Sunday, January 26, 2020

Digging, digging, digging

Brother Robert Leo and I were both away this week to provide spiritual direction at Yale Divinity School and General Theological Seminary respectively.

Our Superior's Visitation to the monastery ended this Friday. Over the course of a couple of weeks, Br. Rob interviewed all the members of the extended community. He offered a report of his findings and suggestions for improvement to our communal life. This is not an exam, but we agreed we are doing quite well and that there is room for improvements.

After the Superior's report, Br. Aidan led us for our monthly faith sharing around the theme of desire. This follows a series of suggested meditations for our whole Order in preparation for our annual chapter in June.

The work on the elevator shaft in the Guest House continued. We have encountered an unexpected setback. A 7 ft deep pit needs to be dug in our basement to form the bottom of the elevator shaft. We had scheduled 2 or 3 days of digging for that. But it turned out that we hit the solid schist foundation of the monastery within a few inches of digging. As a result, our general contractor team has been jack-hammering away at the pit for a week and a half. I can now stand in the pit and look a the ground of our basement. Ah, the joys of renovation work on old buildings... Luckily, the next phases of demolition and construction will be less noisy.

Everyday scenes. From top, clockwise: a low attendance at the Sunday night movie (Steven Spielberg's Hook); a bloom of amaryllis with Br. Richard having breakfast in the background; this pit has a bottom that we have finally uncovered (bottom of the future Guest House elevator shaft); "God's fingers" - sunrays through the incense smoke at Sunday Diurnum.
A monastery is rarely without guests. This week, we welcomed several groups and lots of individuals. We also hosted Br. Sean Glenn, n/SSJE for a week of retreat. This weekend, Br. James Koester, Superior of SSJE arrived to spend a couple of days with us before returning to Cambridge, MA with Br. Sean. We love to go on retreat to each other's houses (SSJE and OHC). A good retreat is easier to have if you are not in your usual setting (as our guests well know).

Guuests. From top left, clockwise: a Superiors conference - Br. Rob Magliula, Superior of OHC talking with Br. James Koester, Superior of SSJE (while Fr. Huntington, OHC's first Superior looks down from his portrait); Nancy Haensch, from Brewster and Chris Palmer, from Somers, both parishioners at Good Shepherd, Granite Springs, NY; Br. Bernard with Associate Probationer, John Decker from NYC; Nancy and Chris determined to make progress on a new jigsaw puzzle; Bros. James Koester, SSJE and Sean Glenn, n/SSJE.

Happy (Chinese) New Year! I remembered to wish it to my new niece-in-law.
May you have a healthy and serene Year of the Rat.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Long retreat and back to "normal"

We were on Long Retreat for eight days from January 3 to 10. During Long Retreat, we observe silence round-the-clock, have a simplified liturgical schedule, refrain from work and focus on rest, prayer and study. Sometimes, we ask a retreat leader to come and address the community a few times. This year The Rev. Suzanne Guthrie, from Citrus Heights, CA, spent a few days of retreat with us. She preached on the second sunday of Christmas. She taught us about Job, Thérèse of Lisieux and the spiritual impacts of climate change. We are very grateful for our long friendship with Suzanne.

During Long Retreat, I was unfortunately distracted by having to coordinate issues regarding the building of the elevator shaft for the Guest House. I managed to salvage quiet times but it did not have the quality of uninterrupted retreat time.

Long Retreat. From top left, clockwise: views from my cell's window where I often sit to read and pray; The Rev. Suzann Guthrie; my "meditation corner" with my Japanese prayer bench and Tibetan singing bowl; a last loving look at the Pilgrim Hall Christmas Tree; amaryllis blooms from bulbs gifted by one of our Associates; the altar party for the second sunday of Christmas (Bros. Robert Leo, Bob and Suzanne Guthrie).

Also during Long Retreat, Br. Roy was admitted to hospice care at home. Br. Roy has been suffering neurlogical symptoms for over a year and a half. He was eventually diagnosed as suffering from a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Roy is an inspiration to all of us for his faithfulness, his constructive attitude and for showing the fruit of a long life of prayer. Will you please keep him (and all those who love him) in prayer in this new period of conversion of life for us all? Br. Roy finds it difficult articulating so it is very tiring for him to have substantial conversations. He is a discreet guy; I ask you to use discretion in your showing him sympathy.

The new Refectory tables. From top left, clockwise: Tim Consavage fastening the feet; the brothers trying out the new tables; Jamie Hermance testing the studiness of the assembled tables; brotherly meal; our first set-up (we have since moved the table to a chevron pattern from the central serving table).

Our new refectory tables arrived during Long Retreat. They will facilitate circulation between tables while fostering conversations. Our Guest House staff, Jamie Hermance and Tim Consavage, spent several days assembling them with precision for lasting sturdiness.

On the last day of Long Retreat, we broke silence for supper and enjoyed our beautiful new refectory tables. We are committed to find a recycling option for our long-serving round tables. If you know of someone who could benefit from them, let Br. Aidan know.

Long Retreat was bookended by two days of sabbath. On the Saturday after Long Retreat, seven of us went to a Poughkeepsie bowling alley for a couple of games. I can't remember who the winners were (maybe because it wasn't me...) but we had good fun. It was a bit of sensory overload after Long Retreat but in a good way.

A bowling outing. From top left, clockwise: Br. Aidan getting ready to bowl under the gaze of Bros. Simon and Josép and Yannick Savain; enjoying beer and comfort food wile the game proceeds; chatting away on the sidelines;
The Rev. Matthew Wright and Bros. Aidan and Bernard; the two same Bros.; midlife crisis Br. Bernard? A bit late for that.

This year, the three magi were making their way to the creche from our Chapter Room. You'll be relieved to know they made it in time to church for the feast of the Epiphany.

As is our custom, shortly after Epiphany, the respective decorating crews took down Christmas decorations from the enclosure, the church and the guest house.

Quiet days. From top left, clockwise: the magi and their camels have arrived; Br. Carl regularly waters the numerous plants in the enclosure conservatory; the Magi worshipping at Baby Jesus's cradle; two sisters on staff - Jamie Hermance and her sister Debbie sharing a moment in the pantry; Br. Simon, Assistant-Sacristan, ironing altar linens in our beautiful new sacristy.

This past week, our Br. Max got to visit his family and meet his newborn nephew. Max's sister and her Thai husband moved back to the US a few weeks ago with their son. From pictures Max showed us, he looks like a very happy and adorable baby.

We wish you a healthy, serene and peaceful year. Happy 2020!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Christmas and the beginning of Christmastide

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were blessed with beautiful liturgies and lots of merriment and good food (and a little too many sweets for our own good...). We had a Guest House full of guests (some Christmas first-timers and a lot of repeat Christmas visitors).

Brothers Josép, Max and Scott (who is visiting from South Africa for a few weeks) sang beautifully in the scola that adorned the First Vespers of Christmas and the First Eucharist of Christmas.

After First Vespers on Christmas Eve we had a carols sing with cookies and egg nog. The spirited singing near the newly decorated Christmas tree kept us going until... 9 p.m. when we sent everyone to bed in recovered silence. Nice contrast.

Carol Singing on Christmas Eve. Br. Josép led the singing and lots of cookies and eggnog were consumed. Bottom left, three friends came together for the festivities (from left to right: Liz Moss and Judy Schram, both from Lexington, VA and Nancy Adamczyk, from Madison, NJ).

Most of our outside visitors came for the First Vespers of Christmas. The First Mass of Christmas was celebrated amongst our guests with fewer visitors. Our Christmas Eve celebration wins the popularity contest.

Before the First Mass of Christmas. The Christmas scola comprised (from left to right) Br. Max, Br. Josép and Br. Scott. They also sang before First Vespers of Christmas. Bottom choir pircture: Brs. John and Bede enjoy the scola's offering.

After all the Christmas festivities, we closed the Guest House for a day and a half and had our own community celebration. Boxing Day was a sabbath day. On Saturday after Christmas we invited our nursing home Brothers to come for Diurnum and dinner. We got to sing "O Christmas Tree" in English and in German (a favorite of Br. Laurence). After a good meal and a competitive game of cribbage, our Brothers were ready to go back home to rest. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves on a day when we could give them more of our attention.

From top left, clockwise: Br. Laurence and Br. Max playing cribbage together; Br. Josép's cell's illuminations put mine to sharme; Bros. Aidan, Carl and Scott chatting at our end of Christmas Day get-together; Br. Rafael is helped to find the right page in the breviary by Br. Josép; several monks sing "O Chritmas Tree" and "O Tannenbaum" with Bros. Laurence and Rafael in our enclosure common room (also in the center picture); The Rev. Stacey Grossman, from Novato, CA with Bros. Robert Hagler (rolling the wheelchair, and Rafael; Bros. Laurence, Bernard and Max near the Pilgrim Hall Christmas tree beautifully decorated by our guests; Br. Josép in a very festive mood.

And so began Christmastide (a.k.a. the Twelve Days of Christmas). A lot of people love the quiet and cozy time in-between Christmas and New Year in the Guest House. And we get a lot of repeat guests and visitors for those days. Several clergy people come and rest from the the Advent and Christmas excitement.

Christmastide Guests. From top left, clockwise: The Rev. Gwyneth Murphy, from Rhinebeck, NY and Associate Andrew Jones from NYC; sunrise over the foggy valley; The Rev. John Mennell and The Rev. Sonia Waters, from Montclair, NJ; guests sitting down to breakfast in the golden rising sun light; guests helping themselves to dinner in the refectory; the Coast Guard patroling the Hudson; The Rev. Hall Kirkham and Jennifer McCracken.

On New Year's Day we closed the Guest House until Tuesday, January 14. The closure enables the community to take its Long Retreat (eight days of silence and prayer). The closure also enables some building work to proceed. This year we are dividing St Augustine room into two meeting rooms.

On New Year's Day, the community had our traditional pizza-movie-and-coquito event. We watched the recent Netflix movie "The Two Popes." It is very well done and worth watching. I teared up a couple of times... Not bad for a movie of two old guys debating about church and faith.

And now, off to praying, meditating, resting, reading, studying, holy leisure and blessed silence. We love our Long Retreat. We pray for all those who visit us and support us. Would you say a prayer for us while we delve into deep silence?

Happy New Year!