirely new light.

If time off is necessary, then vacation too has importance, particularly in an overcharged world like ours.  That said, I have to own up to the fact that Saint Benedict made no provision for vacations in his Rule.  To be fair, it’s not that monks in his day had little time for it, or wouldn’t go if they could.  Rather, there simply were no resorts or theme parks available in the early sixth century.  It was also a known fact that leaving the monastery or the security of your village could be a pretty dangerous business.  So the safest course was to stay home and celebrate sacred leisure in security, with people you knew.

imageThat did not mean an endless stretch of monastic tedium, however.  Rather, the cycle of feast days and seasons added texture to the lives of the monks.  Certainly there were long stretches of ordinary days filled with work, but periodically the monks celebrated in both the chapel and in the refectory.  And they also enjoyed the presence of God in their fellow monks and guests.  For Benedict, then, the meaning of a monk was not tied up in his work.  Rather, the monk found meaning in the way he lived a full life, day in and day out.

If Pope Francis has reminded people of the need to spend time in celebration with friends and family, I take heart in statistics that suggest that at least some people are opting for experiences with friends and family, even if it means fewer trips to the mall.  These people have begun to realize that sacred leisure does not mean wasted time.  Rather, this is a decisive moment in the lives of some, when they have decided not to let the pursuit of stuff squeeze them out of their homes, nor let materialism squeeze the life out of  them.  And on a more positive note, perhaps they’ve also come to savor the presence of God in new and unexpected ways.  What a happy surprise to discover God in sacred leisure, spent with friends and family.

imageNotes

+On August 11th the monks of Saint John’s Abbey hosted the clergy of the Diocese of Saint Cloud for vespers, followed by dinner in the Great Hall.

+On August 15th the members of the football team at Saint John’s University returned to campus to begin their regular practices.   They are the first of our students to return, and so ends our summer tranquility.

+On August 16th the Saint John’s Boys Choir sang at the abbey Mass.  This followed their traditonal end-of-summer workshop, and so begins their new season.

+With a nod to Pope Francis, who preferred a “staycation” at his residence at Saint Peter’s rather than go to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gondolfo, I managed to stay home for quite a stretch of the summer.  The results were not entirely positive, as the work piled up faster and faster as the summer wore on.  However, I could console myself with memories of escapes that I’ve enjoyed through the years, including a one-day visit to the Cotswolds in England.  I’ve assembled a gallery of photos I took in The Cotswolds, and in this case pictures are almost as good as being there.  The photos in this post are from a small parish church in one of these towns.

image

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imagePerseverance Until Death

On November 27, 1995, I sat down to lunch with Donald Jackson, whose day job at the time was scribe to the Queen of England.  He and I had just spoken at The Newberry Library in Chicago, and we were dining at a restaurant called The Italian Village — which still exists, I believe.

Normally lunch should not count as a big deal, and there’s no reason anyone should remember a particular lunch nearly twenty years later.  To my credit, I can’t recall what I ate that day, save that it was probably Italian.  But I do recall the substance of our conversation.  That day Donald Jackson proposed what eventually would become The Saint John’s Bible.

That lunch no longer matters that much, save for the fact that last week I put a little bit of closure on a venture that began at that meal.  That day, when I told Donald that we at Saint John’s might be interested in his proposal, in my heart of hearts I thought I was crazy for saying it.  But crazy or not, I said it, and I now realize that the Holy Spirit may have made me say it.  And crazy or not, we did go ahead to create The Saint John’s Bible, and the rest is nearly history.

imageEven before we began, we knew we’d need help from all sorts of people — especially from the donors who would make it possible.  Since no one had done this in five hundred years, we had to guess at the cost, and we thought it might take seven years.  On both we were wildly conservative in our estimates, but thank goodness we didn’t know any of that at the time.  We also had no idea whether enough people would step forward to make this possible.  But to recognize them, we decided to create The Book of Honor, and it would list all those donors and their dedications.

Like everything else, creating even The Book of Honor became a bigger deal than we had ever imagined.  Recently, however, calligrapher Diane von Arx, working in collaboration with Donald Jackson, has completed it.  It’s turned out beautifully, and eventually it will go on display alongside the Bible, as testimony to how God uses us mere mortals to transmit the Word of God from generation to generation.  This time around, however, God has reverted to the use of human hands to make the Bible, rather than relying on machines; and the Bible is all the better for it.

Last Thursday I made my mark on The Book of Honor.  For that volume I had composed an introduction that gives a synopsis of the Bible’s creation, and in it I noted those who made interventions that were decisive in bringing it to completion.  Diane had then transcribed it onto vellum, in elegant lettering and illumination; and all that it lacked was my signature.

imageThat morning was as close as I’ll ever come to living out the stereotype of the medieval monk.  I’ve never used a quill pen; and I’ve never written on vellum.  But on that day I had ten minutes to develop the expertise, and in less than ten seconds it was all over.  There was my signature, resting on the vellum.  It wasn’t as elegant as Diane’s script; but I knew from experience that it was still a vast improvement over all those medieval charters on which illiterate nobles and bishops had inscribed their “X.”  At least I knew how to spell my own name, and I’d written it legibly.  And with luck it will still be there when someone reads it a thousand years from  now.  It’s likely my only contribution to civilization, and it chills my spine to think about it.

But the ease of a signature allows one to forget how long and how much work this took.  It also erases the memories of just how important perseverance was for its success.  In his Rule Saint Benedict suggests that monastic life requires “perseverance in the monastery until death.”  At first blush that sounds pretty depressing, like a life sentence in a prison.  But it’s actually a reminder of the importance of hanging in there for the long haul on anything that’s important.  It’s a reminder that most things worth doing are never easy.  Things worth doing well generally take a lot longer than we bargained for.  And that’s as true in monastic life as it is in marriage and friendship.  Perseverance through thick and thin is what brings anything of value to completion — including a Bible that was only supposed to take seven years.

imageOf course perseverance and the long view run counter to the working principles of our era.  The financial markets, for example, lose patience with any company that fails to make a huge profit in its first quarter of business.  Sadly, the same is often true in human relationships, when people are unwilling to give each other the time and space to grow.  And how many of us shrink back from challenges that take extended work and perseverance?  I know that’s why I quit piano lessons after one year.  I reasoned that if I couldn’t play the best of Beethoven after twelve whole months, then what was the point of all that practice?

Here’s what I’ve learned in the interval between November 27th, 1995, and last Thursday.  First, I have no future as a professional scribe.  I can write a fairly neat note card and sign my name adequately enough, but anything beyond that I leave to professionals like Diane.  They do elegant work that my own right hand will never equal.

imageI’ve also become adept at weighing the pro’s and con’s of new projects.  I’ve learned the power of arguments like “we’ve never done that before,” which doesn’t justify any course of action, one way or the other.  It’s just an observation, and that’s all.  I’ve also learned that ten reasons against doing something can be very compelling, but that one very good reason for doing something can scatter the other ten like so many bowling pins.

Most of all, I’ve learned the importance of perseverance.  All things of value take time.  They take energy.  And they often take a huge investment of our character and determination.  These are among the key ingredients to accomplishing anything of value in life.  And so, once again, Saint Benedict is not wide of the mark in his advice to monks, and to others as well.  It does indeed take perseverance until death to get the greatest of things done.

imageNotes

+On August 6th I signed my name in The Book of Honor, the companion volume to The Saint John’s Bible.  That morning I discovered that writing with a quill pen on vellum is not all that hard.  It just sounds hard because few people write that way any more.  The hard part is making the quill pen, which Diane von Arx graciously did for me.  Otherwise, we’d still be sitting there.

+Last week was very quiet at Saint John’s in terms of meetings and the presence of groups.  However, I was delighted to welcome one of my former students and his family, who currently live in Luxembourg.  The next day I welcomed an alumnus from San Jose, CA.

+To Greg Anderson I owe the picture of my hand, signing the page of vellum.  The two photos further down the page show freshmen registration, which has taken place on Friday’s through the second half of the summer.  The initial gathering of students and parents takes place in front of the Humphrey Auditorium, where the statue of Saint Benedict plays host.

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imageBe As Generous as Children

If you pay the least bit of attention to the scripture readings Sunday after Sunday, there finally comes the day when you think you’ve heard it all.  That certainly was the case two Sundays ago when I attended a parish church and heard for the umpteenth time the story of the feeding of the 5,000.  Like many people, I long ago assumed that the final word on it had been uttered.  So it was that I settled into the pew and prepared to day-dream my way through the sermon.  But I’m glad I didn’t.

That Sunday the priest took an approach that was entirely new to me.  I had always accepted that this miracle demonstrated above all the power of Jesus.  It also highlighted the ineptitude of the apostles.  Beyond that, the story wasn’t all that flattering to the crowd either.  Did no one among the 5,000 think to remember there’d be no convenience stores out in the wilderness?  Clearly nobody had done the least bit of planning, nor did they have any reason to expect that Jesus would cater the event.

imageThat Sunday the preacher ignored all that and went off in an entirely different direction.  In his telling, it was the boy with the sack lunch who was the critical piece to this gospel account.  As soon as the boy realized the problem, he knew he had a choice to make.  He could offer what little he had, or he could hold on to it.  Logic told him that a few loaves and a couple of fish wouldn’t go very far with this crowd, and he needed no apostles to tell him that.  His own intuition likely whispered in his ear that there was little if anything that he could do to make a serious difference.  He was just a boy, and it wasn’t his problem anyway.  But be that as it may, in all naiveté he came forward and offered what little he had.  Despite the naysayers and scoffers in the crowd, he stepped up.  He may have been the least of the 5,000, but he was the only one who made the move to do something.  And he was the one person on whom Jesus depended to do his miracle.

A few days later I recounted this to my friend Willa, expecting her to say that she’d never considered this slant to the story either.  But not so, and she went on at length to make two other points.  First, what if this was food he’d brought for his family?  It takes a lot of nerve to sacrifice their needs just to help out other people who had made zero preparation for this day.  And then came her second point.  Children can be generous to a fault, while adults can hold on for dear life to what they have.  “Who else in that crowd of 5,000 had also thought to bring food?” she wondered.  “Why didn’t they step up sooner to share what they had?  Why was it just him?”

imagePerhaps there are two miracles in this story, and not just one.  In the first miracle Jesus let the boy turn the hearts of the crowd.  Once the boy had acted, we can only hope that a few others finally stepped forward to share what little they had.  That was a miracle all by itself.  But in his second miracle Jesus took what was at hand, blessed it, and then fed the 5,000.  All were filled, and no one could explain how it had happened.

So what are the takeaways from this umpteenth reading of the miracle of the loaves and fishes?  First of all, we must never sell ourselves short when it comes to the importance of taking the initiative.  We’re all tempted to believe that we can’t make much of a difference.  But if we act, and if we try to do something, we can make all the difference in the world.  Just ask the boy.

Second, Jesus doesn’t always rely on the important people to get things done.  In this miracle, for instance, the apostles did not cut very dynamic figures.  In fact they’re pretty much clueless.  Jesus could see it, and so could the little boy.  As for the crowd of 5,000, it was passive at best; and at worst there may even have been a few who blamed Jesus for getting them into a such fine mess.

imageThe boy seemed to be the only one who realized he could do something, even if it wasn’t much.  Perhaps he thought that if he came forward, it might encourage others to do so as well.  Clearly none of this occured to the apostles.  And not a few in the crowd must have looked at the boy’s gift of bread and fish and rolled their eyes.  But of course Jesus saw in this simple act of generosity the chance to work a great sign.

The last takeaway is a reminder to read the scriptures over and over again.  If Jesus asks us to forgive our neighbor seventy times seven, he’d likely apply the same mathematical formula when it comes to chewing on the Word of God.  We may think we know all there is to know about the gospels, but there’s always the potential for more insight.  And so, when you think you know all there is to know (like me), just turn to your neighbors for confirmation.  They might very well surprise you.

imageNotes

+The last few days have been mild at Saint John’s, and there’s a hint of autumn in the air.  Our first students will begin to arrive on campus in two weeks, and in anticipation of that, summer activities have begun to taper off.  Two very different events bracketed the last week, however.  On Monday a group of high school students from Saint Rita’s Church in Hawaii gave a performance of song and dance in the Great Hall.  On Friday the high school marching band camp ended its week with a spirited performance in Clemens Stadium.  On a more domestic note, the abbey bees gave us eighty-five pounds of honey this last week, with the promise of more to come by fall.

+The newest addition to the landscape was installed last week, with the construction of a structure that marks the entrance to the hiking path that leads to Stella Maris Chapel on the other side of Lake Sagatagan.  The wooden beams are white pine that had been planted on the Abbey property over a hundred years ago; and in the spirit of the Benedictine tradition, we expect the new trail entrance to last anywhere from fifty to a hundred and fifty years.

image+The photos in today’s post include the new structure that marks the entrance to the trail going along the lake.  The trail makes its first major stop at the statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, which stands on a hilll overlooking the lake.  At the saint’s feet is a dog, and over the years cross-country runners have polished the dog’s nose as they touch it on races through the woods to the chapel on the other side of the lake.

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