Monday, August 21, 2017

The homing pigeons return

For the last three weeks, the monks have taken it easy. About half of them have gone away on vacation or family visits. Our Guesthouse reopens this Wednesday. We are all returning to our usual schedule of offices, meals, work, prayer and study periods.

Br. Randy eclipse-catching while sharing an al fresco lunch with Br. Bernard in Poughkeepsie.
We are grateful for this time of respite. Those who went away benefited from the hospitality of friends who offered their house or apartment for "monastic house-sitting." Those who stayed benefited from our beautiful surroundings all to themselves. 

Brother Josep house-sat near the monastery, in Cottekill, NY. Brother Robert James went on vacation on Cape Cod with a couple of friends. Brothers Aidan, John, Joseph and Bernard went on vacation on Baily Island, Maine, at the invitation of Associates of the Monastery who own a vacation home there. Brother Roy visited with friends and family in NYC and Connecticut. Brother Bernard double-dipped and also got to apartment-sit in Manhattan. Our postulant Peter Pearson got to go teach icon-painting in Indiana and Washington.

Br. Josep pet and house-sitting in Cottekill, NY
Bros. Aidan, John, Joseph and Bernard (picture-taking) on a boat trip on Casco Bay, Maine.
Br. Bernard getting to cook for his Brothers.
Br. Joseph icon-painting to the sound of the ocean.
In the last week, all those who left have come home like homing pigeons returning to their pigeon loft. We have enjoyed the quieter and more leisurely time of these past three weeks. Now we are ready to reenter our routine with renewed vigor and vitality.

*****

While our Guesthouse was closed, we took the opportunity to have our driveways and parking lots repaved. Our main driveway, in particular, was in need of improvement. It sees a lot of traffic, including large trucks that deliver goods for running the Guesthouse ministry.

Besides the improved driveway, our guests will find that our main parking lot is now paved in asphalt and that two designated handicapped parking spots have the required spacing between them.

The paving of the main parking lot should help make it easier to clear snow in the winter. 

Come and visit us soon!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Last days of July

A week ago, Br. Bob Pierson arrived at the monastery after a week-long cross-country trip. He has moved in to become once again part our community. He will take his new responsibilities as Novice Master and Sub Prior this month of August. Br. Bob had been a member of our Mount Calvary monastic community in Santa Barbara, California, for the last three years.

In the time he was away, Br. Bob was also received as a priest in The Episcopal Church. I was happy to worship under his presiding this week. There are eight priests in residence at the monastery, five of whom regularly preside at our Eucharists. While the Order of the Holy Cross was founded initially as an order of priests, we now have both lay and ordained brothers. We give thanks for the many gifts our ordained Brothers bring to our community and the church.

*****


This past week, our guests have been particularly lucky. The weather has been moderate and nice and the Guesthouse has been sparsely populated. As it is, we are closing the Guesthouse for three weeks as we do each summer. Our last guests have gone home Sunday. The Brothers will have a simplified liturgical schedule and long intervals of free time to enjoy summer pursuits. Many Brothers will take this opportunity to go on vacation.
The Rev. Stacey Grossman and Br. Adrian enjoying the Great Cloister
This is also a time we take advantage of to do maintenance work and upgrades to our facilities which would otherwise interfere with our hospitality ministry. This week, a local paving company has started working on our sacristy parking lot (next to the Middle House). Over the course of August, they will repave all of our driveways and also pave our Guest parking lot for the first time. Our driveways were badly degraded in some areas.

*****

On Saturday, Brothers Bob, Aidan and I drove to Hudson to go visit Christine Simoneau Hales' pop-up gallery. Christine was showing some of her recent work in both contemporary painting and icon painting as well as some photographs of her husband, Mick Hale. We enjoyed the works of art and eventually sat down for refreshments and conversation. We rarely get to hang out with people for some length of time and lost track of the time. We made it back home a few minutes late for Vespers. As is the custom in those cases, we sat back in the Visitors Court of the church. And, we'll have to confess our misbehavior in Chapter of Faults this coming Tuesday.

"Chapter of Faults" is a part of our daily chapter meeting where anyone who has committed a fault that negatively impacted the community life stands up and confesses the fault. The whole community then stands up with him and recites a prayer of forgiveness. It is a good way of maintaining accountability to our community and of experiencing the forgiving love of God.


*****

Having leisure time together is an important part of building community. Sunday afternoon and evening are often times to hang out together. We play games, have supper in the enclosure, watch a Netflix movie together.

This week, we inaugurated our own game of Quirkle with new brothers joining in. Up to now, we had been playing Quirkle compliments of the Companions of Mary the Apostle who brought their own game when they visited us.



From left, Enrique, Bros. Bob, Aidan, John, Randy and Josep starting our summer closure with a game of Quirkle
Last night, we watched "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" a mid-fifties French movie of Jacques Tati, a situational comic who makes me think of a postwar Mr. Bean. Each brother gets to suggest movies to put on our queue, but this one was a reminder of my own childhood.

*****

This Monday morning, Brother Robert James and I went out for our customary walk. Usually, we walk over the Walkway Over the Hudson. But today, we discovered Fanny Reese Park, an underused little gem in the town of Highland. Our Monday walks are an opportunity to exercise and to catch-up on our respective weeks at the monastery. It is good for the body and good for the soul.

Fanny Reese Park in Highland overlooks the Mid-Hudson Bridge to Poughkeepsie
***** 
This week, we also started a Monastery Instagram account. You can follow it at www.instagram.com/holycross.westpark. If you post monastery pictures on Instagram, please use the hashtag #holycrosswestpark.

This coming Thursday, I leave on vacation with Bros. Aidan, John, and Joseph. We are going to Bailey Island in M
aine. Later on, I will also be going to Manhattan for a few days of visiting.




Sunday, July 23, 2017

Connections

From Tuesday to Friday morning, we shared our contemplative days with about seventeen guests this week. 

Contemplative Days are an opportunity for our community to slow down, hunker down in prayer, study and meditation. We observe greater silence around the clock, simplify our liturgical schedule and try to stay away from work tasks that can wait. During those weeks, the silence is deeper and some guests particularly like the quieter, calmer atmosphere even if that means less interaction with the monastic community.


During Contemplative Days, we connect with God in God's primary language; silence ("Silence is God's first language," wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross).


Articulated language is a wonderful thing, but at times it can get in the way of discerning God's voice in our life. A daily practice of meditation or silent prayer is a great way to keep that discernment going but, at times, it is good to use that in larger doses.


We observe Contemplative Days four to five times in the year (check out our Retreat Programs page to find out when the next ones are).


*****


After the silence of contemplation, I experienced a burst of social activities. Both things are a good mode of experiencing the presence of God. One evening, I got together with a priest friend who lives in Albany. It's become a summer tradition for us. We both drive to the village of Catskill and have a nice dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant bordering a large pond. We catch up on our lives and respective ministries.


Then on Saturday, I represented my community at important events of two religious communities that are dear to us and very different from one another.


Together with Br. Joseph, I attended lunch and two initial professions of the religious vow at the annual congregation of the Brotherhood of St Gregory.  They are a Christian Community in The Episcopal Church. Their members are dispersed throughout the church and support themselves through secular or church jobs.


They were meeting nearby at the Mount Alvernia Retreat Center in Wappinger Falls for their annual congregation. Forty four of their forty five members were assembled in the presence of their Bishop Visitor. 


It is always touching to see people committing their lives to God in their initial profession of the vows. Blessings on Brothers Max and Scott who took the plunge that day.  It is also an opportunity to reflect back on our own journey of commitment to our Beloved. It is very similar to what married people may experience when they attend someone else's wedding.


In the afternoon, I dropped off Br. Joseph at the monastery and picked up Br. John to make our way to Accord to celebrate their patronal feast with the Companions of Mary the Apostle. They are a small ecumenical community, open to people of all genders. They share a God that is beyond categories, beyond masculine and feminine, and that the power of the Divine is accessible to all.


It was a lovely gathering of a dozen souls for a "coffee table Eucharist" and a potluck dinner. In a few years of religious life as the Companions, Sisters Shane and Elizabeth have garnered a beautiful community of kindred souls.

All counted, I attended three Eucharists of the feast of Mary Magdalene that day. I joked that I glowed in the dark that evening...


*****


This Sunday morning, Brothers Robert James and Jos├ęp accompanied me to visit our Brothers Lary and Rafael at their nursing home. Both were in good spirits but had modern issues of connectivity, what with their mobile phones or computers. We dealt with each of those and brought them communion.


I thank God for all our connections, at home, around home and throughout the places where our Associates and our guests live.