Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent and Individually Directed Retreats

We are delighting in the quiet expectation of Advent. This past week we offered our Advent Individually Directed Retreats. The Guest House was in greater silence around the clock from Tuesday Compline to Fiday dinner. Retreatants met every day with their assigned director to explore what God and they are up to. We welcomed three outside directors and three of our brothers provided direction too. Each of them saw two or three directees throughout the week.
The Spiritual Directors. From top left, clockwise, Br. Joseph, Linda Barnes, Br. Randy,
Br. Bob, Sr. Susan John Mangan, Hildegard Pleva
During their retreat, the directees are encouraged to be mindful of how they use their time and not to get lost in escapist distraction. One of the directees spent some time with the birds on our property.
Ornithological Contemplation. Alex Gilchrist of Philadelphia, PA,
spent quality time with birds. From top, clockwise, a pileated woodpecker,
wild turkeys and the woodpecker's back.
We also received our first snow of the season this past week. The sun soon came out to give it brilliance. On this second Sunday of Advent, Brother Scott and I both preached on separate continents. Br. Scott was visiting the Church of Christ the King in Frankfurt, Germany where our Associate, Father John Perris is the Rector. Both Br. Scott's sermon and mine can be found as usual on our Sermons Blog. You can also listen to the audio file of my sermon (and hear me lead the congregation in a Godspell rendition of Prepare Ye the Ways of the Lord). Whenever we make a recording of our sermons they are featured with the text on our Sermons Blog.
From top, clockwise, The Rev. John Perris and Br. Scott under the Advent weath;
our own Advent wreath and first snow in West Park.
As most weeks, one of us brought communion to our Brothers at the Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care. This nursing home is located in the little village of Highland, just 7 miles south of the monastery which enables us to visit often. On this visit, Br. Joseph found Br. Rafael engaged in a session of bingo. The story doesn't tell if he was winning.
Br. Rafael playing bingo.
We had the pleasure of hosting return visitors, Associates and first-time visitors this week.
From top clockwise, Associate Kathleen Breiten from Manhattan, NY and
neighbor and frequent visitor Cathy Kelly; Brosl Bob and Aidan in conversation with
Yanick Savain our Bookstore maven while Br. Roy serves a customer;
Br. Joseph with Sam Young from Manhattan, NY. Sam is an intern with
the NY Service and Justice Collaborative and works at St James, Madison Avenue
And thank you for all the good wishes and prayers that came my way following my TIA. I am taking good care of myself, going to all the follow-up medical appointments and taking medications that curtail my risks of future strokes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Two Clericuses and One Transient Ischemic Attack

This past Tuesday, we welcomed the clericus of Ulster County and the clericus of Dutchess County for a day of sharing and learning about the diocesan's Global Women's Fund. A clericus is a monthly gathering of the clergy of a county, for the purpose of mutual encouragement, communication, and exploring common ministry. There were about 20 ministers in attendance. The Ulster County clericus has its regular meetings at the monastery.

One of the Dutchess clergy in attendance was Father Allan Ford who volunteers as Spiritual Director to our three brothers in Assisted Living. He meets with them monthly as a group to address issues relevant to their spiritual lives. The Rev. Allan Ford is priest-in-charge of St. Margaret's Church, Staatsburg, across the river from us.
From top, clockwise, a portraite of our Fr. Founder, James Otis Sargent Huntington, with Fr. Allan Ford;
clergy of the Ulster and Dutchess clericuses in the refectory and in St Gregrory's classroom.
Every Wednesday morning, Br. John supervises the work of our two library volunteers, Ms. Liza Doty of Beacon and Ms. Susan Barbarisi of New Hamburg. They are helping us make great progress in the cataloging of new books and the cleaning up of our old card catalog. As you can see from the picture below, they also have great fun doing it. Liza and Susan often join us for the office of diurnum and stay for dinner with the community and our guests.
From left to right, Liza Doty, Susan Barbarisi and Br. John enjoying a "moment of levity"
while working in the monastic library
As usual, we enjoyed the visit of several Associates this week. Many of them came ahead of time to attend the Advent Retreat led by The Rev. Martin Smith.
Asssociates and an Associate Probationer. From top, clockwise,
Ellie Sulston of Bloomfield, CT, Br. Peter, our Novice, Laurel Stewart of Longmeadow, MA,
Ann Gannon of Evanston, IL; Probationer, Marty Burt of South Burlington, VT;
Ann Gannon, Gloria Taylor of Wappinger Falls, NY and Elizabeth Gillett of Hamilton, NY
This Sunday, we had the visit of Anne and Larnie Hiller for mass. They are amongst our regular Sunday visitors and come to us from nearby New Paltz. On Sunday, Br. Joseph caught several guests in the company of Br. Bear. Br. Bear usually keeps company to our Guest House Manager, Lori Callaway, in the Guest House Office. He's the sociable type and meets lots of people on his errands.
From top, clockwise, Anne and Larnie Hiller, The Rev. Martin Smith and Br. Bear;
our chef Bob Morano and Br. Bear; Br. Joseph with Marty Burt;
Michael Madsen from Bel Air, MD; Marth Montgomery of Baltimore, MD.
A week ago, on Sunday, I suffered a bout of aphasia just before and during Vespers. Br. Adrian, who is a retired hospice nurse, had the good sense to insist that I go to the emergency room. Br. Robert James who is my primary health care proxy took me to Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie. I was eventually admitted for observation and further tests. It turned out I suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack. A TIA is like a mini-stroke without lasting damage. It is treated very seriously because it can be a warning sign of possible future full-blown strokes. I was discharged from hospital on Monday evening. Since then, I have diligently organized the follow-up medical appointments and taken new medications.

The aphasia took me by surprise and I was frustrated by it rather than scared for I did not fully realize what was happening to me. I worried my brothers since this was happening very publicly in choir during one of our offices. The aphasia went away after about 45 minutes. In the emergency room, I realized I was very calm because I was ready to die if my time had come. Later on, as the implications of a mini-stroke came to rest with me, I realized I was not ready nor calm about the possibility of lasting debilitating consequences of surviving a full-blown stroke. My acceptance of life on life's own terms still has to progress.

As a result of the TIA and the hospitalization, I have taken every moment of this past week as a grace and I have tasted every moment with renewed joy. It is good to be alive and enjoying good health. The TIA went entirely away very soon. So, post fact it has a quality of unreality. I feel fine now; did I really undergo this serious incident? But reports from witnesses remind me that it was really bad, if only for a few moments. Life is a beautiful, rich, resilient, yet fragile gift. I'll use it for love while I have it.

Thanks be to God for my creaturely being. Your will be done, Beloved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The feasts of Thanksgiving and Father Huntington

It's official, "The Holidays" have begun! We had a lot of guests throughout the week. Folks arrived early to enjoy a restful Thanksgiving and folks lingered to enjoy the beauty of the Mid-Hudson Valley. I've lived here over thirteen years and the beauty of our environment never gets old! In the morning, I get up and check through my window if the Hudson is still there. She's a faithful river and I love the ever-changing sunrise over the river. No wonder so many guests come back for more.
The sunrise over the Hudson from my cell.
The lower picture shows a parked tanker ship and is filtered.
Our chefs, Robert Morano and Lisa Chapin-Brett did us proud with luscious, yet conscientious and healthy Thanksgiving feast. I overheard a guest saying to another one over the weekend "I don't know if you can overdose on gourmet healthy meals!" Well the answer to that is "Yes. You can!" It's a joy to have such good food at home but we the monks have to watch it.
Nobody goes hungry here at Thanksgiving.
After the Thanksgiving feast, many folks went walking in the sun. Some of us headed out to Fanny Reese Park which overlooks the mid-Hudson bridge (which so many of our guests cross to get to us) and the city of Poughkeepsie. Frances Stevens Reese, was a founder and chairwoman emeritus of the environmental group Scenic Hudson and a veteran of the fight to keep a power plant from being built on Storm King Mountain. Thank you, Fanny Reese and thank you, Scenic Hudson for the many beautiful parks that stud our region.
A postprandial walk in Fanny Reese Park in Highland.
From top, clocwise, Br. John, Br. Aidan, Ms. Lindsey Briggs, Br. Bob;
wo Union Seminary friends; two brothers enjoying the walk.
We always enjoy seeing you again at the monastery or meeting you for the first time. This week there were groups of friends staying with us for a few days and folks looking for a quieter Thanksgiving or post-Thanksgiving time with us.
New and repeat visitors. From top, clockwise, me, The Reverend Cari Pattison from the Reformed Church of Bronxville, Tate Bushell from Westchester county, NY. Cari brought us many friends from her reading club and their children, this week; Erin Moore from Marcellus, NY, me, Joseph Cundiff from NYC, and Br. Bob.
On Friday night, we started chanting the office for the feast of James Otis Sargent Huntington, our Founder. We were happy to have many of our Associates with us to celebrate this feast of particular importance to the "Holy Cross family."
Asoociates and an Associate probationer. From top, clockwise, Chris Amy, AHC, from Toronto, Ontario,
Asa Coulson, AHC, from Lancaster, PA, Elizabeth Boe, AHC/Prob, from NYC;
Asa taking Br. Bear on photo shoot around the monastery.
 On Sunday, our neighbor, Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA, came down the hill for a post-dinner game of Quirkle. We are delighted that the Comapnions of Mary the Apostle are in the neighborhood again.
The clear winner of this Sunday's game of Quirkle, Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA, our next door neighbor;
the green double Quirkle that propelled her in the lead.
 Now, it's more fun to report on celebrations and fun things. But just in case you wondered, the monks and the staff are often hard at work to make it all possible. Below are a couple of proofs that "labora" features with "ora" in our Benedictine lives ;-)
It's not all games and fun. From top, clockwise, Brs. Jos├ęp and Joseph coordinating
the Guest House and the Monastery's calendars; me scything the beeyard in preparation for winter