Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Return from GC79, missions near and far, summer flutists

Most Mondays, as the weather permits, Brother Robert James and I walk 6 miles at a brisk pace between the Rotary Club Caboose in the village of Highland and the far end of the Walkway Over the Hudson Bridge and back. It is an excellent aerobic exercise and it enables us to catch up on our respective weeks. Since we do this regularly at the same time, we get to greet fellow walkers whom we recognize. The Walkway is lightly frequented at that time. It has become so popular that on weekends, it can feel a bit crowded. This weekly walk is a great way to start our Sabbath day.
From top left, clockwise: Brothers Bernard and Robert James feeling accomplished after a 6-mile walk: Br. Robert James keeps a beautiful flower arrangement always fresh at the entrance of our church, as if to say "Welcome, we are glad to you are coming to pray with us," This arrangement features gladioli and bee balm from our gardens.
Little by little our Brothers are returning from The Episcopal Church's 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Brother Randy attended in his capacity as one of three chaplains to the House of Bishops. Brother Joseph represented our Order at the CAROA booth (Conference for Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas). And Brother Aidan went to GC79 for 48 hours to preach on St Benedict's Day. We are grateful for their mission work at the Convention.
Our Brothers at the 79th General Convention. From top left, clockwise: Brother Aidan preached at GC79 on St Benedict's Day; Brother Randy with his fellow chaplains to the House of Bishop, The Rev. Miguelina Espinal Howell and Dent Davidson; Brothers Aidan and Randy sampling Tex Mex with friends; Brother Joseph caught in a contemplative moment by Asher Imtiaz for The Living Church; Br. Aidan delivering his sermon.
This weekend, Brother Josép is preaching about St Benedict at St John's in the Village in NYC. On Sunday, I tagged along with Brother Bob in his ministry to two local parishes. We started at Christ Church, in the village of Marlboro, for the 9 a.m. service.
Brother Bob celebrating the Eucharist at Christ Church, Marlboro. From top left, clockwise, with Martha McMullen, most senior member of the church and fellow parishioners; at the altar with Deacon Teri Jones and Senior Warden Bill Ogden; St George stained glass window; gathering before the service; Br. Bob preaching.
And then we moved on to Ascension Church, in West Park, just North of our monastery on Route 9W for an 11 a.m. service.

Br. Bob celebrating the Eucharist at Ascension Church, West Park. From left, clockwise: Br. Bob preaching; the altar party processing in; "mystery monk" vesting in the sacristy.
Br. Bob is now Priest-in-charge in both parishes since May. He has gotten to know the parishioners since January when he started doing supply service in the two churches. He is fitting right in and is already well liked by parishioners.

Last Saturday, I found myself having a whole day free of engagements other than taking Br. Josép to the train station. A whole day free of obligations has become a rare occurrence for me since I became our Prior. At first, I had to contend with a feeling of inadequacy; shouldn't I find something "productive" to keep myself busy with? That would have been an easy alternative but deep down, I knew I needed to enjoy this easy day. On my way back from dropping off Brother Josép at the Poughkeepsie train station, I turned into the village of Highland and went for my first visit to a local micro-brewery. I like to say that built my bespoke session of "Theology on Tap." The micro-brewery and its bar are named Hudson Ale Works. If you enjoy craft beers, you might also check out "Underground Coffee and Ale" on Highland's main street. They have a great selection of micro-brews and serve good coffee and food too.

I had taken a good book on the life of Jesus by Christin Pedotti (unfortunately, it isn't translated in English yet). It mixes scholarly overviews on what we now know or can infer about the life of Jesus and narrative passages told in the voice of disciples or attendees to events of Jesus' life.

As I sat down at the bar, I noticed that one of the housemade beers was named MonkHe See, MonkHe Do (a Belgian style dubbel). It seemed that I had to try that. But the choices were so appealing that included that one in a flight of four beers. All were well made and enjoyable and MonkHe See, MonkHe Do turned out to be my favorite.

I mentioned to the bar person that I was a monk at Holy Cross Monastery up the road and a fellow customer asked me a few questions but was clearly wary that I might try to proselytize him. So I soon returned to my book. I sipped on my beers for a couple of hours and went home feeling very leisurely indeed.
Solo Theology on Tap in Highland. From top left, clockwise: one of my current spiritual readings; the micro-brewery from the street (it was too muggy to sit on their terrace); the beer menu; the front of the house (you can catch glimpses of the brewery through glassed doors inside).
As always, we had a lot of varied guests, this week. There was a Flute Masters Class, taught by our friend and renowned flutist Gary Schoker. When I took his picture holding the "invisible flute," he reckoned this was his 43rd Master Class at the Monastery! We always enjoy the musical phrases that escape from every meeting room during his class and we are grateful for the frequent concert that accompanies the class. As is often the case, we had seminarians and writers in attendance. Do you have a writing project in sufferance that would benefit from a Monastery retreat?

Christ amongst us as Guests. From top left, clockwise, newly married Le Ann and Christopher Li, from NYC, with Bernard; Le Ann and Christopher who is starting studies at General Theological Seminary; Gary Schocker demonstrating the "Invisible Flute"; Carl Adair, from Brooklyn, NY, took time away from routine to focus on writing his PhD thesis before starting seminary at Union Theologicl Seminary; first-time visitor Valérie Wattenberg, from NYC, with local and frequent visitor, John Chichester.
Keeep cool! Blessings!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Heatwave and returning Associates

We had six days of above 90 degrees Fahrenheit weather. The heat wave only broke a couple of days after our national holiday. On Independence Day, Br. Josép courageously did a cookout for the community and the few guests who were with us. He set the grill in the shade of the refectory. And when the food was ready, we had our picknick style lunch in the air-conditioned comfort of our refectory.
Origami lesson. From top, clockwise, Br. Laurence teaching Max Esmus how to make origami butterflies; the resulting garland on display; Br. Laurence looking pleased with his origami disciple.
On Friday came the lovely surprise of the Belgian soccer team at the World Cup upsetting expectation and beating Brazil (a previous world champion). Go, Red Devils (yep! that's the name of the national team...). I found out with a text from our Associate Andrea Nolan who had relocated for the afternoon at Rough Draft (a bookstore cum beer bar in Kingston) that was showing the World Cup match on a big screen. If I was free, I'd relocate there myself for the semi-final match between France and Belgium!
Community selfies. From top, clockwise, me and Br. Bede under a shower of sunrays;
Yanick Savain (middle) photo-bombing me and her hubbie; the Rev. Matthew Wright and me; Br. Aidan and me.
This weekend, several of our Associates were here on retreat. They met with five different brothers getting updates on various areas of the monastery. We are blessed with the support and encouragement we get from our Associates. They are in our prayers every day.
A few Associate portraits. From top left, clockwise, Julie Zito, of  Rhinebeck, NY; Daniel Crocker, of Kirkwood, NY; Andrea Nolan, of Norfolk, VA; Julett Butler, of Poughkeepsie; Suellen Nelson, of Beacon, NY who also works as Volunteer in the Guest House welcoming guests upon arrival on many Friday afternoons.
Assoicates Retreat. From top, clockwise: Br. Bernard addressing the Associates for a "State of the Monastery" hour; several Associates enjoying the quiet of the Little Cloister after Vespers; Associates and monks mingling for a pre-Vespers social on Saturday.
From left, clockwise: a flower arrangement by Br. Robert James to welcome visitors to the church: why should Br. Laurence be the only one to enjoy his scooter?; Br. Robert Leo backs the scooter out of the way for the social.
It is a joy and honor to worship with our Associates. They are a joyful and impressive collection of great souls.
Preparing for Vespers. From top left, clockwise: Br. Josép rehearses readings; Brothers arrive and take their seat in choir; checking that the breviaries are ready for the relevant office; Br. Laurence arrives in choir on his scooter; Brothers Aidan, Robert Leo and Bob are ready to glorify Goo in the Divine Office.
When we recite the Divine Office for the whole Church in union with Christ Jesus, we labor for the salvation and sanctification of souls in a measure we cannot comprehend.
Blessed Columbaq Marmion, Irish Abbot of Belgian Benedictine monastery of Maredsous in the early 20th century.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fifth week after Pentecost

This was a slow week for me. I got suddenly ill on Wednesday morning with flu-like symptoms. I went back to my cell and rested for the day. Then my impatience with being sick kicked in on Thursday, I considered going back to the office but realized I wasn't ready when just taking my shower and dressing up exhausted me. By Thursday evening, I snuck into First Vespers of St Peter and St Paul but then had to retreat again. I finally got back to my usual monastic routine on Friday.

While I was laying low, I managed to get my sermon for this Sunday re-written from one I gave six years ago on the same texts. Whenever an old sermon still resonates with me, I consider recycling it. This one got lots of positive feedback. On the other hand, some old sermons just sound like who I was then and no longer with where God and I are in our relationship now.

Do you know that we now feature audio recordings of our sermons, as well as the text, on our Sermons Blog? Check today's sermon out. The audio file is under the link just above the preacher's picture.

During my downtime, I also hunkered down and finished a long-neglected novel. I finally read Toni Morrison's "Beloved" to the end. I read somewhere that it is a book you get more of the second time you read it and I may well give it that second reading in a few years. I had trouble with the time-jumping narrative and the changes of character perspectives. I often didn't get it until late in a section that we had shifted. But it is a mind-expanding novel for it got me to slip under the skin of slaves and freed slaves. That is a perspective that our country needs to take more often when reflecting on our history.

To finish the book, I helped myself reading the book by using a technique Br. Joseph introduced me to: I listened to the Audible version of the book read by Toni Morrisson herself, while I read the text on my Kindle. It keeps me going further than reading would on its own. Also, I loved Ms. Morrisson's voice and diction.

With all that, I nearly met my Goodreads yearly challenge. Goodreads is a social network for readers. I had set myself the challenge to read 20 books this year. With "Beloved" I got to 19 books read. Several of those were "abandoned" books that I picked up and finished. Now I have updated my yearly challenge to 30 books by year's end. I like to have reachable challenges and then set the bar higher if necessary (as an ex-coach, I like to build upon successes rather than focus on shortcomings).

Because of my ill-health spell, I missed out on the reception of Elizabeth Boe as our latest Associate. Elizabeth works for The Episcopal Church on the YASC and EVIM programs that send missionaries abroad. She stayed behind a few days after the missionaries left last Sunday.
Elizabeth holding her newly-received Associate cross in her hand.
If you're considering becoming an Associate (it's easier than most think), get in touch with Br. Josép Martinez-Cubero.

One of the YASC'ers (the younger missionaries), Mitchell, wrote about his monastery experience on his blog.

This past Monday, Mr. Max Esmus arrived for his two-week aspirant visit. Aspirants have been in conversation with our Vocations Minister for a while and have decided with him that it is time to try on the monastery life for size. An aspirant gets a cell in the enclosure and lives with the community as one of its members. It helps the aspirant to get real about the attraction of the monastic life and it helps the community discern if there might be a "good fit." Max is Music Director at Grace Church In Haddonfield and Artistic Director at Haddonfield Center and School for the Performing Arts. We promise we like him for more than his great skill at playing the organ ;-). As a matter of fact, part of the aspirant visit experience for him is to live away from keyboards for a while.

Top: a picture from September 2016 when Br. Josép (left) and Max Esmus (right) gave a recital at St Alban's Church in Washington DC as a Capital Campaign benefi; Bottom: the sister picture taken this Sunday.
Please hold Max and all those who are discerning a call to monastic life in your prayers. If you're one of those men, get in touch with Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams, our Vocations Minister.

I just picked up our Superior, Br. Robert James Magliula from the New Paltz Park'n Ride. He was on his way back from a weekend visit to our Priory in Toronto to receive the initial profession of the Benedictine vow of our Br. Charles McMulkin.
Br. Charles McMulkin (second from right) making his iinitial profession of the Benedictine Vow. His new choir cowl (a large tunic with floppy sleeves used only in choir) sits neatly folded on the altar.
And other Brothers are on their way out. Br. Randy Greve will be at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, these coming two weeks. He will serve as one of the chaplains to the House of Bishops. Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams will be there too helping out with the CAROA stand among many other ministerial opportunities. CAROA stands for the Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas. Br. Joseph will be joined by Br. David Hoopes from Holy Cross Priory in Toronto.

Please pray for all delegates to General Convention.

Keep cool. Blessings!