Sunday, June 2, 2019

The beginnings of summer

Last Sunday, Brothers Josép and Aidan went on a visit to the congregation of St Mark's, Brooklyn. The women's group of St Mark's has been visiting the monastery in September for years. Our brothers were warmly received and enjoyed the companionship.

On Memorial Day, we had our traditional cookout on the porch of the enclosure. The weather was perfect for it and Br. Josép grilled our meal like a pro.

From top left, clockwise: Brothers Josép and Aidan returning from a visit to St Mark's, Brooklyn in great spirits; Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA, Brother Bob and Max Esmus, our Postulant enjoying a game of Qwirkle; Memorial Day cookout under the porch; Br. Josép is glimpsed through the smoke in the background, grilling away for his brothers.
We had two feast days in a row this week: Ascension Day on Thursday, followed by the Visitation on Friday.
Blooms and Brothers. From top left, clockwise: a flower arrangement in the Western Atrium of the enclosure; Brothers Carl and Aidan enjoying the spectacular bouquet of peonies prepared for Ascension; Mrs F.D. Roosevelt peonies, fresh from the garden and they smell delicious too; our Postulant, Max Esmus enjoying some origami on the porch.
The weather continues to be excellent for the garden: sun, warmth and regular rain. The church and the house benefit from many blooms. The weather also permits outside refection work on the church's bell tower. Some re-pointing is taking place with the help of a very long-arm cherry-picker.
Symphony in reds. From top left, clockwise: the poppies are popping - a serrated variety; a Hong-Kong registered bulker parked in the fog on the river; our contractor's cherry-picker for washing the clerestory windows of the church and doing some re-pointing on the Bell Tower; the articulated arm; another variety of poppy.
This coming week, most all the Brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross assemble at our monastery for the 307th chapter. By now, we usually have only one chapter meeting a year. Our Brothers are coming from Grahamstown, South Africa, Santa Barbara, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Please pray for us as we pray, learn and deliberate together for the continuation of God's service through our Order.

On the day after OHC's Chapter closes, I will be traveling to Spain for an inter-religious conference at Sant Benet Monestir (St Benedict Monastery in Catalan) at Montserrat. I may be a few weeks before I post again. I'm not forgetting you.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Centering in silence

This past week, twenty guests and three leaders have been praying together at the monastery in a Centering Prayer Intensive Retreat. An "Intensive" provides an opportunity for established practitioners of Centering Prayer to deepen their practice in an atmosphere of silence and community support.

Every day, Participants pray for six 30-minute Centering Prayer periods. All in all, we prayed together for over 18 hours (but who's counting...). The Centering Prayer was also supported with viewing and faith sharing on videos from Fr. Thomas Keating’s Human Condition teachings.

In the afternoon, the retreat leaders were available for brief sessions of  individual "soul-friending." To support the Intensive, the Guest House was open 8 days in a row and in round-the-clock Greater Silence. Many other guests came to benefit from this atmosphere throughout the week.
Guest House scenes. From top, clockwise: meditating with the great oak and the river in view on the Little Cloister; reading on the Great Cloister; doing watercolors in Pilgrim Hall.
Last Monday, Br. Aidan got to visit Dr. Mary Barber's workplace. Mary is an Associate and Seminarian from Newburg. She works at the Rockland Psychatric Center in Orangeburg, NY. She wanted Aidan to see how a visit to the monastery had inspired the residents of the Recovery Center to paint bricks to lay down their own labyrinth. Mary is already planning the Recovery Center's residents next visit to the Monastery.
Visiting the labyrinth at the Recovery Center. From left, clockwise: Dr. Mary Barber, our Associate, Br. Aidan and Mahima a staff member at the center; the same three; Mary and Aidan at the center of the labyrinth.
The weather has been beautiful; sunny and temperate. The gardens are in full bloom. Irises are putting in a great show. And last week's plantings by the garden volunteers are establishing themselves nicely.
The garden and the Librarian. From top left, clockwise: a beautiful cobalt blue planter in front of a (now) decorative door of the Middle House; alliums and irises against the copper beech background; plantings in the Little Cloister; irises, alliums and columbines (can you tell purple is Br. Aidan's favorite color?); Br. John, our Librarian, in front of recently catalogued books and ready to go pick up trash along Route 9W.
This week, the church featured irises and pussy willow from the gardens.
Irises and pussy willow all around.
Afte our intensive week of centering, the Centering Prayer retreatants came out of silence on their last night here and had a "Bernie party," so named for a Cistercian Brother of Thomas Keating who was a loving man. And he loved to enjoy ice cream with all the toppings with his brothers. Keating gives a moving testimonial to Bernie as a manifestation of the Love of God in one of the Human Condition videos which we watched during the week.
The "Bernie Party" with the Centering Prayer practitioners.
We have lots of Centering Prayer retreats scheduled for 2020. The next one this year is in December. Keep checking our offerings on our website.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Garden volunteers and other Garden enthusiasts

Br. Aidan led a group of garden volunteers this week. They did a lot of weeding, pruning, cleaning up and planting. They started a new flower bed along the Middle House. Their enthusiasm is always a joy to behold.
Garden volunteers. From left, clockwise: planting a new flower bed; planting peonies in the little cloister; preparing the ground; the plantings taking shape.
While some were hard at work to add more beauty to our gardens, others were enjoying what beauty there already is to behold there (quite a lot, actually).
Garden enthusiasts enjoying the spring weather. From top left, clockwise: Sonia Frontera from Lambertville, NJ; Br. Aidan and his friend CB from NYC catching up on the lawn; a baby groundhog checking out the photographer; our Associate, Bob Griffiths of Sarasota, FL in conversation with Evan Breckner of  Huntington, NY: the hardships of Associate Living - CB enjoying a read; Bob checking out the NY Times; Bob catching the sun by the Middle House entrance.
One of the many joys afforded by our gardens is that they provide beautiful blooms for the church, the guest house, and the enclosure. Brothers Rob is most often responsible for the beautiful flower arrangements found in the church.
Garden-to-Church blooms. From left, clockwise: white dogwood by the paschal candle; pink dogwood; alliums, tulips and irises by the Good Shepherd icon; alliums, columbines and Queen Anne lace at the feet of Our Lady and Child.
On Friday, four of us went to visit "our" solar farm in Kingston. Last October, we signed an agreement with Clearway Community Solar for them to provide us with solar electricity credits. They assemble enough customers to buy the energy from a solar farm which is then locally constructed. For the next 20 years, the customers purchase their part of the farm's electricity output. In exchange for that, they receive clean energy credits against their electricity utility's bills. We have contracted to receive clean energy credits that, on average, cover 100% of our electricity usage. Essentially, our electricity is now fully solar and locally generated. We have long sought to achieve renewable electricity at the monastery.  The "community solar" formula enabled us to not impair the beauty of our riverside meadow while sourcing fully solar electricity.
"We have a solar farm in Kingston, NY." From top left, clockwise: Craig Hightower, our Clearway Community Solar account manager, and Hector, a CCS technician waving; Bros. Aidan, Bede, Roy and Bernard with Craig; a view of one part of the farm; enjoying an ice cream treat after taking in the solar goodness; the Bros in front of a few inverters (DC to AC converter); another perspective on the farm.
Next up, on the renewable energy dream list: install a couple of charging stations on the monastery's parking lots and purchase a plug-in hybrid car... What do you think?
Little by little, we are doing our bit to address climate change.