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Archive for October, 2017

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Christ is in the Tangles of Life

[This is a sermon that I delivered on 29 October.]

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been troubled by today’s passage from chapter 22 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  After all, Jesus seemed to be a pretty nice guy, who wouldn’t hurt a flea.  He always meant well, and mainly he only wanted to help people.  Given that, why in the world would the Sadducees want to trip him up?  And why would the Pharisees think they would succeed where the Sadducees had failed?  Why did it matter to them?  And why should their experience matter to us?

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to single out the most important law, they already knew what to expect from him.  The love of God and love of neighbor took highest priority in the Jewish tradition, and they and Jesus and everyone else knew that already.  Had Jesus named any other law, everybody would have been very much surprised.  And had Jesus done so, they would have sprung the trap.  But Jesus didn’t take the bait;  he said the right thing.  Meanwhile the Pharisees heard what they had expected to hear, but not what they had wanted to hear.  And so they quietly walked away to come up with Plan B.

IMG_5701What they preferred to hear, I suspect, was something along the lines of the laundry list of duties and responsibilities that God had enjoined on his people in the first reading for today, taken from chapter 22 of the Book of Exodus.  In that passage God is quite specific about the kind of behavior he expects to see in his people.  They must not oppress the aliens in their midst.  They should not wrong widows and orphans.  They should not lend money and then extort interest from people.  If they take anyone’s cloak as security for a loan, then they should return it before sunset.

God could have gone on and on, piling one regulation on top of another, but for the moment that was enough.  However, elsewhere in the Old Testament God does return to these kinds of specifics — particularly in the words that he puts into the mouths of the prophets.

That may be the sort of detailed answer that the Pharisees had hoped to hear from Jesus.  About those sorts of issues there could be endless debate, because the devil is often in these sort of details.  But in those details is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to living out the Two Great Commandments.  So it’s fair, for example, to ask how the words of Exodus apply to us.  What exactly does God expect us to do about the alien in our midst?  What exactly should we be doing for the widow and orphan, besides not oppressing them?  How exactly does God’s law figure into ethical business practices?

IMG_5703In all these issues there is grist for endless debate, countless books and articles, and the caution that gives us plenty of excuses not to act.  And if Jesus had only spoken about those things, then the Sadducees and Parhisees would have backed him into a corner and kept him there for a long time.

But for the moment Jesus refused to get bogged down in the devil’s details and went to the core of God’s law.  We must love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our being.  Into every fiber of our being and into every moment of our day we must allow the grace of God to flow.  And from that unity with God derives the second great commandment:  we must love our neighbor as ourselves.

The important thing, it seems to me, is to realize that Jesus was not trying to avoid the hard and detailed questions of life — the very sort of things that the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trip Jesus up on.  And it’s definitely not because these things did not matter to Jesus.  In fact, when Jesus singled out the two great commandments, by extension he underlined the importance of all those other items.  The details matter — not as debate topics or excuses for inaction — but because they are the expression of whether we take love of God and neighbor seriously , or not.  How we treat aliens and widows and orphans and the poor matters because we love God and neighbor.  Those peoples are the detailed handiwork of God, just as are we.

I’m fond of quoting St. Augustine of Hippo, especially when he offers insights into his own troubled pilgrimage through life.  Augustine was troubled for lots of reasons, but not because he thought that life or God had been unfair with him.  Rather, he came to realize the fundamental connection that we have with God and how that makes all the difference in the details of the here and now.  For him there will always be uneasiness  until we bring into alignment our love of God on the one hand, and how we choose to tease that out into our lives.  And so it is that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

IMG_5704It should not surprise us, then, that we might be restless in our own pilgrimage of life.  As Jesus suggests,  our religious commitment is grounded in our love of God and our love of neighbor — above all other things.  And so it is that as members of the Order of Malta, and as Christians, we deliberately keep before us the need to weave the love of God and neighbor into the smallest details of our service to the poor and the sick.  There, not surprisingly, we at times encounter the devil in the details;  but yet we carry on, no matter the cost.

Does our work make a difference?  Will our lives matter?  On the one hand I think we need to forge ahead anyway, regardless of the answers.  And we do so in confidence that ultimately God will be the judge of those things.

But on the other hand, only when we take the plunge and immerse ourselves in the messy details of life, only then will we discover a great surprise.  We may have thought that the devil was in the details.  But in fact it is the Lord Jesus whom we see in the details.  And through the tangle of life it is the face of Christ peeking out at us.

IMG_5705Notes

+My major activity of last week was the retreat that I gave to members In Obedience in the Order of Malta.  It is a yearly gathering that takes place at San Damiano Franciscan Retreat Center, located in Danville, CA.  Danville is in the East Bay, south of Oakland, and it was spared the fire that had ravaged nearby Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  Had we been scheduled to have the retreat during those fires, we would not have met.  The smoke was intense, and in the event of a fire we would have been toast.  The center sits on the top of a small mountain, and there is only one winding road up (and just as obviously, one road down.)  Today’s post is a sermon I gave to them on October 29th.

+By coincidence a group of extern sisters from Carmelite convents from around the country were also gathered at San Damiano.  The extern sisters are the ones who deal with the business of the convent, while the nuns in the community remain cloistered.  This brought to mind stories my mother had told of her contact with the Carmelites.  Before she married she worked at a school run by Carmelite sisters in Oklahoma City, and years later she often visited the cloistered Carmelite nuns who lived in nearby Piedmont, OK.  I mentioned this to one of the sisters at the meeting, and her face brightened as I spoke.  She was from the community in Piedmont.  So it was a small world that day.

+On October 27th we had our first snow of the season at Saint John’s.  The two inches did not last long, but it is a reminder that seasonal change is in the offing.  Just a few days earlier it had reached 80 degrees, so this is a rapid transition.

+The photos in today’s post come from the Cité de L’Architecture, a museum in Paris.  The museum houses plaster casts of historic architecture from around France, and it’s the perfect place to go if you want to see a lot of stuff without having to go very far.  The photos above depict the Abbey of Sainte Foi in Conques.

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Soloists on the Path to God?

No one has ever accused St. Benedict of encouraging a lot of fun and games in the monastery.  In fact, in his Rule he outlined a pretty sober regimen of prayer, work and study.  When there needed to be talking, he advised keeping it to a minimum.  He also discouraged laughter, and he forbade gossip altogether.  The latter I can understand, since most gossip tiptoes beyond the limits of charity.  But when it comes to laughter I try to give Benedict the benefit of some doubt.  Like many of his contemporaries, Benedict frowned on laughter because it violated Stoic ideas about self-control of the emotions.  Still, that leaves us with an important question.  Did monks in Benedict’s community enjoy their lives?  Did they ever recreate?

It’s hard to answer, but we know that monks in later centuries did have their moments of enjoyment and relaxation.  For example, some of the legal customaries that regulated monastic life made provision for a break in the routine.  Medieval monks could take time off and go to the infirmary, even if they were not sick.  There they could rest, eat meat, and recover their stamina before resuming the routine.  It was their version of a vacation.

IMG_7500We also know that monks made time for community recreation.  Granted, St. Benedict didn’t make provision for this, but later monks did it anyway.  My all-time favorite example can be found in the life of Suger, abbot of St. Denis.  Located outside of Paris, St. Denis was an important place in the 12th century, and Suger gets credit for building the first truly gothic church in Europe.  It still stands today for all to see, though most people visit to gawk at its tombs of the kings and queens of France.

Suger spent a lot of time at court, and while Louis VII was off on the Crusades Suger served as a regent of the kingdom of France.  That leads to my point.  Suger writes that at the end of a busy day of running France he would return to St. Denis, and there he would gather round himself a group of monks to talk about the day’s events, both inside and outside the monastery.  It obviously was a relief to Suger to be with the people who mattered most to him.  It was also a reminder to even the youngest monks at St. Denis that they were not soloists on the path to God.  They were all on pilgrimage together, and they needed the support of each and every brother.

This is a long preamble to the experience I had in the novitiate at Saint John’s last week.  Part of the formation of our young monks involves getting to know the senior monks, and that is not always easy to do when people are busy and when the house is large.  To achieve this, then, our novices now and again invite individual monks to visit after evening prayer.  It’s their chance to get to know a senior, and last Thursday was my turn.

IMG_7476What do the novices want to know about?  Usually they want to know what brought us to the monastery, why we entered, and what we’ve done since we’ve been here.  In this case Jacob, Elias and Mariano knew a little about what I’d done over the years, but I decided to do a pre-emptive strike and open with a bit of show and tell.

I guessed, for example, that they would not think to ask about my work with the Order of Malta, simply because it’s pastoral work that I do away from the monastery.  So I brought along the Order of Malta chasuble and missal that I have, along with the decorations that I wear at Malta events.  (I also brought along the Danish-Lutheran ruffed preacher’s collar that some friends gave me several years ago — but that story is for another time.)  I spoke too about our pilgrimage to Lourdes, and I concluded with the observation that I volunteer with Malta because it’s an organization in which paying dues is not enough.  All are expected to serve the sick and the poor in some way, and that service is transformative.

The novices also knew that I’ve taught, directed a library, and now do development work in our University.  So I told them about one project special to me:  an effort to build a scholarship fund for students from Immokalee, FL, who come to Saint John’s for college.  I do that simply because it’s a chance to help some gifted young men to have a future they never thought possible.  Those guys are flourishing at Saint John’s, and it’s a privilege for me to be part of that effort.

IMG_7492We then drifted across a range of other topics.  For one, I explained my theory that people come to the monastery for all sorts of reasons, but they usually end up staying for an entirely different set of reasons.  I attribute that to the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer to transform a person over a lifetime.

Finally, I noted my hope in our future as a monastic community.   The fact that we have so many gifted young monks in our community inspires me.  Jacob, Elias and Mariano may only be in their year of probation in the community, but even in that first year among us they are gifts from God.  St. Benedict reminds us that the face of God can be seen in even the youngest, and so that presents a challenge for us who are their seniors.  Their presence demands that we look for the best in them.  Their presence is also a reminder that God has not forgotten us!

So those are some of the things we talked about at recreation last Thursday.  I’m sure that Benedict will forgive us our laughter, because it’s one of the ways in which monks support each other on the path to God.  It’s a reminder too that we will surely see the face of God in the next phase of life’s journey, because in the here and now we are blessed to see the face of Christ in the youngest in our midst.

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Notes

+On October 16th we welcomed into our community Elias, who was clothed as a novice, and Mariano, who was accepted as a probationary junior monk.  They join Novice Jacob in a year of probation in the community.

+On October 19th I visited with Brothers Jacob, Elias and Mariano in the novitiate after evening prayer.

+On October 20th the Saint John’s Pottery hosted a crowd of visitors for the firing of the giant wood-fired kiln, which holds some 12,000 pieces of pottery.  They fire the kiln every two years, and it is a huge bit of work to prepare for it.

+While the maples have lost their color and their leaves, the color has shifted to the ivy at Saint John’s.  The photos in today’s post show the reds and yellows of the Abbot’s Courtyard at Saint John’s.

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The Monastery:  A Sacred World

Guests are never lacking in a monastery, as Saint Benedict noted in his Rule (RB 53.16).  Therefore we might assume there would be a streamlined procedure for receiving them, but efficiency was not in Benedict’s lexicon.  In fact, the welcome accorded to guests included prayer and the greeting of peace, a bow or prostration to show respect, sacred reading, the offer of food, the washing of hands and, later, the washing of feet.  It was labor-intensive, and it explains why subsequent generations of monks and nuns dispensed with key elements, such as the hand and foot-washing.

Still, I find the practice of hand and foot-washing curious.  They were symbols of hospitality.  But did they hint at spiritual cleansing as well?.  Did Benedict want to purify guests for their transition into the sacred precincts of the monastery?

IMG_7414Guests in Benedict’s time could scarcely fail to notice that they were about to enter a world far different from that of their rustic villages.  The monastery was a sacred space, populated by God-seeking people who followed a regimen built around a sacred calendar.  It was also meant to be a place where peace and love prevailed.  That was the theory, at least, but could that have a broader application?  Medieval monastic practice suggests that many thought so, and it explains why monks and nuns sought to expand the sense of the sacred and apply it to all of society.  Many abbeys in the MIddle Ages joined in transforming society through movements like the Peace of God (Pax Dei) and the Truce of God, and these efforts chipped away at pervasive violence, with limits that were both practical and measurable.

The principles were simple enough.  If violence were sinful, then it was doubly so when done on Church land.  Violence on Sundays and during seasons like Lent was equally abhorrent to God.  Worse still was violence done to the clergy or to the defenseless or the poor.  In time these notions took root, and this helps to explain the universal shock that greeted the news of Thomas Becket’s murder in the late 12th century.  He was an archbishop killed inside a cathedral during the Christmas season.  Could there have been a more serious crime?

For centuries the Church encouraged these limits on violence, and gradually European society evolved from the age of warlords to a culture in which all were considered sacred.  Gradually, too, spread the notion that all time and spaces are sacred, because they belong to God.

All of this was far in the future when Benedict wrote his Rule, but the vision for a peaceful society was there.  For him the monastery was the blueprint for the city of God.  Why restrict that vision to the cloister?

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Notes

+On October 10th and 11th I gave presentations on The Saint John’s Bible at Montreat Conference Center, located just outside of Asheville, NC.  The Presbyterian Church/USA runs the center, and it is tucked into a somewhat remote wooded valley in the western part of the state.  I’d only been to North Carolina once before — to Charlotte — so this was new and lovely territory to me.  I spoke at an annual gathering of Presbyterian clergy.

+The multiplication of natural disasters during the past few weeks have touched the lives of so many, and we are not exempt from the consequences even if we live in Minnesota.  Last week, for example, the president’s office and the office of campus ministry at Saint John’s University received resources from faculty and staff and some alumni, which will be forwarded to support the relief efforts of Catholic Charities in Immokalee, FL.  We currently have six students from Immokalee at Saint John’s, and the recent hurricane severely impacted their hometown.  On another front, the Abbey joined with several other Benedictine monasteries to send support to the Abbey of San Antonio Abad, in Puerto Rico.  Monks from Saint John’s founded that community in 1948.

IMG_7435+In between times I still manage to do casual reading, and I’ve just finished Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.  It is a piece of non-fiction that my sister had recommended to me.  Set in Osage County in northern Oklahoma, author David Grann of The New Yorker tells the gripping story of the Osage tribe, which had been relocated to what was considered worthless land, only to become fabulously wealthy when oil was discovered on its property.  The true story recounts several dozen murders of tribal members and the efforts of the early FBI to solve the case.  For several years my other sister lived on a ranch in Osage County, and so it became familiar territory to me.

+Today’s post originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Abbey Banner, published by Saint John’s Abbey.

+The fall colors have been late in coming to Minnesota this year, and particularly so on our campus.  During the last few days they have peaked, however, and I am guessing that by next week the maple leaves will have fallen.  That in turn will pave the way for an encore from the oaks.  The photos in today’s post show some of the leaves at their best.

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The Saint John’s Bible:  Home at Last

Last Thursday was a very special day at Saint John’s, because on that day we dedicated the gallery that now houses The Saint John’s Bible.  The day was singular for many reasons, and not least because it fulfilled calligrapher Donald Jackson’s promise to “give us exactly what we asked for and more than we ever imagined.”  He delivered on both counts, though some of the deliverables were not entirely what we had expected.  For one thing, we didn’t have a clue how complicated this project would become.  It was also a good thing that we didn’t know how much it would end up costing.  And last but not least, it took a lot longer than the seven years we had all anticipated.  But the good news is that — twenty-one years and eleven months after Donald Jackson and I first discussed this — the Bible that he promised now sits securely in its own gallery at Saint John’s University.

IMG_7285Over the course of twenty years I’ve given a lot of talks on The Saint John’s Bible.  No two presentations have been exactly alike, and on many an occasion I’ve even gleaned bits of wisdom from my audiences.  The first instance that opened my mind to this possibility happened at the Phoenix Art Museum, where I gave several gallery talks.  I had just concluded my observations on Thomas Ingmire’s illumination of The Ten Commandments, when a young woman raised her hand.  “Father, I can see in the illumination what you’re saying, but here’s what I see.”  She then gave her own interpretation, and I have to say that I found her words very persuasive.  That prompted my response:  “Well, to be honest, what you have to say sounds better than what I had to say.”  I’ve since quoted her many times, with attribution.

This produced one of my first lessons from The Saint John’s Bible.  Never insist on having the last word when it comes to art.  That actually confirmed an experience I’d had some years earlier at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where I’d had the temerity to offer my own thoughts on a painting in the course of a docent-led tour.  The chewing out that came my way branded me an art heretic, and I resolved never to do that again, even if I knew I was right.  Life is too short for getting into fusses with imperious docents.

IMG_7287An equally valuable corollary came from that experience in the de Young.  That day I realized that if the docent was wrong, I could be too.  I had to admit to myself the mathematical possibility that I too could be wide of the mark, on rare occasions, someday.  Ever since then I’ve steeled myself for just such an occasion by pulling out of mothballs one aphorism from high-school Latin — De gustibus non est desputandum.  Simply put, when it comes to matters of taste, it’s generally counterproductive to argue.  And given the times, who knows what might result from a minor spat.

My experience with The Saint John’s Bible has also confirmed the sage advice that patience is indeed a virtue.  When we announced the project, our press release quoted Donald Jackson to the effect that he intended to create something that people would come a thousand miles to see.  The day after the announcement, a lady in Bismarck, ND, called to say that she was on the way to see it.  I gently told her that this was going to take more than two or three days to finish, and that I’d get back to her when it was done.

That was twenty years ago.  Sadly, I’ve lost the scrap of paper with her name and number; but she knows who she is, and I hope she’s reading this.  If not, I hope one of her friends will tell her that we’re ready for her, finally.

So at long last The Saint John’s Bible is finished and at home in its gallery.   Will people come a thousand miles to see it?  Given that one visitor at the opening had flown in from Serbia, I can safely go out on a limb and offer a very decisive “probably.”  Will viewers have ideas about this Bible that differ from mine?  I hope so.  Otherwise, I’m in for a lot of really dull tours.

IMG_7345Notes

+This was a very full week for me.  On October 4th I took part in the dedication of the Genesis Gallery in Alcuin Library at Saint John’s.  The feature of this space is an 18th-century de-commissioned Torah scroll from Syria.  The space serves as the entry into the Bible Gallery.

+On 5-6 October I participated in the meetings of the Board of Trustees at Saint John’s University.

+On 5 October we celebrated the opening and dedication of the Saint John’s Bible Gallery, and that evening I was part of a panel of three speakers that addressed the topic of the day.

+On 6 October I took part in the dedication of the Dietrich Reinhart Learning Commons, a grand addition to Alcuin Library.  This completed the rebuilding of the entire library complex, and the numbers so far are quite telling.  In the four weeks of September 2015 — before the project — 12,000 people entered the Library.  In the comparable four weeks of 2017 over 32,000 entered the library.  Apparently the old saw still holds true:  build it and they will come.

+On October 7 I participated in homecoming festivities at Saint John’s University and attended the football game which hosted Augsburg College.  Saint John’s won that one 48-3.  That evening I went to bed at 8 pm, simply because I had not one ounce of energy left.

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Memories:  the Measure of a Life

[Today’s post is a sermon on Matthew 21: 28-32, which I delivered at Saint John’s Abbey on 1 October, 2017.]

I seldom think of The New Yorker Magazine as the go-to place for theological reflection.  Better-known for its subtle cartoons, its thoughtful essays, and the ads for luxury items I couldn’t possibly afford, I just don’t think of it as a purveyor of religious insight.

But of course I’m wrong to assume that, as one of my favorite cartoons recently reminded me.  It’s a cartoon that definitely relies on some exposure to Catholic liturgy, and it shows two guys chatting away in the middle of the torments of hell.  Each laments his own fate, and each makes the case that his own suffering is worse than the other’s. It’s a contest in self-pity, but ultimately one guy wins with this bit of undeniable logic.  Looking his companion squarely in the eye, he reminds him that “at least you have memories.  All my sins were sins of omission.”

IMG_4531Those familiar with one form of the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass can appreciate the pickle in which these two guys found themselves.  In that opening rite of the liturgy we confess what we have done and what we have failed to do — the sins of commission and the sins of omission.  And if such distinctions seem nit-picky to some people, consider this.  They do in fact get to the heart of what it means to be a Christian.  It’s an admission, first of all, that we do sin.  We do wrong to one another; and sometimes it’s a matter of holding back when we should have acted.

Who’s to say which is worse — doing the evil we do, or failing to do the good we are capable of doing.  But both sins have something in common.  Both testify that we are not people of integrity.  Both say we are people who do not translate our fundamental belief into lived reality.  From that perspective it doesn’t really matter whether we commit sins of omission or commission; because in both cases we are not who we say we are.  In both cases we are destined to join that conversation in hell with the two convicted sinners.

That bit of background may help in our appreciation of the parable that we’ve just heard from the gospel of St. Matthew.  The story of the two sons is one of those classic conundrums that Jesus delighted in putting to people, and it’s a conundrum because each son exhibits some less than admirable as well as some noble qualities.

The first son, when asked by the father to go and work in the vineyard, basically told his father to take a hike.  He was not going to go.  But he gave it some thought, and he went.  So the son is guilty of disrespect and I suppose is also guilty of lying.  He said he wouldn’t work and then he worked.  But it was his considered response and action that ultimately win our sympathy.  He’s a good guy after all.

IMG_4546The second son, on the other hand, said all the right things.  He respected his father and showed to all and sundry that he was obedient.  But then his actions in fact told his father to take a hike.  He had no intention of going to the vineyard.

So just like his first audience, Jesus asks this of us.  Which son is worthy and which one is not?  And more precisely, in whose sandals do we find ourselves standing when push comes to shove?

It’s not wrong to reduce this parable to a matter of obedience or disobedience, but there’s something deeper here.  That becomes evident when Jesus launches into a comparison between the tax-collectors and prostitutes on the one hand, and the scribes and scholars of the law on the other.  On a scale of uprightness, the religious experts win hands down.  But this is not a matter of obedience or disobedience.  This is all about hypocrisy.  The tax-collectors and prostitutes are far worse when it comes to the gravity of their sins, while the upright people are guilty of little more than peccadillos.  The tax-collectors and prostitutes make no bones about their sinful ways;  but their repentance is authentic.  They are sinners and they freely admit it.  They are who they say they are.  But they also know who they want to become.

By contrast, the religious leaders need no such radical conversion.  They’ve committed no grave sins; they’ve lived upright lives; they’ve done nothing blameworthy.  Even so, they may have been obedient and upright, but to put a positive spin on it, Jesus hints that they have done little or nothing of value at all.  They have nothing to show for their lives.  They are not who they say they are, and for Jesus hypocrisy is the gravest sin of all.

IMG_4568Jesus offers this parable for us to chew on for our own reflection.  He’s not interested in beating us up or making us feel guilty about what we’ve done and what we continue to do.  Nor does he delight in wringing out of us a confession of the good we failed to do when the chips were down.  All that is secondary to the real issue he wants us to think about.  Are we really who we say we are?  Can people count on us to translate our beliefs into action?  Or are we all talk and no action?  Or as some like to say in Texas, are we all hat and no cattle?

I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day I don’t want to be the guy in hell who has nothing of value to recall from a life lived on the sidelines.  Of course Jesus doesn’t want us to go out and commit a bunch of sins so that we’ll have lots of good memories in hell.  Rather, Jesus asks something far simpler than that.  He asks that we strive to be who we say we are.  He asks that we love God and love our neighbor and figure out how that translates into a life well-lived.  And he reminds us that if we want memories of a life well-lived, the time to make those memories is today, not tomorrow.

Notes

+On 25 September I took part in the annual meeting of the Friends of the Malta Study Center at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John’s.  Among those in attendance were Mr. Bob Shafer, retired ambassador of the Order of Malta to the United Nations;  Fra Tom Mulligan of Chicago and Fra Nicola Tegoni of New York.  Mr. Joseph S. Micallef and Steven Kennedy, both members of the Order of Malta, rounded out the contingent of members of Malta in attendance.

+On 30 September I attended the football game with Bethel University, which Saint John’s hosted.  The good guys won, 21-13.

IMG_4569+On October 1st I presided at the Abbey Mass.  I don’t know what a “typical Sunday” would be for me, but my day went something like this.  I got up at 4 am and finished my sermon for the Mass.  Then I attended morning prayer at 7 am.  Presided at Mass at 10:30 am.  Went to lunch with the community at noon.  At lunch I happened to sit with Brother Isidore, who among other things described his competition with the squirrels to gather black walnuts on the abbey grounds.  He shells and sells them in the abbey gift shop.  This fall he has collected 250 pounds so far.  The squirrels are not entirely happy, but there’s plenty for everyone.  In the afternoon I got some exercise and then watched as Fr. Lew loaded honeycombs into the honey-extracting machine.  I didn’t stay to watch, since it is pretty much like looking at the spin cycle on the washing machine.  Then I presided at Sunday vespers, and at the end of that I threw my alb in the washing machine.  The aroma of incense pervaded it, and I did not want that in my closet.  After dinner I finished my blog and then went to bed.  That’s one monk’s schedule on a Sunday.  Not terribly glamourous, but a great day nonetheless.

+Given the turmoil in Catalonia, I decided to adorn today’s post with photos I took of the medieval cathedral in Barcelona.  Barcelona was the port of entry on my very first visit to Spain, when I went to do dissertation research.  I’ve loved the place ever since and feel not a little distressed by the current situation there.

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