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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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
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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).


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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 Josép 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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer treats

Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons in the Hudson Valley. But summer has its pluses too. At night, I love to look to the meadow and see the fireflies putting on their modest but fascinating pyrotechnic show. Barring close range lighting strikes, of which we got a damaging one a few weeks ago, I also love summer thunder storms (albeit from the protection of a building).

This week, friends invited me to an al fresco theater show at the Boscobel estate, in Cold Spring. A large tent, looking out on the Hudson River and West Point is the setting of plays throughout the summer. We got there early to picnic in the park and then saw a new adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." It was a lot of fun. Live theater is such a special treat. And I've decided I'll need to read the novel soon to re-visit the joys of the play and discover the writing of Jane Austen.

Picnic at Boscobel with Gwyneth, Tim and Alison - the theater festival's tent is seen in the background
Throughout the week, the house has resonated with the sounds of flutes as pupils of Gary Schocker rehearsed and performed lots of lovely music. Sunday morning, they gave a concert in the church. Other guests (having been warned a the time of making their reservations for this week) seemed to enjoy it too.

This Saturday, we received a new Associate; James Ryan of Long Island, NY. He came up for the mass and stayed for the day. The weather was perfect for a visit.
Our newest Associate, James Ryan
This week-end, we had the visit of two Vedanta devotees. Swami Chidbrahmananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, was interested in revisiting Christianity from his Vedanta experience. He was accompanied by his friend Santa Das who is leading youth camps with him this summer. They were on a break between two groups of young people visiting their camp.
Swami Chidbrahmananda, Br. Bernard, Santa Das
A few monks had an opportunity to have long conversations with each of them. I got to explore our respective concepts of God and to reflect on the Christian concepts of hell and sin. In shorthand, I believe sin is to experience my deliberate separation from God and that hell is becoming aware and experiencing where my life fell short of divine love when I will be in the evident presence of Absolute Love (God).

This Sunday, our Sisters from the Companions of Mary the Apostle visited us. Sr. Shane was with us for Mass and throughout the morning. Sr. Elizabeth joined us for dinner and an after-dinner game of Quirkle.
 
Bros. John and Enrique being inducted in the joys of Quirkle by our CMA Sisters
This past Monday, Br. Scott left for the South African part of his sabbatical. He will be living with our community in Grahamstown, enjoying their winter (Br. Scott does prefer cool weather). He will be back with us in September for a few weeks before heading back out for the British parts of his sabbatical.


This Saturday, Br. Robert Leo left on the first part of his sabbatical too. He will be visiting friends and family in New England and Pennsylvania and will be back for a few days in September before leaving for the English part of his sabbatical.

We will miss them both but are really happy for the opportunities these sabbaticals offer each of them.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hanging out with Associates


Thirteen Associates and Associate candidates joined us for a time of retreat this week. They lucked out on the weather; it was sunny with temperatures in the high seventies, low eighties throughout the week.

Allan Spencer, new AHC of St Catherines, Ontario
Brother Josép, the Interim Director of Associates, had prepared a program centered on the theme "Back to Basics." I was asked to present a session to the Associates and talked with them about Christian hospitality (a theme on which I had preached last Sunday).

Hospitality is one of the basic values of Benedictine spirituality on which we ask our Associates to center their rule of life: Community, Hospitality, Humility, Balance and Mindfulness.

Dave Vaughn, new AHC of Onley, VA
The Associates also got to spend time with Bros. Josép, Roy, Robert James, Bede and Robert Leo (the James and Leo middle names is how we keep our new and past Superiors distinct).

 
Br. Josép is doing a great job working with Associates and Probationer Associates (people who are "trying it on for size" and discerning how to write a rule of life). As a matter of fact, three Probationers were received as Associates during this week.

Liz Haak, new AHC, of New York City
If you are interested in spiritual growth and in a more ordered spiritual life, then you may wish to consider becoming an Associate.

For more information or a copy of the Associates’ Rule, please contact Br. Josép Martinez-Cubero, Interim Director of Associates, Holy Cross Monastery, PO Box 99, West Park NY 12493.

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Br. Lary Pearce
This past Monday, Br. Lary Pearce moved to the same nursing home as Br. Rafael Campbell-Dixon in the village of Highland. He will receive the much needed care that is appropriate for his health situation. The Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center (HVREC quite a mouthful) is situated 7.5 miles South of the monastery. We can easily visit and also take our brothers out on occasions. 


Recently, Br. Rafael came to the monastery for the visit of the Presiding Bishop. 

Br. Rafael pays attention to the Presiding Bishop's preaching

This morning Br. Roy and I brought communion to our two HVREC residents. They were both in good spirits and happy to see us.  

Some of our Associates took some free time in their retreat schedule to go visit Rafael and Lary this week. We'll be happy to give you driving directions if you wish to do that next time you visit the monastery. 

Please pray for Br. Lary as he negotiates this important transition in his living arrangements.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Guests famous and not-yet-so-famous

This week, we were delighted to welcome The Most Rev. Michael Curry to the monastery. He is the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. He was coming to be with nine volunteers of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) and the Episcopal Volunteers In Mission (EVIM) who were completing two weeks of orientation (most of it at the monastery) with Church staff.


Bishop Michael took the opportunity to preach at the festive Eucharist for the feast of St Peter and St Paul. He preached on how the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.


After the mass, the monastic community had an opportunity to sit down with the Bishop for coffee and conversation. I was a beautiful opportunity to get to know our Presiding Bishop better.
Coffee and Hudson Valley apple cider donuts to fuel conversation
Br. Laurence offers an origami mobile of his making - all with biblical symbols
The community's goodie bag for the PB




Framing the visit of our Presiding Bishop were the receptions of two new Associates; at mass, Br. Josép, our interim Associates Director welcomed Jarrett Kerbel on Wednesday and Meg Galbreath on Friday. It's always a privilege to bring new members into the Holy Cross family of Associates. If you want to become an Associate, get in touch with Br. Josép (associates@hcmnet.org).

Our two newest Associates. Will you say a prayer for them?
On Friday, at Vespers, the community prayed over the YASC and EVIM missionaries who were returning home the next day. They enjoyed their orientation and appreciated their time at the monastery. Some came to call it "home." We certainly look forward to their returning after their year of mission abroad to debrief their experience. Thank you to all the Church Center staff and their consultants who prepare these missionaries so well.


Episcopal volunteers and monks
We keep these missionaries in prayer throughout the year. May they be received as a blessing and receive many blessings in return.


Missionaries and their Presiding Bishop