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Posts Tagged ‘Order of Malta’

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Saint Martin of Tours:  A Survivor

Modern visitors to the cathedral of Utrecht may find it slightly odd that Saint Martin of Tours is there to greet them.  It’s odd because this church built in his memory has been Dutch Reformed since 1580.  How in the world did Saint Martin make the cut?  Why is it that he’s still around when the Dutch Republic pulled his peers down from their pedestals and banished them into exile?

Martin is a survivor in part because he was unconventional.  First, Martin had been a soldier in the Roman imperial legions.  After his baptism he resigned his commission because he would only fight for Jesus Christ and no longer for the emperor.  Coincidentally that’s what the Protestant Dutch were doing when they rebelled against the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor.  Did their devotion to Martin serve double duty as an ironic poke in the eye of their modern emperor?  Probably.

328E7938-1A4F-4C2C-B011-68564A604136Then there is Martin’s identification with the poor.  In an act that made him a favorite for artists for centuries, Martin cut his cloak down the middle and shared half with a beggar.  The story is that Jesus came disguised as the beggar, and it underlined the notion that what we do for the least of people we do for Christ.

Martin eventually became a hermit, and to his hermitage flocked droves of young people.  So great was his reputation for holiness that the local Christians drafted him as bishop.  Reluctantly he accepted, but he did so only on his own terms.  Forced to be bishop, he still lived in his monastery, surrounded by his monks.

All this sounds like just another innocuous life of a saint, but embedded in it is yet one more poke in the eye.  By Martin’s time many of the bishops in Gaul were aristocrats who preferred life on their estates.  Martin’s way of life was a deliberate affront to them.  What rubbed salt in their wounds was one item that’s easily overlooked.  Many of those who joined Martin at his hermitage were the sons of those same aristocrats.

So there is in Martin’s story all sorts of countercultural symbolism.  He was a military man who swore off allegiance to the emperor.  He was oblivious to his own creature comforts and preferred to tend to the poor and suffering.  And while he finally caved in to the demand to become a bishop, on some things he would not compromise.  Power and luxury and aristocratic status were okay for other bishops, but that was not the kind of bishop he felt called to be.

EAAB366E-39B4-4C23-8B8F-514A7CA6AB45I used to wonder why Saint Benedict dedicated a chapel at Monte Cassino to Saint Martin.  Eventually I concluded that it was Benedict’s nod to Martin as a monk who was willing to combine service to the people of God with life in a monastery.  But now I think there’s more to it than I had thought.  Could his respect for Martin be a veiled warning to his own monks to be wary of both secular and ecclesiastical power?  It’s entirely possible.

Today I regret Saint Martin’s relative obscurity in the Catholic world.  If Martin had so much to say to Saint Benedict and to some Dutch Protestants in the 16th century, has he nothing to teach us today?  I certainly hope not, because what Saint Martin had to say then is what we need to hear now.

NOTES

+On November 11th we celebrated the feast of Saint Martin of Tours.  Quite by chance this year November 11th happened to fall on the Monday when we celebrate Veterans Day in the US.  Today’s post was not a sermon I gave that day but rather comes out of my memory as a teacher who has learned quite a lot since I left the classroom.

+On November 12th I celebrated the Eucharist for the annual meeting of the San Francisco area of the Order of Malta.

+On November 15th I attended the meeting of the Board of Directors of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.

+The photos in today’s post show the cathedral of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which I visited many years ago.

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We Are God’s Building

I have to admit that I find it easier to get worked up about some feasts more than others. Christmas and Easter obviously attract.  On the other hand, lesser saints challenge my interest, though I’m always intrigued by some of the more arcane monastic saints.  Who doesn’t find the feast day of Saints Odo, Odilo, Maiulus, Hugh and Peter the Venerable not exciting?  Well maybe not a lot of people do, but I for one feel like I know them like old friends.  They were the five long-lived medieval abbots of Cluny in France.

Still, testing the limits of my enthusiasm are feasts that celebrate furniture — like the Chair of Saint Peter — and the dedication of buildings.  That said, I do make exceptions, and my favorite is the dedication of Saint John Lateran, which we celebrated on November 9th.  It’s a building, of course, and it’s in Rome.  But beyond that I have always felt a bit sorry for it, simply because it does not get the respect it deserves.

15A0A072-524B-4372-8506-5735992A2F90Why does it deserve better?  Well, for one thing it is the seat of the bishop of Rome, someone who also carries the title of pope.  Most people believe that Saint Peter’s is the presiding church in Rome, but in this case most people would be wrong.  Saint John Lateran heads the diocese of Rome, and all of its administrative offices have been there for centuries, and they still are.

Hands down Saint Peters draws more visitors than Saint John, but those who do visit Saint John are rewarded with a glimpse of a complex filled with history.  Originally an imperial palace, Emperor Constantine in the 330’s gave a boost to the local Christian community by building a massive basilica on the site.  It had the look and feel and size of an imperial basilica, as was fitting for a space meant to be the home of the Christian community of Rome.  It was not intended to be a place for a parish community, however, so modesty was not one of the goals in its construction.  It was meant to impress an entire city.  It asserted that after nearly three hundred years of persecution the Church was there to stay.

8F787189-70BA-4DF7-8D7C-EA4F6347D971Saint John Lateran has hosted five church councils (three more than the Vatican) and it’s seen fires and all kinds of change through the centuries.  But the interior still has the feel of an ancient basilica, and it has one surprise that Saint Peter’s lacks, a wonderful medieval cloister.

Sadly, most visitors are in too much of a hurry to venture through an unobtrusive door into the cloister, but those who do discover a stunningly beautiful and serene space.  Those precincts housed the community of Benedictine monks who served pilgrims for centuries.  The monks are long gone, but thankfully the cloister has survived generations of modernizers.  Not so fortunate was the old Saint Peter’s, which Pope Julius II had the temerity to pull down in the early 1500s.

A visit to Saint John Lateran conjures up an extraordinary history, but what it does best is remind tourists of the people who have entered its doors as pilgrims and as participants in grand liturgies through the centuries.  It is precisely for this reason that we should recall the second reading from the feast of the dedication of Saint John Lateran when we enter these monuments to faith.  In I Corinthians 3:9 Paul reminds us that we always have to maintain a proper perspective when we behold such stunning edifices.  “Brothers and sisters, you are God’s building.”

0CD325CD-28A9-4B9F-A1DA-09E86B147018NOTES

+This was an exceptionally busy week for me, and one which I will not repeat any time soon.  It began with a talk on The Saint John’s Bible that I delivered on November 5th at Marian University in Indianapolis, IN.

+On November 7th I spoke at Baylor University in Waco, TX.  This visit had special significance for me, since my father was born a few miles to the south in the village of Westphalia, TX.  My grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in that area, and our twice-yearly visits meant that we drove by Baylor on the way to see them.  I have absolutely no doubt that my grandparents would be stunned to know that I had spoken there.

+On November 8-10 I gave a retreat to members of the Lancaster PA area of the Federal Association of the Order of Malta.  I had given their retreat last year as well, and I enjoyed the return.  But it capped a busy week, and the last of my major commitments of the fall semester.

+The photos in today’s post show the apse of the basilica of Saint John Lateran and perspectives from the cloister where the monastic community lived in the Middle Ages.

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An All Souls Reflection

”The souls of the just are in the hand of God….” (Wisdom 3:1)

I’ve always found today’s reading from the book of Wisdom to be a wonderful consolation.  It’s a consolation because these words remind us that at death life is changed not ended.  Death does not mean the obliteration of all that is significant about us, but rather it is only the next step in the great pilgrimage of life.

EBC62ADE-1154-4854-92EF-ECC34322C23DLife itself is God’s greatest gift to us.  Out of it flows other gifts like family and friends and creativity and all those other things that fill our days with meaning.  And so it is that when life seems to be snatched away from us it puts closure to everything.  That’s it.  That’s all there is and there ain’t no more.  But not so.  We as Christians believe that we’re just getting started when we cross the threshold into eternal life.  In fact, the best is yet to come.

I think what distresses many is the thought of a life that seems cut short.  When someone passes at the age of five or twenty or fifty or sixty, somehow they’ve been cheated.  On the other hand, to pass at 105 is to celebrate the fullness of years.  Such a life, we presume, is filled with potential that has been realized.  But to die before our time is to be denied the chance for a fulfilled life — or so we think.

The Book of Wisdom reminds us that our lives — whether short or long — have just enough time to accomplish something wonderful.  We have just enough time to do that one thing that we were put on this earth to do.  It affirms that God created us not to do everything, but to add one measure of value to the lives of others.  And so on All Soul’s Day we celebrate what our beloved friends and family have done.  As surely as each had a unique personality, each also accomplished something unique.  And for that we give thanks.

F63491DB-E38A-414D-BE4A-ED904E4DC85FIn the gospel reading from John 6: 37-40 Jesus says that he came down from heaven not to do his will but to do the will of the one who sent him.  Jesus is God’s gift to us, but if we think God hasn’t given us our own personal mission in life, then we are short-changing ourselves.  God has sent each of us to do something of value — to do that one thing that explains why we’ve been given a singular set of talents and gifts.

We often take for granted our privileged status as beings created in the image of God.  Unlike God’s other creatures, we have the capacity to be self-conscious about where we are going with our lives.  We can have a sense of purpose that sets us apart, and that sense of purpose comes from God who breathed life into us and sent us to do his work in our little corner of the world.

And so today on the feast of All Souls we remember all those who toiled in the vineyard of the Lord.  Let us thank God for them, as they were certainly God’s gifts to us.  But let us thank God for our own opportunity to do something of value this day and every day.  It’s what God has sent us to do.  May God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion not just in this phase of our lives, but in the new and eternal Jerusalem.

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+On October 31st, at the vigil of All Saints, we hosted 150 visitors who joined us for evening prayer.  Earlier in the evening our confrere Fr. Bob Koopmann hosted forty individuals who have been supporters of the addition to the abbey organ.  Several weeks ago the 3,000 new pipes had been stacked on the east pews of the church, but now the great majority have been hoisted up into the organ loft, where already some look quite stately.  Organ builder and designer Martin Pasi spoke about the expanded organ, and collaborator Casey Marrin demonstrated the sound of two of the tallest pipes.

+On November 2nd I presided and preached at the All Souls Mass at the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro, CA, and today’s post is the sermon I delivered that day.  For decades members of the Los Angeles area of the Order of Malta have volunteered their services to the sisters and the elderly poor whom they host in their facility.  Following the Mass the Malta members served lunch to the residents.

ED207614-1EAE-4488-AC5A-1BF334A86C86+Travel certainly brings the unexpected, and I’ve always enjoyed the steady diet of little eye-openers that comes with it.  On the way to the airport in Los Angeles I and my friend and host from the Order of Malta stopped to enjoy the view at a secluded resort that came with its own beach and view of Catalina Island.  Our first surprise came from a dog walking with his owner.  “That dog’s wearing a Fitbit,” my friend blurted out.  The owner smiled and rather sheepishly owned up to this little doggie luxury.  As for me, I didn’t even know they made Fitbits for dogs.  But since I live in a monastery, how was I supposed to know?

A second surprise at that resort was a ritual that greeted every car at valet parking.  Once guests were out of sight attendants discreetly circled each car, pointing out any significant dents.  An unseen camera recorded the dents, for a purpose I had never thought of.  “It’s just part of the legal trade these days,” pointed out my lawyer host.

+Late medieval and early modern tomb designers raised funeral monuments to an art form, as the sculptures in todays post suggest.  The four individual mourners are housed at the Cluny Museum in Paris, which is pictured at top.  It was the late medieval residence of the abbots of Cluny, along with monks who were in Paris for university studies.  The tomb was commissioned by Philip the Bold in ca. 1435.  At bottom is the tomb of Philippe Pot, carved ca. 1480-1483.  Once housed at the abbey of Citeaux in Burgundy, it is now in the Louvre.  All of the images can be enlarged for more detailed inspection.

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The Discipline of Self-Awareness

Every now and again I have the feeling that Jesus must have lost patience with some of his audience, and that shows in a hint of sarcasm about those who purport to know most everything and are experts in all things save self-understanding.

In the passage which we’ve just read from the gospel of Saint Luke Jesus opens with the implication that we sometimes think we possess all the wisdom of the earth.  We know the weather, we can interpret enigmatic signs, and by implication we seem to know what’s best for other people.

DA5E931D-FBA8-4071-9648-5E1253BB3221Given all that abundance of knowledge about everything else, however, we can be surprisingly ill-informed about ourselves.  And the image of the plaintiff going to court is a good one that Jesus uses to make his point.  The plaintiff must have thought he had an air-tight case.  But he was done in by a critical lack of self-awareness.  So he naively but confidently approached the judge, assuming that victory would be his.  By the time it was all over, however, the process had chewed him up and spit him out.  Even a dollop of self-awareness could have saved him a lot of trouble, and it might have suggested that compromise sometimes is the better option, as opposed to risking and losing everything.

In today’s gospel Jesus invites us to to search for the self-awareness that in practice can change the course of our lives.  So important is Jesus’ advice that we even incorporate into the liturgy opportunities to own up to the need for self-awareness.  In the penitential rite that begins the Eucharist we confess our faults, and in the sacrament of reconciliation we confess yet again our sins.  Later this afternoon at our service of reconciliation we will all have the opportunity to confess our sins in conversation with another person — a confessor.  But the important point of all of this is that we approach the altar of the Lord to confess our sins.  So if by chance this afternoon you are coming to confess somebody else’s sins, please don’t.  Much better would be your chances for success if you went to some judge somewhere.

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+Today’s post is a sermon on Luke 12: 54-59 that I delivered on Friday October 25th.  The occasion was a liturgy for members of the Order of Malta, who had gathered at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA.  While I did not expect that this sermon would be remembered by the participants, little did I know that it would be eclipsed so quickly by events of the weekend.

Danville is not all that far from the fires that scorched Sonoma County this weekend, and the smoke from those fires drifted our way.  On top of that, the threat of high winds meant that the electric company had to turn off the power for nearly a million people, ourselves included.  So on Saturday evening the power went out, and it was scheduled to remain so until later today, Monday.

The impact was felt by all of us who woke up early on Sunday.  I woke up at 3:00 am, and there was absolutely nothing to do to occupy myself until the sun came up at 7:30.  No reading, no writing, no nothing.  And so for the next four hours I simply enjoyed the darkness and tried to fall back to sleep.  Mass later that morning was in a fairly dark chapel.  A bank of candles and a flashlight pierced the darkness, but it was much like it must have been in the 19th century.  Actually, it was a fascinating experiment on survival without power.

+On my recent visit to Frankfurt I was surprised by the reminders of the medieval city that are sprinkled through the old quarter of the city.  Most of the medieval city was flattened by the bombing of WW II, but the decision to rebuild just a portion of the old city gives a reminder of how interesting it must have been.

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A Perfect End and a Great Beginning

As funerals go, George’s had more than its share of joy.  Of course his family and the crowd of friends that filled the church were sad to let him go.  He had touched the lives of many.  He had been involved in a full schedule of activities.  He had reached out to the sick and the infirm in his decades of service in the Order of Malta.  He had done so much;  and yet, if there was one regret, it was this.  George still seemed to be at the top of his game.

There were lots of wonderful stories exchanged that day, but one struck me especially.  On the day he passed George called his wife to say that he had just had the best day of his life.  Then, less than a minute after hanging up, he slipped into the arms of the Lord.  Totally unexpected was his leave-taking.

34B85D1E-F685-4B63-8717-0A0D0BD16DADIn the service of compline we pray for “a peaceful night and a perfect end.”  Not many say those words at the end of the day, but everyone should.  For one thing, who doesn’t want a restful night?  It’s why collectively we pay a fortune for beds and bedding.  It’s why we buy truckloads of pills and various sleeping aids to put to rest the anxiety or pain that can grip us at the end of a day.  And yet we sometimes forget that a key ingredient for a peaceful night is a day filled with purpose.

As for a “perfect end,” I’m not sure many want to think about that and fewer still pray about it.  It’s a topic best pushed to the margins of our imaginations.  And yet, as surely as the sun rises and sets, death comes to us all.

Rightly we all are anxious about death, but we as Christians strengthen ourselves with a bedrock conviction.  Death is not the end, because the Lord reaches out to us as we step into the greatest adventure of our lives.

Saint Benedict in his Rule for Monasteries reminds his monks to “keep death daily before their eyes.”  That’s not an invitation to live in terror or paralysis.  Rather, it’s his unique way of reminding us that every day is a gift, and it’s a gift that we would be wise to make the most of.

Benedict also speaks of life as “something of a truce”.  In the expanse of eternity our few years are our chance to accomplish something creative and wonderful.  They are the interlude when we can be artists with all the talents and opportunities that God has given to each of us.

06EFDE6B-2260-4D57-B2DB-230D92B1780EI was struck by George’s last words.   Perhaps he saw the Lord coming for him, but the Lord’s appearance was no surprise.  George had already seen him many times in the faces of the poor and the sick.  And just maybe for one brief moment George appreciated the coincidence that the best day of his life also happened to be the day when the Lord took him by the hand and welcomed him into the new Jerusalem.  In that moment George had both a perfect end and also a terrific beginning.

NOTES

On September 23rd I attended the annual meeting of the Friends of the Malta Study Center at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.

+On 26 September I attended the board meeting of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA. I opened the meeting with a prayer and followed with a reflection on the importance of the virtue of respect for all people.

+On 27 September I concelebrated at the funeral of George Kiesel, which took place at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels in Burlingame, CA.  George and his wife Charlotte have been long-time members of the Order of Malta and also members in Obedience in the Subpriory of Our Lady of Philermo, of which I am a chaplain.

+I’ve always enjoyed the funerary monuments in medieval and Early Modern English churches, and in today’s post I’ve included several photos that I took at York Minster several years ago.

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Called to be Artists

Why in the world would Jesus propose an unreliable and dishonest servant as the hero of one of his parables?  Who really knows, but it’s exactly what Jesus did, according to the gospel of Luke, chapter 16.

According to the story a steward had “dissipated” the assets of his master, though it’s not explicit as to how.  Still, the suggestion is that he squandered rather than stole the funds, and it was enough to get him dismissed.  But in one last act of outrage he added insult to injury by doctoring the books.  He reduced the accounts of all those who were indebted to his master, hoping they might remember him when he landed on the streets.  Clearly this was not an act of affection, but rather a calculation that something good might come his way.

DD086A05-C9FB-4385-B3DF-25F99F84F05DWhat he did was blatantly dishonest.  But it was daring, and for that Jesus gave him credit.  But to add to the confusion, Jesus passed on the soft-ball opportunity to condemn stealing and instead praised the steward’s ingenuity in using ill-gotten gain.  Would that his own disciples might be equally resourceful in the service of God!

That’s the obvious moral to the story, but there’s something else that Jesus leaves to us to discover all by ourselves.  What does it take to wake up to what we’re doing with our lives?  Does it take a major illness?  Does it take a personal catastrophe or the loss of someone dear to us?  Does it take the wisdom that comes with age?  Or does it take a notice of termination, as was the case with the steward?

No matter when or if we each go through the shock of a personal Great Awakening, we all tend to waltz through long stretches of life on the assumption that there will be endless tomorrows.  It provides the excuse that the servant used to justify a wasted life, only to discover he didn’t have a lot of time to redirect it onto some thoughtful course.  As for us, we have the same opportunity, even if God doesn’t always send us ample notice on the termination of our pilgrimage.

5D44A3A1-DF0B-4A1B-BB18-98741A218320Recently a friend of mine sent a cartoon that showed a bewildered man standing at the gates of heaven.  Saint Peter reads from the ledger and then looks squarely at the recently-deceased.  “It seems you had a reasonably good life.  Unfortunately you missed most of it because you were staring into your cell phone.

That cell phone may be real or metaphorical, but the point is obvious.  To borrow from another medium, a painter has to work within the limits of a canvas, and so our lives too have limits marked by a beginning and an end.  They define our opportunity to do something singular with our lives, and they are part of the fine print in the contract God made with us at birth.  God then stands back to let us be the artist, and it’s the greatest commission we’ll ever have.  If we are imaginative and resourceful, and if we don’t put the work off until the last minute, our painting could very well become a work of art!

D7F86EA0-EB7C-4385-9E27-CD2B6FF73B8ENOTES

+On September 16th a van filled with 3,000 organ pipes arrived at Saint John’s after a ride from organ-builder Martin Pasi’s studio in Tacoma, WA.  They were promptly unloaded and currently occupy one section of pews in the abbey church.  The church is a mess right now, but in a few months it will result in an organ that is twice the size of the current organ.

+On September 20-22 I gave a retreat to members of the Federal Association of the Order of Malta, at a retreat center in Mundelein, IL, located just outside of Chicago.

+This past week Abbot Jeremias Schroder from Germany visited us for several days.  He heads the Benedictine congregation of Saint Ottilian, which is a congregation of missionary Benedictine monasteries around the world.  Several of our Benedictine Volunteers currently work in some of those monasteries, and we’ve been fortunate to host monks from various of these abbeys studying at Saint John’s over the years.

+On September 22nd I attended a dinner and ceremony at which the president of Saint John’s Univeristy, Dr. Gene McAllister, conferred the Fr. Colman J. Barry Award on alumnus Ambassador Robert Shafer.  The award salutes unique contributions to religion and society, and Bob has certainly done that.  In addition to a long career at Pfizer Corporation, he has been a long-time member of the Order of Malta, and for many years served as the Order’s permanent observer at the United Nations.  He’s also served on the boards of Saint John’s University and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

+I neglected in the previous post to note that we have welcomed two brothers into our community.  Brother Felix was clothed as a novice on September 11th, and Brother David  was welcomed for a probationary year.  He had already completed his novitiate and years in formation before taking a leave of absence to consider his vocation.  We are delighted to have him back with us, along with Brother Felix.

+The first photo in today’s post shows some of the 3,000 new pipes for the organ.  They will be fitted into the two spaces that flank the big red screen in the abbey church.  To get there they must go through one of two openings into the organ loft, shown in the third photo.  The event at which we honored Ambassador Shafer (below) began with a musical performance by students from Saint John’s University.

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Staring Down the Darkness

If you want to know what tranquility looks and feels and sounds like, then a good place to start is a ruined English abbey.  Set in remote corners in parklike settings, many of them ooze peace and quiet, and they are reminders of what life was like before the industrial revolution.

There aren’t many places in the first world where people can escape the grip of industrial noise.  But there are those few moments when technology loosens its grip and we are left to our own devices to cope.  Just such an experience happened to me last Friday.  That afternoon I had flown to Irvine, CA, and the next day I was scheduled to give a retreat conference to members of the Orders of Malta and the Holy Sepulchre.  As I sat down to dinner in the hotel cafe, it happened.  The lights flickered and for a moment civilization hung in the balance.  Then the Middle Ages returned.  There were no lights, no whirring machines, and no power to open the doors.  Then I and my fellow diners began to discover just how gently electrical power coddles us.  The elevator would not take me back to my room on the tenth floor.  There was no air-conditioning.  And those who dined after us were treated to cold cuts and snacks.

BC61C80E-BD07-4DF9-86C1-4A064247873AWhat surprised me was my reaction to the absence of light.  At 6 pm, when all of this started, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  At that point the sun still shone brightly, but its gradual setting stirred me into a panic.  I had reserved most of the evening for some work, but then it dawned on me that when the sun went down the work would have to stop.  There would only be the primordial darkness.

Like monks had done for hundreds of years, I went to bed when the sun set.  There was nothing else to do.  Then I remembered that I am an early riser, and I prayed that the power would return by 3 am.  It didn’t.

When I woke up at 3 am my worst workaholic fears came true.  There was no point in getting up.  Short of a miracle it would be pitch dark until the sun rose just before 6 am.  So for three hours I stayed in bed, eyes wide open, staring at the darkness, waiting for something to happen.

For most of monastic history — and human history for that matter — monks lived in sync with the cycle of the days and the changing of the seasons.  They got by partially because they never saw electricity coming, so they didn’t know what they were missing anyway.  But still they coped, and one way to thumb their noses at the darkness was to recite the psalms of the night office by memory.  For the most part, however, they simply adapted because they could not control their environment.  It controlled them.

02878F3F-DB79-4FCF-827B-BBB5E5363008Of course electricity changed all that.  Still, twelve hours without it made me wonder whether we even realize what we’ve lost.  For one night I had to measure my steps because in my own room I couldn’t see where I was going.  There was neither radio nor television to keep me entertained, no light for reading, and my iPad could offer no solace because it was running low on juice.  The dimly-lit lobby could have been a haven, but the thought of having to climb ten flights of stairs to get back up was a real disincentive.  So I was left to settle in with my thoughts for company and with senses that were suddenly alert to even the faintest of sounds.

What surprises me most is that I’m grateful for the experience.  I discovered that I could live without access to light at the flick of a switch.  I could get around without an elevator, and I could make do with my thoughts as my only companion.  Life was possible, even without an iPad or a cell phone.  Who would have thought?!  In retrospect it almost seems like a revelation straight from the Almighty.

B20FFE5B-3C37-4640-A930-7DBBD4F2DA08NOTES

+As the final weeks of summer rush on us, we’ve hosted a variety of groups at Saint John’s, and this week our featured guests were the members of the Rosemount High School Marching Band.  Every August they come for a one-week camp, and it’s always fun to listen as their music wafts across campus.  Also at Saint John’s this summer have been members of three seminars at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.  Hosted in partnership with Dumbarton Oaks, the Byzantine research institute sponsored by Harvard University, we’ve marveled at scholars who would spend a chunk of their summer studying Armenian, Syriac and Coptic paleography.

+On 2 August I flew to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA.  Four hours after I landed an electrical fire in a transformer closed the airport and cut the power to the hotel where I happened to be staying.  I later heard that we were the lucky ones.  Our power was out for twelve hours.  Other neighbors lost it for two days.

+On 3 August I gave a conference at a retreat for Orange County members of the Orders of Malta and the Holy Sepulchre.  The event took place at Saint Thomas More Parish in Irvine.

+The photo at top is the view of sunset from my hotel window in Irvine CA, shortly before everything went dark.  The other photos in today’s post show the ruins of Saint Mary’s Abbey, at the edge of York in the UK.

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