Sunday, May 9, 2021

Days of increasing openness

This past Wednesday, Br. Aidan returned from a 10 day vacation in Southern California. He spent time at our Santa Barbara monastery with Br. Timothy Jolley who lives there and Br. Scott Scott who was visiting from South Africa. The three of them also went for a four day retreat at New Camaldoli in Big Sur. 

This week, Br. Josép is on retreat at Linwood Spiritual Center in the village of Rhinecliff. I drove him there on Monday. We took the opportunity to have lunch at Cinnamon Indian Restaurant; one of my favorites. It is such a joy to enjoy good food and company in a public space. It still feels "exotic" to me.

Last week, we first had three Contemplative Days of greater silence, simplified schedule and lighter work. Then, we had our first in person Associate reception in 14 months. Karen Freitag, from Pennsylvania, drove five hours for the joy of being at the monastery for a day and a half. We hold her in our prayers, as we do all our Associates. If you're reading this regularly and are not yet an Associate, you should definitely check our Associates webpage and get in touch with Br. Josép, our Director of Associates.

This week, we got delivery of great garden and patio furniture. These beautiful teak pieces were made possible by a generous gift to spruce up the welcome on our grounds. We believe our future guests will appreciate. In the meantime, the monks are dutifully testing them, just to make sure they are comfortable enough...

Brothers and a new Associate. From top left, clockwise: Br. Josép and I at an Indian restaurant; Bros. Aidan and Luc dutifully quality-testing the new garden furniture; Br. Robert James awaiting friends near the driveway; Bros. Robert James and Robert Hagler in the Guesthouse garden; Brothers sharing dinner with our newest Associate, Karen Freitag; Karen helping herself to dinner; Br. Bede often stops on one of our cloisters or porches to enjoy the view of the valley.

This week, we celebrated Br. Randy's birthday. At 55 years old, he's still considered a youth in our neck of the woods.

Archive pictures of the Birthday Boy, Br. Randy.

This past Saturday, we had the committal of Br. Thomas Schulz. His ashes had arrived from Santa Barbara a couple of weeks ago. We prayed over his remains and blessed them before putting them in our columbarium, down in the crypt under our church. It is always moving to put one of our Brothers to rest in the heart of our home. And it is a humbling reminder that we too are "ashes to ashes, and dust to dust."

Br. Tom's committal. From top left, clockwise: Bros. Bob and Will going down to the crypt; a portrait of Br. Thomas Schultze; Br. Robert James presiding the committal; blessing Tom's remains in the columbarium (three next pictures: Br. Robert James, Br Robert Leo, Br. John).

The last two weeks have been beautiful in the gardens. We also welcomed two new colonies of bees. Br. Aidan and Yanick Savain will be our beekeepers. I will give a hand when needed. Br. Aidan has named the bee hives with the names of beguines (bee-guines, get it?); Mechtilde (of Magdeburg) and Hadewijk (of my native Brabant province in Belgium).

Flowers and bees. From top left, clockwise: sprigs of lilac on my desk; the Mechtilde beehive; the Hadewijk beehive; "black" parrot tulips; wild columbines growing on a rock.

We now have welcomed our Sunday worshippers for two Sundays in a row. It is so good to see them again in person.

Keep safe. Get a Covid-19 vaccine when you can. It saves lives (yours and those of our fellow humans).

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Birthday celebrations and vacation

We have renamed this blog "The Monastery Column" to reflect the writer's change of status. We have chosen to simplify the structure of leadership in the monastery. Br. Robert James, our Superior, continues to be our Head of House. We are doing away with the role of the Prior for the time being as it was superfluous to the functioning of the house. This means I have rejoined my place in the order of seniority in choir and chapter. I will continue to help the house in a variety of administrative and financial jobs but my schedule is lightening up somewhat.

Spring's blossoming is bringing colorful beauty back to our landscape which is greening up by the day. Brothers are seen outside more, strolling or gazing at nature's beauty. Brother Aidan and Yanick Savain are welcoming two colonies of bees to the monastery. I have offered to consult and help as needed.

Spring blossoming on the grounds. From top left, clockwise: a blooming ornamental cherry tree in the meadow; redbuds about to do their thing; a four-year old magnolia that has a gorgeous pink tint; daffodils near the driveway; hellebores in glory; center: daffodils and lilac bush getting started on its blooming.

On April 12, I turned sixty. It was also the day I went on a one week vacation to Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By the generosity of a friend, I was able to use her vacation home four blocks from the beach. I took walks on all but the rainiest day. Ocean Grove started life as a Methodist Camp in the mid-19th century. It has kept a lot of its character and renovations and constructions seem to respect the town's style. I read abundantly, watched a few documentaries and rested thoroughly. On one of my walks I got to observe a mother fox and her two cubs on the beach for twenty minutes or so.

Ocean Grove, New Jersey. From top, clockwise: the beach; a pretty Victorian house; the author kicking his feet up; a decorative seashells wreath on a house; the porch of my abode for the week; the rotunda at the beach.

On the day I returned home, by the generosity of another friend, Brothers Carl, Robert Leo and I got to go to dinner at the Tavern at the Beekman Arms Inn in Rhinebeck. This was to mark two recent birthdays; Carl's ninetieth and my sixtieth. The Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn bills itself as the oldest inn in continuous operation in the United States. It certainly has a lot of old times charm and the food was delicious.
The Brothers. From top left, clockwise: Brothers Robert Leo and Carl at the Beekman Arms Inn (two pictures); Br. Aidan in a selfie with one of the four Rhode Island Red chickens that roam St Mary's grounds (under the care of Yanick and Matthew); tulip blooms from the garden gracing St Augustine's icon (two pictures)

The installation of the new Guesthouse elevator continues apace. It will take several more weeks to be completed. With the better weather, we hope to complete the work on the Middle House roof by the summer.

Yesterday, I got to hug my two nun friends from the Companion of Mary the Apostle. We were finally all fully vaccinated for over two weeks. It felt so good to hold them in my arms and to be held. Little by little we are creeping out from under the Covid-19 pandemic.

What about you? Get a vaccine if you can. Stick with protective measures still. Even vaccinated, they are still needed. They still save lives.

You are in our prayers.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Happy Easter!

Only last week, we were celebrating Palm Sunday and now we're out of Lent.  Alleluias and spring booms have reappeared in the church. Holy Week is always a very special time here. The flow of the liturgies carry us through our history of salvation and resurrection. Three of us preached this Triduum; I preached on Maundy Thursday, Br. Josép preached on Good Friday and Br. Robert Leo on Easter Day. You can always find our sermons on the Holy Cross Sermons blog. Most often you can listen to an audio recording while reading the text.

Before and after. On the left, the icon cross veiled for Holy Week and the Palm Sunday decorations. In the center, the 2021 paschal candle has taken its place in the chancel. On the right, the spring blooms that bring echo the resurrection theme of Eastertide.

We lit the paschal fire on the Great Cloister in the night. We heard the vigil readings in Pilgrim Hall. The renewal of our baptismal vows took place in the Chapter Room. And we ended in St Augustine Church where Br. Robert Leo preached for us. Linking all these locations were processions done with chanting of litanies. It reminded me of all those who walk pilgrimages throughout the world. 

The Easter Vigil. From top left, clockwise: blessing the paschal fire; lighting the paschal candle from the fire; reading the history of salvation; renewing our baptismal vows; hearing Br. Robert Leo's sermon.

We look forward to the time we can again share these celebrations with in-person visitors. Of course, we also appreciate our on-line visitors who have become more numerous through the pandemic. We give thanks for this expansion of our extended community. But hopefully, some who discovered us on-line can in the not-too-distant future come and visit us here as well.

Outside activities are becoming attractive again. As often as possible, I do my daily walking outside. Br. Aidan and our garden volunteer Emily Trautman are seen working in the flowerbeds again. Brothers have been spotted deer watching or river contemplating on the outside porches.

The Brothers. From top left, clockwise: Br. Randy looking at the river from the Little Cloister in-between bellringing duties; ambitiously mounting a cart for his parish on an enclosure porch; Brothers chatting while waiting for Sunday dinner; the brothers past on the wall, some brothers present on the bench (from left to right, Bros. Robert Leo, Will, Carl and John).

We are delighted to host two Aspirants for the moment. As it happens one goes by Danny, the other by Daniel. Thank goodness for keeping us from confusion ;-) They will be with us for a few weeks, living with the community, residing in the enclosure and getting real about whether this might be a vocation for them. Please hold these two men in your prayers (and ask that God keep raising vocations to our monastic life).

Here in Ulster County, more vaccination centers are opening the eligibility has been extended to those over age 30. Our very own Matthew Wright and Yanick Savain (who live at St Mary's House) got their first shots. Yeah!

What about you? Get a vaccine if you can. Stick with protective measures still. Even vaccinated, they are still needed. They still save lives.

You are in our prayers.