On Tuesday, July 28, we kicked off the centennial year of our St Augustine church by blessing the cornerstone which was laid down in 1920. God willing, we will have a public worship celebration of the centennial of the dedicationof the church in October 2021. A team of monks is also preparing a memorial book for the occasion. This past week, they met with a graphic editor to consider the treasure trove Br. Robert Leo, our archivist, culled from the Order's archives.
These unprecedented times take their toll on all of us. No matter how sheltered we may be from the worst consequences of the pandemic, the social upheaval and the economic depression, they affect each and every one of us. Monks in their beautiful monastery in the banks of the Hudson river are not immune to the communal trauma we are living through. Are you also surprised at how fatigued you may feel (regardless of your level of activity).
Recognizing the emotional fatigue that affects most of us, our Superior, Br. Robert James wisely took the unprecedented decision to grant our whole community six days of vacation. Typically, individual monks stagger their vacation throughout the year. The only days of rest we usually have together is our weekly sabbath on Monday. So from Friday, July 30th to the eve of Tranfiguration (Thursday, August 5) we took our communal rest. Our individual prayer continued, of course, but we did not get together in church for corporate worship.
Letting go of our occupations, preoccupations and worries takes some practice. We practice weekly with our sabbath day but this was like a long retreat to explore holy leisure. On Monday, Bros. Aidan and John and I went hiking in Minnewaska State Park. The weather was several degrees cooler up there and was just perfect for a four hour hike. After we got home, I went to visit Sr. Elizabeth Broyles, CMA. The CMA Sisters are our Northern neighbors. We had a socially distanced visit under the shade of a couple of oak trees.
On other days, I have tried to walk some of my daily 10,000 steps outside before it gets too hot. On my walks I often cross the garden of St Mary's House (where Yanick Savain and Matthew Wright live). They have adopted three Rhode Island Red chickens. Those three chickens are loved and cared for like a beloved creature of God that they are. One of the hopes is to collect some humanely produced eggs. I might be tempted to eat some (as an exception to my vegan diet). Sometimes the chickens follow me for a while hoping that I will scatter grain for them to peck on. That's the chicken life!
This coming week, I am enjoying my own vacation. My friends Jamie and Mary are lending me their apartment in Morningside (a neighborhood of Manhattan just South of Harlem). They have done this several years for me while they themselves vacation in Massaschussetts. God bless them! I love NYC and look forward to catching up (socially distanced) with a few friends and generally doing nothing of any productive use.
I hope you have serenity and fortitude to continue caring for yourself and for our fellow human beings in these trying times.
Stay safe, wear a mask, save lives!