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Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Heart Schools Atherton CA’

Climbing Down from our Tree

“Now a man there named Zachaeus, who was a tax-collector and a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Luke 19:2.)

I’ve always thought of Zachaeus as an example of an instant conversion experience. Like Saint Paul and Augustine of Hippo, one minute his life was a mess, and then all was put right. In the case of Zachaeus, he was despised as a tax-collector and a collaborator with the Romans. All assumed he had been dishonest, and Zachaeus implied as much when he met Jesus. There was plenty for which he had to atone.

Then, in the next scene Zachaeus hosted Jesus at his home. Almost in an instant he repented of everything and put on a new life. It was out with the old man and in with the new.

It’s a great story, and the drama of a life turned around in an instant is intriguing. Yet, we ought not overlook what likely happened deep within Zachaeus. First, the about-face may seem sudden to us, but he had been stewing about the meaning of his life for a while. He had been looking for something. Something was missing from his life; and when Jesus invited him down from the tree Zachaeus was more than ready to make the leap. What Jesus offered was merely the final nudge for which he had been waiting.

It would also be a mistake to write off Zachaeus’ life up to that point as a total waste of time. I say that because Zachaeus had for quite a while pondered the course of his life. On the one hand he had become painfully aware of his sins and mistakes. On the other he contended with an emptiness and absence of meaning. Something was missing, and when Jesus stood at the base of the tree the missing piece of the puzzle suddenly snapped into place. A conversion experience that likely had been slow and laborious suddenly had clarity and direction.

Perhaps that provides a nugget of insight into our current situation. It’s tough for people who walk in the steps of Jesus Christ to sit still. As people who live by the Beatitudes we’re committed to serving others. When we don’t or can’t, something seems missing — sometimes painfully so.

For most of us it’s been quite a while since we’ve been on the front lines in service to others. We can’t reach out to strangers like we had done so easily before. With masks on we can’t even offer a smile to the one who needs to see it most. We sometimes haven’t even been able to go to church. For people accustomed to being busy this has been painful, and perhaps we’ve even felt useless at times.

But we should not dismiss these past few months as a waste of time. These months have in fact been our time in the desert. They have been our time to heal, to grow and to prepare to climb back down out of our own tree, as did Zachaeus. It’s our time to prepare ourselves to get ready for the business of life. All the same, however, we need to remember that for the last eight months we’ve actually been about the business of life.

It’s good for us to recall that Jesus spent forty days in the desert in fasting and prayer. Was it a total waste of his time? After all, there was so much for Jesus to do. Yet, when called to act he had the courage to remind his mother than his time had not yet come.

Before we bemoan our isolation too much, it’s good to pause and give thanks for our own time in the desert. This too will pass, but this time is also a gift from God. It’s our time for preparation and renewal. It’s no time to despair or give up, because like Jesus our time will come. And when that time finally comes, we will be ready to act as never before. With clarity and conviction we will climb down from our tree and once again be the hands of Christ, doing his work in our corner of the world.

NOTES

+On November 17th I participated in a meeting of the Regent’s Council of the Subpriory of Our Lady of Philermo of the Order of Malta. Later that evening I celebrated Mass for the annual meeting of the San Francisco area of the Order of Malta. All this was done via zoom, and today’s post is a slightly amended version of the sermon that I delivered.

+November 19th can only be described as insanely crazy here at Saint John’s. I spent quite a bit of my day in zoom meetings, while around me Saint John’s University and Saint John’s Preparatory School and the monastery were on lock-down from 10 am to 6:15 pm. The day began with a high-speed car chase on I-94, and the state patrol managed to stop the driver at the north end of our property. There the driver assaulted the officer and ran into our woods. He made his way to the prep school, where he robbed a student and tried to steal his car. Then, until his final surrender at 6:15 pm, a retinue of twelve police jurisdictions with ca. 200 officers secured our property and buildings, while drones searched the woods from above. The highlight for me was opening my door in the monastery to see four officers in fatigues and carrying weapons, there to check our rooms. I thanked them for protecting us and wished them well — and it was a heartfelt greeting! There was a certain irony about all this, however. For eight months of corona-virus we had never missed Mass for a single day in the abbey church. But for this day, on the advice of the police, the abbot had to cancel Mass. It was all stranger than fiction.

+On November 20th I participated in the annual retreat of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.

+We ended the week with a moment of the sublime. On November 21st Brother Jacob gave an organ recital as part of his MA in Theology with a concentration in church music. It was the first concert using our expanded Holtkamp-Pasi organ, and it was a real tour de force. The 36-inch pipes made in the woodworking shop at Saint John’s performed as planned, and at one point my spine vibrated for as much as thirty seconds. Brother Jacob earned his MA that day!

+The Mass via zoom on November 19th took place in Saint Francis Chapel, which campus ministry makes use of for student Masses, Eucharistic adoration, rosaries and an occasional morning or evening prayer. It is located in the garden adjacent to Saint Francis House, which is a student residence tucked away in the southwest part of the campus at Saint John’s. The photos in todays post show the chapel and the garden in which it sits.

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Just How Long Has God Known Us?

”Nathaniel said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathaniel answered him, ‘Rabbi you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’” John 1: 48-49.

To the casual reader Nathaniel’s response to Jesus marks him as a pretty gullible guy. What kind of person would drop everything to follow somebody, just because he claimed to see him sitting under a fig tree? Had it been me in Nathaniel’s sandals, I would have been a little skeptical. I’d be tempted to answer Jesus with a nonchalant “so what!”

Obviously there’s more to the story, and we find in Jesus’ response an echo of Psalm 110. There we read the puzzling and also reassuring words of Yahweh: “From the womb, before the dawn, I begot you.” That suggests that Jesus had a similar intent in his words. Long before Nathaniel had ever heard of Jesus, Jesus had seen Nathaniel and had already loved him.

That’s the message that Jesus intends for us to hear in this gospel, and it’s meant to strike us to the core of our being.

It’s easy to imagine ourselves drowned in the expanse of eternity. But Jesus assures us that he cares for us, and that you and I are worth far more than sparrows.

At our baptism we were signed for something important. We were claimed for Jesus Christ. Today, let us pray that we be not blind to the Lord’s love for us. After all, from the womb, before the dawn, God already knew us.

NOTES

+On 28 September I participated via zoom in the annual meeting of the Friends of the Malta Study Center at HMML at Saint John’s. The Center does important work in the preservation of the archives of the Order of Malta as well as materials relating to the history of the state of Malta.

+On 29 September I presided and preached at the Mass for the monks of Saint John’s Abbey. Today’s post is a transcript of the sermon I delivered. I also served as prayer leader for this week‘s Liturgy of the Hours at the abbey. In the days of a heavy travel schedule such an assignment would not have been possible. During the pandemic this marks the third time in seven months. So I am making up for years of unavailability to do this.

+On 30 September I participated in the online meeting of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.

+That same day I underwent the seventh and eighth testings for the corona virus. For the first one I drove into Saint Cloud — meant as part of the preparation for upcoming cataract surgery on my right eye. Then I drove back to Saint John’s, parked the car, and went in for another Covid testing as part of the abbey’s regular testing program. For the seventh and eight times I tested negative.

+On October 1st I took part in an online meeting of the Admissions and Formation Committee of the Western Association of the Order of Malta.

+Finally, it’s only right to make mention of something I was unable to do last week. I had been scheduled to give a three-day retreat to members of the American Association of the Order of Malta. It was supposed to take place in Boston on 2-4 October. Much to my regret, it didn’t happen.

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God Gives Us Whatever — Really?

“Whatever you ask from the Father, he will give it to you in my name.”  (John 16:23).

Whatever means whatever, doesn’t it Father?”  The question came from a friend of mine, and I could see where this was going.  He is a litigator, and one of the few things that I’ve learned about the legal profession is that litigators thrive on spirited debate.  So I knew I was in the docket and on the defensive.

The fact of the matter is, we can ask what we want from God, and God will definitely answer.  However, as often as not God doesn’t give us what we ask for but rather what we really need.  In short, then, this assurance from Jesus is not about a contractual relationship but rather is about a human relationship based on love.

C14C9541-00D0-4AEB-817F-690A85C8FF9EI like to focus on this statement of Jesus because it gets to the core of his preaching.  Time and again he assured people that he had no pretense of being a legal scholar.  He had come to do the will of his father, and that didn’t include providing an entirely new legal code.  There were already enough laws in the scrolls of the Jewish tradition, and Jesus was not the first Jew to point this out.  There was little or no need for more.

If we’re ever going to unlock the meaning behind the parables and other sayings of Jesus, then we have to appreciate one simple fact.   Jesus teaches out of the Wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures.  So it is that he doesn’t resort to legalese, but rather he gives us puzzles and enigmas to tease out the complexity of what it means to be a son or daughter of God.  “God as loving parent” is the image that Jesus prefers to work with.

That insight is key to understanding today’s reading from the gospel of Mark.  “To the one who has, more will be given;  from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  At first blush this sounds terribly unjust.  It suggests that Jesus has put his own stamp of approval on the notion that the rich should get richer and the poor poorer, because that’s the divine will.  But economics is not what this is about.  It’s about our openness to the gift of life.  It’s about our willingness to let our light shine forth, or whether we choose to hide it under a basket.

AB6302AD-20F7-417C-BBBE-038150F05F6CThere’s one other point that I’d latch onto, and it has to do with those of us who work to nurture the talent in other people.  It’s one thing to let our own light shine, but it’s another to let other people shine as well.  So we have to check in with ourselves and ask whether we can be open enough to let our friends and children and students shine.  Can we see the talents that are latent in them?  Can we be alert to the potential within them — be they young or old?  This is part of what Jesus intends to say.

If we can be open to the Spirit working within us, then we are far more likely to be open to the Spirit working within others.  So when we can do that, God will likely give us exactly what we ask for, but far more than we ever imagine.

Let me share one last reference to my friend the litigator.  I asked him if he had won all of his cases, and he said “no.”  “Well then,” I asked, “is that because you didn’t pray to God for a win, or was it because Jesus was pulling our leg when he made this promise about his father?’’  I hope I don’t flatter myself with the thought that Jesus might have loved this answer.

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NOTES

+On January 30th I attended the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.  Prior to the meeting I said Mass for the members of the board, and today’s post is the sermon that I gave.  It is based on Mark 4:21-25.

+On February 1st I delivered the main address at a symposium on Benedictine Spirituality hosted by The Friends of Saint Benedict, an Episcopal group with which I have had a long association.  The event took place at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  During the luncheon that followed the symposium I was pleasantly surprised to read a flyer announcing that my confrere Fr. Michael Peterson will be speaking two weeks later at Saint Anselm Abbey in Washington.

+On February 2nd I attended choral evensong at Christ Church in Georgetown.  The choir at Christ Church is simply wonderful, and in the setting of the late-19th-century Anglo-Catholic architecture, it made for an over-the-top experience for me.

+Given that we celebrated the feast of the Presentation on Sunday the 2nd of February, the first two photos in today’s post illustrate that scene.  The painting is by the Master of the Prado “Adoration of the Magi,” and dates from ca. 1470.  It hangs today in the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  Below that is a decidedly more contemporary Presentation, done by Antonio Gaudi at the church of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Below that is the chancel of Christ Church in Georgetown.  Finally, at bottom is a bit of whimsy that I could not resist including in today’s post.  While in the Bay Area I toured a new housing complex in downtown San Francisco.  In one courtyard of this massive development is a sculpture entitled Venus;  and while half as tall as the surrounding buildings, it just sucks the air out of the space.

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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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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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What’s in a Name?  Perhaps Integrity

Recently, in the space of one afternoon, I visited Milan (not in Italy), Montevideo (not in Uruguay) and Nassau (not in The Bahamas).  I did all this as I and a colleague drove around western Minnesota on the way to Madison, which is just a short drive from Appleton, unlike in Wisconsin.  And just in case all of that was not enough, there was the South Dakota border, a tantalizing ten miles away.  But we resisted because we did not want to overdo it.

I’d never been to that part of Minnesota.  While I had heard of Madison, MN, these other towns came as a complete surprise.  So I had to wonder what possessed those otherwise sober Norwegian settlers to concoct such an eclectic urban mix out on the prairies.  Did they mean it as a long-range urban plan?  Was it meant to be a joke?  What were these people thinking?

D1A0F8EC-752B-4BB8-9AD7-9DC4E453EE10Perhaps they did it with a nod to their neighbors in central Minnesota.  Within a stone’s-throw of Saint John’s there are nice German towns like Saint Anna, Saint Wendel, Saint Stephen, Saint Joseph, Saint Augusta and Saint Nicholas.  There’s also New Munich and Uppsala, the latter of which is an outlier in anybody’s book.  So if people in central Minnesota longed for a bit of Germany, maybe the Norwegians of western Minnesota thought they could do better.  They didn’t leave Norway just to replicate it on the prairies.  No, perhaps they were inclined to be a bit more adventurous.  Perhaps thoughts of South America and the tropics and the Mediterranean may have been coursing through their minds.  Perhaps it was no coincidence that all of these places happened to be warm places.  Maybe they also thought warm.

Anyway, names bring in their train all sorts of baggage.  Well or poorly chosen, they can evoke aspirations that we set for our communities and ourselves.  And much like place names, the names we attach to people serve the very same purpose.  Names tell others who we think we are and what we hope to become, and they remind us of the dreams which we fashion for ourselves.

When there’s a disconnect between who we claim to be and who we really are, then we generally fool no one, except maybe ourselves.  In the gospels Jesus railed against the hypocrisy of those whose personal disparities were so glaring.  These were people who cut themselves lots of slack but expected an awful lot from the people around them.  Some of these people even accused Jesus of hypocrisy as he hung on the cross.  “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.”

2998EA26-8183-409A-AC86-380029599DC3Given all that, in the Easter season it’s paramount that if we claim to be Christian then we should actually give it our best shot.  We need to align our name with the reality of our lives.  So it is that if we believe that what we do for the least of people we are doing for Jesus himself, then we should act that way.  If the Beatitudes are the Christian equivalent of the Ten Commandments, then it might be nice to read up on them every now and again.

In theory, of course, this sounds easy;  but for all of us there are days when it’s a real challenge.  It’s a comfort to know that we’re not alone in this struggle, however.  As the Acts of the Apostles relate, it took the followers of Jesus years to come to terms with who they would be called and how that name would shape their lives.  Only in time did they realize they would be Christians and not Jews and that they would have to translate this into a way of life.

Selecting a personal brand is the fad of the moment, and in one sense that’s okay.  However, if our brand is only veneer-thin it advertises the shallowness of our lives to all whom we meet.  But choosing to be Christian is more than putting on a mask or adopting a veneer.  Our name and our very lives must feed upon one another.  They must give rise to a deep and ongoing self-examination.  And the product of that exercise is the joy that comes from being truly authentic.  We become Christian not only in name but in word and deed.

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+On May 14th I drove with one of my colleagues from Saint John’s University to meet an alumnus and his wife who live outside of Madison, MN.  In the course of the trip we passed through the other towns noted in today’s post.  It left me realizing that there is so much of Minnesota that I have yet to see, including the town of Ghent, which was just beyond our reach.  As you might expect, it was settled by immigrants from Belgium.

+On May 15th I flew to San Francisco, and on the 16th attended the board of directors meeting of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.

+On May 17th I said Mass and gave a talk to members of the Order of Malta who live in Monterey, CA.

+The photos in today’s post show glass made in the 15th and 16th centuries from the cathedral in Milan (in Italy, not Minnesota).  At top is Saint Matthew, followed by Jonah preaching to the people of Nineveh, a view of the city of Betulia, and the Tower of Babel.  At bottom is an interior shot of the cathedral of Milan.  For the record, unlike its namesake in Italy, Milan, MN, is pronounced just as it is spelled:  MY-lan, with the accent on the first syllable.

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The Gift of Wisdom

As I’ve grown in experience I’ve come to appreciate the Wisdom literature of the Bible more and more.  Perhaps it’s the result of living by the Rule of Saint Benedict, which is deeply rooted in that tradition.  Perhaps too it’s the result of coming to terms with one reality in life:  many of life’s decisions are nuanced, complicated, and not at all easy.

To people who crave black and white answers, wisdom can be a major inconvenience.  It admits that some of our choices fall between shades of gray, or they’re a matter of opting for the greater or the lesser good.  Lives beset by these sorts of dilemmas require deep reflection.  They require wisdom.

If we examine the sweep of the Old Testament there is the Torah and the clarity of the Ten Commandments on the one hand.  At another point is the Wisdom literature.  Between the two is a world of Jewish experience.  When we read a passage like Proverbs 3, then, we get a glimpse into that evolution of thought.  Each verse of Proverbs makes sense, yet each makes reference to a complicating reality.  If, for example, it says that “the curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,” we also recall the rhetorical question of the Psalmist who wonders why it is that the wicked always seem to prosper.

744B9A93-24D5-40FF-8CE4-669A0EFD94ADThese sorts of conundrums still puzzle us.  We prefer the easy answers for their clarity, and so we set up the Ten Commandments as a kind of idol.  But we know that Proverbs teaches us to demand more of life and more from ourselves.  To that deeper self-examined way of life Jesus also calls us.  And so today we could do no better than to pray for the gift of wisdom and for the patience to make the most of it.

NOTES

+Today’s post is a sermon that I will deliver at the abbey Mass later in the day.  It is based on the first reading, Proverbs 3: 27-34.

+On 20 September I attended the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, CA.  For the current school year I’m serving as a board advisor.

+I’m not sure whether it was allergies or a response to a flu shot, but for two and a half days over the weekend I was out of action and unable to do much of anything.  I did finally manage to go to a small bit of Homecoming activities at Saint John’s University, but missed most of the football game and was a no-show at the dinner for the Friends of the Malta Study Center at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.  For better and for worse, I also had to sit on the sidelines for my birthday, which was on Saturday.

+In the Benedictine tradition monks pray for wisdom when we gather for deliberation in the chapter house.  Today’s post illustrates the 12th-century chapter house from the Cistercian abbey of Notre Dame at Pontaut in Bordeaux.  Today it is housed in the Cloisters Museum in New York.  Note the seating in the interior.  There were no cushions, perhaps on the assumption that wisdom comes a little faster when you’re sitting on stone.

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