Sunday, November 11, 2018

A national election, a diocesan convention and a requiem

Br. Robert James, our Superior is away for a week, doing his visitation to our Priory in Toronto, Canada. He left Tuesday but not before he had voted.
Most of us went voting on Tuesday. Most of us chose to get up early Wednesday to check out the results rather than stress beyond our usual bedtime in front of the TV as the results trickled in.

The weather was less rainy this past week. I took the opportunity for a short walk in the Slabsides Sanctuary on Wednesday afternoon. I always enjoy going to the tip of the rocky peninsula that sits in the middle of the pond.

On Thursday, I drove to Rhinecliff to meet my Spiritual Director at Linwood Spiritual Center. They have an amazing view that stretches miles South on the Hudson River. I see my director every month or thereabouts. It is a needed spiritual discipline in the monastic life. I always feel heard, helped and supported when I've met with my director, a sister of the Society of St Ursula.
From top, clockwise: Bros. Bernard and Aidan with the Rev. Matthew Wright at Slabsides; Br. Bernard proudly sporting his "I voted" sticker on Election Day; a quiet vista point on the Esopus Meadows part of the Hudson River at Linwood Spiritual Center in Rhinecliff
Friday was another requiem day. We remembered our Departed Brethren. Fifty of our Brothers have preceded us in this monastic life. We are grateful for all the gifts they have made to God. In many ways, we are stewards of many of those gifts today, not the least of which are our beautiful grounds and monastery.

At the Eucharist, we pray their names slowly. Then, after the service, we process to the columbarium in St Michael Chapel (the crypt) and then to the cemetery for a benediction, a censing and a sprinkling of holy water. Most of our fifty predecessors are immured or interred here at the monastery.
Monks and guests visiting our cemetery on Departed Brethren Day
Three of our priests attended one or both days of the 243rd Convention of the Diocese of New York in White Plains. Bros. Bob and Randy now both have charge of parishes in our region and this was Br. Aidan's first convention as a priest. From their reports, it appeared that much good work was done. As monastics, they would have preferred the proceedings to be more prayerful. Sometimes, a diocesan convention can seem very business-inspired and overly business-oriented.
From top, closckwise: Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA celebrating at our Sunday Eucharist; sunrays through the incense smoke during the Eucharist; giving and receiving communion.
Like most Saturday evenings, between supper and compline, those of us who wanted got together for drinks and conversation in our common room in the enclosure. Mr. Vance Greenway, our Postulant, had prepared a delicious sangria and Br. Randy unearthed a box of chocolates that had been given by one of our Associates. It is a welcome break from the routine and a lovely way to relax together.

Tonight (Sunday), many of us will congregate for another recreative activity we do most weeks: the Sunday evening movie. I curate a community Netflix queue that everyone can contribute to. We watch a great variety of movies (from American blockbusters to foreign art house movies). Br. Josép has made it one of his ministries to ply us with popcorn. We start around 6.30 p.m. so that our usual bedtime can be respected. Monks are creatures of habit...

May you have a blessed week.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Contemplative days, a pre-ordination retreat and ministry celebrations

This past week, we celebrated the feasts of All Saints and All Souls in the midst of our Contemplative Days (silence round-the-clock, simpler worship schedule, lighter work, fewer guests). We reflected on the Saints passed and alive who inspire our lives. We reflected on all the departed that have a place in our hearts. As for Halloween, we celebrate it as the Eve of All Hallows (whence its secular name evolved). No trick-or-treaters come down our dark driveway on Halloween (too spooky?). We have long stopped having candy on hand that evening.
Halloween had a special resonance for me this year as it was the twentieth anniversary of my arrival in NYC to come and live in this country. I remember observing from the cab, all the wizards and witches I saw on the sidewalks. I knew it was a special evening in more ways than one. This Sunday, I also celebrated the ninth anniversary of my Life Profession of the Benedictine Vow. I am grateful for what this country is contributing to my life and to what my monastic community is enabling me to continue to become. It is my prayer that I may give back to both by being an instrument of God's Love.

This past week, Br. Josép went to New Mexico to attend the Ordination and Consecration of the new Bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande, The Most Rev. Michael Hunn. Michael is an Associate of our Order and asked Josép to come and sing the Prayers of the People and the Veni Sancte Spiritu at his ordination. Br. Josép took the opportunity to make his pre-profession retreat a the Bosque Retreat and Conference Center in Albuquerque, NM.

From top,  clockwise, Bp. Michael Vono, soon-to-be Bp. Michael Hunn and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; a view of the Diocesan Retreat Center where Br. Josép made his pre-profession retreat; Michael Hun and his family listening to the Presiding Bishop's sermon, with Br. Josép appreciating the humor in the background.
As the loving Brother that he is, he then made every effort to fly back home in time to sing at Br. Randy's commissioning at the parish of Christ Church, Red Hook on Sunday. Br. Josép got back home at 3 a.m. in the morning and still managed to sound beautiful as he sang at communion.

The Rev. John Perris, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of New York presided and preached at the Eucharist that framed the Welcome and Commissioning of Br. Randy in his parish. John is also an Associate of our Order and stayed for the weekend with his wife Cat at the monastery.
The Welcome and Commissioning of Br. Randy as priest-in-charge at Christ Church, Red Hook. From top left, clockwise: The Rev. John Perris, Deacon Linda Duval, Br. Randy and an acolyte processing out of the sanctuary; Br. Randy getting ready to cut the celebratory cake; Br. Randy's capture of the morning sun over the church; Randy focusing on the important responsibility of ministry; the two Senior Wardens and Br. Randy listening to The Rev. John Perris commissioning Randy in this new(ish) ministry; the welcomed priest receiving the applause of the congregation.
We give thanks for all these people who give their ministry to the Church.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Transitions in the gardens and in the community

This past week, Br. Aidan has been leading several Garden Volunteers in preparing the gardens for the fall, winter, and next spring. Lots more bulbs were planted in preparation for spring. Beautiful chrysanthemums were placed at both entrances of the Guest House. And a newly planted border was created in front of the Guest House to add interest and further reduce the spaces that need regular mowing. Thank you to the regular and occasional garden volunteers who work wonders on our grounds.
In the gardens. From top left, clockwise: mums greeting visitors at the Guest House entrance; our last garden blossoms before the visit of hard frost; new shrubbery protected from deer greed by nettling; mums at the Middle House entrance ramp too; the beginnings of fall colors across the river.
This week, Brother Bob and I both visited General Theological Seminary in NYC. I was there Wednesday and Thursday for my monthly round of spiritual direction meetings. Br. Bob attended the Translucent conference on Friday. This interesting and well-attended event dealt with spiritual care for Trans Families. 

Brother Robert James was also in NYC from Thursday to Saturday for the re-entry program for Young Adult Service Corps missionaries coming back from one or two years of service abroad.

On a sad note, we said our goodbyes to Fr. Joseph Wallace-Williams who has decided to pursue his priestly ministry in a parish setting. Joseph is now Associate Rector for Youth, Young Adults & Evangelism at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Saint-Louis, Missouri. We are grateful for experiences and gifts shared in community over the last four years. We wish him abundant blessings on his new ministries.
So long, Joseph! From left, clockwise: goofing off with Br. Bernard; three of a class - Joseph, Aidan and Josép; Joseph with Yanick Savain and Br. John; Bros. Joseph and Randy at the Mass of Collegiality during Holy Week; Bros. Joseph, Bernard and Aidan during a vacation in Maine in summer 2017.
Transitions are both rich and difficult times. We ask for your prayers for Fr. Joseph and for our community.