Sunday, October 13, 2019

Farewell to Ben and contemplative days

This past week, we had three Contemplative Days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On those days, we focus on prayer, study and rest while the Guest House welcomes a reduced number of guests.  These guests particularly love round-the-clock silence and a simplified daily office schedule. The monks always look forward to those days as restorative.

Unfortunately, I was under the weather for the first three days of the week. I stayed in my room for the first two days to not share whatever bug I was struggling with. I felt depleted and spent much time sleeping and (make hay while you can) reading as much as my energy would allow. I have been on the mend for the rest of the week and feel much better now.

As it happens, this was also a week where I had four visits scheduled. I got to spend quality time with a couple of generous donors on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, I met for lunch with friends from Washington, DC, who were coming our way for a weekend class on hors d'oeuvres at the Culinary Institute of America, across the river, in Poughkeepsie. I made a pitch for them to invite me as a guinea pig after their class...

On Friday, I was visited by one of my bosses at JP Morgan back in my banking days. He is now retired and lives in Kent, England. He and his wife were spending time at a friend's home in New Paltz. On Saturday, my friend Anne-Marie came up from Short Hills, NJ for the day. We also go back to my banking days in Brussels (we computed that we were colleagues over 25 years ago).

The week was marked by the end of Ben Hansknecht Monastic Internship with us (the first of its kind). On our Sabbath day, Monday, we had a party in the West Atrium of our enclosure to celebrate Ben's being with us through this past year.

On Friday, at mass, Br. Josép thanked our Ben on behalf of all our community for all his contributions to our community's life in the past eleven months. We presented Ben with a framed calligraphy of Br. Roy. Ben is leaving this Sunday afternoon (smart man; he didn't want to miss out on a last Sunday lunch!). He will be with his family in upstate New York for a few weeks before moving to the Boston area to start a new job there.

Farewell, Ben! And Thanks!
And now, if you know a man or woman under thirty years of age who would be interested to experiment with the monastic life for a year, make sure to direct him or her to Br. Josép, our Director of Internships. And thank you, Br. Josép dreaming this program into reality and for giving it your energy, care, and structure.
Ending a Monastic Internship. From top left, clockwise: Ben vested as gospeler on a recent Sunday; Brothers assembled in the West Atrium of our enclosure for a community party for Ben; (Middle Right) Br. Josép presents Ben with a Br. Roy calligraphy as part of our formal thank you; another party shot; Ben's parting words on the enclosure's community blackboard.

The fall colors are starting to come out. It was a bad week to be sick and a perfect week to enjoy the outdoors. We see little red and russet yet but yellows and oranges are dotting the greenery.
Autumn joys. From top left, clockwise: the monastery in discreet autumn colors as seen from the Vanderbilt Mansion by my DC friends; the monastery church and the enclosure from the bottom of our meadow; a guest crouching by the river to enjoy the sweeping view; one of the many shrines encountered on our lower trails near the river; me with Judy Griffin-Schram from Lexington, VA (who came with a Lexington Grace Church group); me and my friend Anne-Marie catching up with a cup of coffee in the garden.

And here is a bonus for our faithful readers, a couple of peeks at "enclosure living" at the monastery.
We have recently, moved and revamped our in-house gym. Several of us use it regularly for the greater benefit of our health. The pictures below are of the "morning crew": Bros. Aidan and Simon are there most days around 5 a.m. I have been a morning regular for five weeks now. I have committed to exercising six days a week until Thanksgiving. Hopefully, after that, it will be an acquired habit.
Enclosure scenes. From top left, clockwise: Bros. Simon and Aidan doing floor exercises; our clean and bright sewing room: it sees Br. Aidan pretty often; on the sewing table, a quilting project featuring naturally-dyed fabric; Bros. Simon and Aidan doing aerobic exercise (I work out too but it's hard taking selfies while lifting weights...)

May you enjoy the gifts of the season wherever you are. Peace!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Garden blooms and flourishing old(er) monks

Since I became the Prior of our monastery over two years ago, I have introduced a few customs to enhance our community spirit (they also help me grasp where our community is as we evolve). One of those customs is that I invite a Brother to go out to lunch or supper with me around the time of their birthday. This is purely an exercise in holy leisure but it also guarantees that I hear all brothers in a relaxed one-to-one atmosphere and we get to know each other better. The birthday boy gets to choose where we go and the Prior picks up the tab (thank you Discretionary Account!).

Recently, I took Br. Robert Leo out to lunch for his 71st birthday. We went to a very good Italian trattoria in the Roundout, an area of Kingston. This past week, I took Br. Roy out to lunch for his 86th birthday. We went to a beer and cheese taproom in Rhinebeck. It was a slow day and we got to chat with the proprietor about the beers and the cheeses. We had a beer each and a taster of a third one. The cheeses came with jams, olives, almonds, and dried fruits. It all amounted to a satisfying lunch. This taproom is closed on Mondays so few monks have had a chance to try it out. We tend to know local eateries that are open on Mondays.

This Sunday, we celebrate Br. Rafael's 85th birthday. He came to the monastery for mass and dinner. I'll have to see if I can tempt him to a birthday outing later this month.

For mass, we had a good number of regular visitors from the region. There's about a dozen of them who come more often than not. From time to time, I try to exchange a few words with them after mass. Sunday is the only day that we monks don't have to scamper away to daily chapter right after mass.

This Sunday, I got to talk a bit longer with Greg O'Shea of Poughkeepsie and John Chichester of Ulster Park who were enjoying a cup of coffee near the refectory. It is good to have people who regularly come to pray and worship with us.

Visitors and Brothers. From top left, clockwise, John Chichester and Greg O'Shea, regular Sunday worshippers at the monastery; Brothers enjoying coffee and conversation aster Sunday mass; Br. Robert Hagler and Br. Rafael Campbell-Dixon on his birthday; from left, Br. Bob, Br. Roy, Br. Laurence, Br. Rafael, Br. Robert and Br. Bede; visitors John and Greg.

Outside, the trees are starting to lose leaves but the foliage color hasn't really started to turn yet. The garden still has a goodly amount of blooms. I know this won't last much longer so I enjoy them all the more on my walks. This past week, Br. Aidan led a retreat of garden volunteers. They were somewhat hampered by rain. But as usual, they got a good deal of stuff done in our gardens. God bless our volunteers!

This weekend I observed Br. Josép and Br. Rob bringing potted plants indoors in anticipation of colder nights that are sure to come eventually.
Flowers  inside and out. From top left, clockwise: the flowerbed in front of the Guest House rich in mums and asters (from both ends of the bed); garden blooms in front of St Augustine's icon; close-up; Br. Josép planted and cared for roses this season - these are huge and vibrant. They started in Lori's office and migrated to the pantry where Jamy works - sharing is caring.

I hope you also get to enjoy the outdoors a bit more while flowers are still around.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Diocesan luncheon and smelling the roses

This week, Br. Robert James was completing his vacation with friends on Cape Cod.
And Br. Bob took a few days of vacation to visit the area with his friend Barbara Anne (a Presbyterian minister from Minnesota).

On Tuesday, Br. Josép and I picked up Sr. Elizabeth Broyles CMA and headed to New York City to attend our diocesan bishop's annual Luncheon with Leaders of Religious Orders in our diocese.

This year, there were representatives of 10 religious communities. Our diocese is particularly rich in Religious women and men. The luncheon in Donegan Hall was attended by all three of our diocesan bishops and some members of their staff. It is a great opportunity to catch up with one another and remember our contributions to the church's life in the diocese of New York.
The Religious Leaders Luncheon at the Diocesan office. Bishops, diocesan staff and lots of nuns, monks and friars. Bishop Andy Dietsche, seated in the center, is also the Bishop Visitor of the Order of the Holy Cross.

That afternoon, while Josép and Elizabeth drove back to West Park, I made my way from the Cathedral Close to General Theological Seminary. I visited for a couple of days to offer spiritual direction to students, staff, and faculty of the Seminary. This is the third year I do this ministry. I see between 10 and 12 directees all of Wednesday and Thursday morning. I visit the seminary 6 to 7 times over the academic year (September to April).

Since I am in the city for a couple of evenings when I do this, I try to catch up with friends (both personal and friends of the monastery). On Tuesday, I met with a generous couple of Associates, Zachary Roesemann and Clark Anderson, at the Modern, MoMA's restaurant (their treat) which continues to be open while the museum is renovated. Zachary, himself an icon painter in egg tempera, told me about an exhibition of an artist he liked a lot in a Chelsea gallery (near the seminary).

The next day, one of my directees canceled an appointment and I had time to head to the nearby gallery. As luck would have it, I ran into Zachary who had decided to visit some of his favorite etchings and egg tempera paintings again. The George Tooker exhibit at the DC Moore gallery runs until Oct 5.

That evening, I got together with my good friend Lewis who lives near Hudson Yards (just North of the Chelsea neighborhood where the seminary is). It happened to be his 71st birthday so I treated him to supper at a nearby restaurant and to cupcakes at Billy's Bakery on 9th avenue. No, you can't fit 71 candles on a cupcake. But we had a good time anyway.

This weekend, we are celebrating St Michael and All Angels. This Sunday morning we had great organ music, compliments of Br. Max, and great congregational singing thanks to a couple of parish groups who were staying at the Guest House.
From top left, clockwise: a picture captured by Janet Vincent while I was thurifer at the renewal of marriage vows of Yanick and Matthew (I love the atmosphere of this picture); a George Tooker etching; a George Tooker egg tempera painting; Br. Josép checking in on "his" roses before the Michaelmas Eucharist.

Happy Michaelmas!