Day Four: Clear Creek Monastery

I should have kept my mouth shut, for my boasting yesterday (stating that I was catching on to the flow of the service) came back and bit me today. Two and a half hours of prayer this morning and I couldn’t tell you a word that was said! Got lost on the opening sentence and never found my way back into the service. And cheers to having the service in the vernacular!! I know the fellas don’t much care for our favorite Queen, but thank you Elizabeth and all the rest for insisting on the language of the service be the language of the people. Even though I did not understand, I felt the service did my soul good, but how much more so if I had been able to truly read / hear the very words of God. This is NOT a knock against what they do here, for Latin is their language for worshiping the One True God. For some, worshipping in Latin may be a source of pride, but not for the fellas here; it is simply who they are. You will not even be considered for admittance to this monastery until you are able to read, write, and speak Latin.

Off to Sext (early afternoon prayers). More later.

One thing that I’ve known about myself is that I am a Pharisee… to the core. I like my phylacteries long, the good seats, my Mazda, AC set at dang near freezing, 18 year old scotch, a comfortable chair, a kitten sleeping on my face… One thing that I’ve known about myself is that I am spoiled. There I’ve said it and confessed it. I’m not entirely sure what to do about it and I’m not entirely sure that I would follow through in doing it if I did. For these and all my other sins for which I do not now remember…

The brothers are very quiet. Very little talking, but yesterday, as I was walking the halls, I encountered just about all of them. They were filing outdoors, two-by-two, chattering and laughing like a bunch of school kids. I do not know their private schedule, but I’m guessing this was a Sunday afternoon treat where (if they had any… I’m one to talk) they were letting their hair down. It was a joy to see this side of them and to know that behind the discipline and obedience to the rule, they are ‘regular folks’ who want to connect with others and be… heard? Today, all of their free time has been consumed with Latin class (I guess you can never learn enough of that one!)

Now, about Queen Elizabeth: we continue the lunchtime reading of this dark woman and the atrocities she committed against the Irish. “Father forgive me…”, but I must say, I find myself sitting at lunch getting defensive! The Blessed Virgin Mary is my Mother and my Queen, but I want to set these boys straight on some of their history, particularly about our Elizabeth. I mean seriously, who was it that “took a bath”, the English or the Spanish Armada? Take that! (If any of them are reading this, I may not make it out of here alive. If I am simply taken hostage, do not pay the ransom. We shall not satisfy their thirst for blood or coin!…. now he’s just being silly.)

Reading: Interpreting Jesus by N.T. Wright, a brief overview of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. “One of these things is not like the other…”

I need to get started on the Sunday sermon… I have an idea.

Staying unplugged for even a day is trying, which means it is a good thing; however, I do check my text messages once a day for a message from the Cat Resort, because they send me a daily picture of the other Queen in my life. Yeah… she’s cute! In the process of looking for this message, I saw an email come through which I could not resist…

As some of you know, I have been accepted to begin my studies with the Anglican Order of Preachers (aka: The Dominicans) and the reading list for the first term arrived today. Not too heavy, not too lite. Definitely looking forward to it. This is a three year process. More on that at another time, but I’ll be posting about it all the way through.

I pray you are well. Pray for me a sinner.

Shadow selfie…

Day Three: Clear Creek Monastery

I made it through Mattins, Lauds, Low Masses, Prime, breakfast, and… two hour nap. My goodness these fellas can pray. Today it all started with a 4 a.m. alarm and we were in the pews by 4:50 a.m. Mattins on Sunday is especially long with at least fifteen to twenty Psalms recited (I’ll have to count them up).

I actually did much better at keeping up with the service. I pace myself reading the English version while listening to the monks chant. I did get a bit lost in the Third Nocturn of Mattins (we were about an hour and a half in at that point), so I finished reading the English and then sat back and let the chanting sweep over me. You would think that the chanting would put you to sleep, but there is a ‘hum’ to it that enters the body and soul. Not irritating… somehow narrows and focuses the mind.

Prior to Mattins, I read Book One, Chapter Eighteen of The Imitation of Christ: the Examples of the Holy Fathers. A part of which reads: Oh, how great was the fervor of all religious in the beginning of their holy institution! Oh, how great was their devotion in prayer! How great their zeal for virtue! What great discipline was in force among them! What great reverence and obedience in all, flourished under the rule of a superior!

I am not so naive as to think that these fellas are perfect or that they don’t struggle with the same daily issues as the rest of us. It is just that they are outward and visible signs of intentional obedience to God’s commands and it is fascinating to witness. For example, they sit in the choir so we see all the movements. Early in the morning, the younger members’ heads bob up and down trying to stay awake, and when any makes a mistake (whether in pronunciation of the Latin, chanting a wrong verse, moving at the wrong time) the individual monk will stop, step forward, and briefly kneel as an act of penance. Is pronouncing instificationibus a sin? Lord, I pray not!, but for them, they missed the mark—“He who aims for the stars shoots higher than he who aims for the trees.” I believe many aim for the stars… I know that many of you do, perhaps its just that we’ve got different constellations we’re shooting at.

Sunday… there was meat for lunch!

I went for that walk with her today. (I’ll work on my handwriting.)

The I become Him

The we become You

The circles are not rippling out, but in. We must pass through the excess, the noise, the ego…. so that we become Him. As I (we) individually become [in] Him (Jesus), then corporately (we) become You (plural / Holy Trinity). We have lost our focus. I’ll work on the sermon version (give you a heads up as to when I’m planning to preach it so that you can stay home.)

There wasn’t a place to add this above, but I wanted to mention the soup we had last night for supper. It was cold milk. Milk served in a soup pot and ladled into soup bowls. Yep. Milk. Trust me: I had a few Dots Pretzels when I got back to my room.

These are the icons in four of the side altars. The other four altars are windows:

Following None (the 3:00 p.m. time of prayer), there was Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Time with the Real Presence of Jesus.

I want you to know that I prayed deeply and passionately for St. Matthew’s today. I think that is where her message came from. I prayed for my soul and the soul of St. Matthew’s to become Jesus. Just as the Real Presence was on the altar during Benediction, I want for us to become a Living Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus in our community. We have work to do, but it is the Lord’s work and He will see it through. Someone say, Amen!

Day Two: Clear Creek Monastery

Up at 4:30 a.m. this morning. Showered, dressed (cassock), and in the chapel by 5 a.m. We prayed until 8:15 a.m. After the first two times of prayer—Mattins and Lauds—it was time for Low Masses. This one was completely new to me. There are a total of ten altars (let the Altar Guild beware!) and a Mass was said at each of them simultaneously, but… they were said silently (either that or my hearing is really shot.) If you think we bow and kneel a lot… wow. It is truly beautiful to watch and listen to, which is about all I can do, although I’m beginning to learn how to follow along in the various books. It also helps to sit behind someone who knows what they are doing. (Although we in the Episcopal Church do less of the bowing, etc. I am certain that for someone new to us it feels the same way as I feel here. It is an excellent reminder that we must be who we are, but we also be accessible to those who are unfamiliar with our practices.)

Breakfast: the food is actually pretty good, but it is easy to see why these fellas are all so skinny. Actually, they’re probably just really healthy. I don’t know that we’ve seen a piece of meat yet, which makes me glad I stopped for the Big Mac on the way here (there’s meat in a Big Mac… right?) And I do confess to having smuggled in a few snacks, along with some instant coffee. Speaking of which, the coffee here is brilliant! I plan on seeing if they have some for sale in the bookstore.

During each of the meals we have someone read to us. For breakfast we heard a few chapters from the Rule of St. Benedict. Lunchtime… now that was fun: I doubt it was for my benefit, but being the only Anglican / Episcopalian here I had to stifle a few chuckles. The reading was a bit of church history and we heard about that excommunicated apostate and heretic Queen Elizabeth I. Her daddy got raked over a few coals as well. I think it was just a timing thing—can’t see them hauling that one out just to smack the heretic priest around—but I could almost feel the eyes boring into me. When the Abbot shook his head at one particular Elizabethan atrocity, I made sure I had a clear path to the exit. If I see them stacking wood, I’ll be making an early exit.

I have a fifteen decade rosary that I prayed today, most of it standing before this statue. (She could easily be the statue in The Golden Fistula. Truly beautiful and cut from a single piece of white marble.) Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do as a priest serving at St. Matthew’s, but to spend an hour and a half praying the rosary is not something I would ever be able to do… and you know… that’s OK. I’m going to find some time today or tomorrow and take a walk with her. She always shows us the most remarkable things and always leads us to her Son. What a great comfort to know we have a Mother who loves and treasures us as she loves and treasures her own Son.

It is 4:15 p.m. right now and Vespers is not until 6:00 p.m., so I’m going to sign off for now and either sneak in that nap or take that walk… be back a bit later in the day…….

The nap won, but I made it up in time for Vespers. Supper, then Compline.

Found a delightful book: Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life by St. Padre Pio of Pietreclina. A bit like the collection of sayings from St. Josemaria Escriva in The Way, et al.

“I hope that Jesus will not only be pleased to enlighten me in the guidance of the souls He entrusts to my care and to sustain and comfort me in difficulties, but that He will Himself make up for my deficiencies.” (L1 1369)

Blessings to you all. I pray for you many times each day.

Day One: Clear Creek Monastery

“But I am a worm and not a man.” — Psalm 22:6a

“Poser!” — my heart

After watching the Brothers and their praying, those were my first two initial thoughts about myself. Perhaps a bit harsh. Maybe a little truth.

I arrived at the Clear Creek Monastery today around 3 p.m. was greeted by a very kind, very soft spoken Brother. He helped me with my bags (more books than clothes), showed me the basic layout, and then was off to attend other monk duties.

I say ‘monk’, because these fellas are the real deal. Most shocking aspect so far… most of them are very young. I had really expected there to be about eight older men, mostly hunched over. Wrong. There are fifty-four professed monks who spend their lives living, working, and mostly praying in this one place. The simplicity is desirable… I’ll keep you posted on that as I spend more time here. My soul says, “I want to do this!” But my mind says, “Hang on there fat boy.” I have a small home and I like it, but I would imagine that the monks ‘cells’ make my room here look like a mansion. Very sparse, but everything you need. When you are expected to spend your life in prayer, you don’t need much.

Of prayer: I’ve attended Vespers and Compline. The service is entirely sung and is all in Latin, so I just listen. Not a bad thing. It is exactly what you think it would sound like.

Just prior to supper, I was introduced to the Abbot. He washed my hands… yeah. Nothing to add…

Alright, it is 9:33 p.m. and you all are probably just getting started with your evening, but I’m off to bed. The day around here starts pretty early. The first service tomorrow is at 5:15 a.m. I keep looking at the schedule to see when we get nap time, but it doesn’t appear they have plans for that. I’m guessing I’ll work it out.

There is no WiFi and I’ve got one bar on my phone. It may take all night for this to upload…

The Lord bless you all and keep looking for miracles.

Death of the Moon

Photo by Drew Tilk on Unsplash

The sun set

and the moon refused to rise

The sun demanded

and the moon fled

The sun followed

a radiant rage

The moon turned her back

Ah, she said,

my dark side is where I will hide

The more she hid

the more she revealed

Never have I seen this side

cried the sun

Never have you looked

Never have you asked

Never have you touched

Oh, to touch, whispered the sun

to burn

always to burn

I’ll warm you

The moon paused

turned

died

Between

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Not one… no, not one

Take your pound from my flesh

Split the cord and drink the rest

Raise your finger in the heart of my soul

Last one out

dies without breath

Only one

Only One

Perchance to…

That’s not an acceptable answer

So we sleep a bit more

Ravaging the spaces

Between this life

and…

and…

In Her Pocket…

I know a man who was walking down an old country road looking for his Mother. He searched up and down the road not seeing Her, but then, off in the distance, in the opposite direction he had been traveling he sees Her. The man tells me…

I began to run toward her as She began to run toward me. She was so much faster and as we approached, I realized She was so much larger. When She was with me, She had become so much larger that she simply scooped me up in the palm of Her hand and…

He was laughing as he told me this and I couldn’t help but join in his joy.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

…she placed me in the pocket of Her dress. She was not angry that I had wandered off, but neither did She speak. She only continued Her walk down the road.

From inside Her pocket, I tried to see through the weave of the fabric as to where we were going, but could not make out any details. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. Eventually, I settled back and was simply comforted to be safe in Her pocket. Then a series of changes began to occur…

I soon realized that where She had placed me was not in Her pocket, but instead, was the wound in His side. She had placed me into Her Son. I entered more deeply and heard so clearly the beating of His heart. I rested there. Such peace. I actually began to wonder if I had been here when the spear had pierced His side… and then it did! As though a second time, but as it retreated, the wound was healed. The Son spoke, “You have always been with me.” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. We were made in Him.

We have always been with Him. We have always been in Him and He in us. He showed me how, as we travelled further back, to when he was a child. And further to when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. I entered more deeply into Him, until I was clinging to His Heart. His heartbeat was mine. I would die should His heartbeat stop.

He took me even further back — and this happened so quickly — to when He was Light… and then it all abruptly stopped, and in a great reversal of those scenes, I was returned to the road.

“Oh, to have gone further into that Light!” He said this with such deep longing.

I had so many questions for this man, but not enough words to ask them. So when he had finished his story, I came back to the spear. “We were in Him when the spear pierced His side?” I asked, trying to more fully understand. “Yes! As I said, while clinging to his heart, I realized that I would die should he die. And that’s just it. He died and I died with Him. And His Mother took me out of her pocket, and I was alive again to continue to walk the road until its end.

“Where does that road lead?”

“The Light.”