Sunday, January 16, 2022

Retreat days and quiet days

From January 4 to 11, we were on Long Retreat. This is eight days of complete silence devoted to rest, prayer, study and the discontinuation of regular work while the Guesthouse is closed. Many of us relish this extra quiet time nestled in the midst of winter. On the last evening of the Long Retreat we have a community talking meal to celebrate our time of going deeper. Then we have a sabbath day to recreate in leisure before we restart our regular routines of liturgy and work.

We had scheduled to reopen the Guesthouse on Thursday, January 13, but Covid-19 had other plans. One of us suffered flu-like symptoms and tested positive. Out of concern for our guests and our staff, we have quarantined. By now, all but one of us are testing negative and our unlucky brother has now been asymptomatic for several days. God willing, we will reopen the Guesthouse on Tuesday, January 25. So it's no longer Long Retreat but we are enjoying some more enforced quiet anyway.

Our two recent aspirants, Mr. Marc Santana, from Glasgow, Scotland and Mr. Ephrem Arcement, from New Orleans, LA, have both been invited to join our monastic community. Both are diligently working on completing their application file. We ask you to keep them in your prayers as they progress towards joining us.

The weather has turned so cold that we are incited to exercize indoors. Our in-house gym and the stacks of the library (for walking indoor distances) are getting greater use than usual.

Monastery scenes. From top left, clockwise: Br. Aidan reads on his e-reader while snaking through the stacks of the library (four pictures); Bros. Bede and Robert Hagler listen in to the post-mass conversation in our West Atrium (in the enclosure); Bros. Aidan and Josép in lively conversation in the Atrium.

Keep safe. Get the Covid-19 vaccination booster if you haven't yet. It's an effective means of reducing the intensity of possible breakout infections. We are all "boosted" here at the monastery.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Happy New Year!

This week was a succesion of  transferred second class feasts following Christmas: St Stephen, deacon and martyr; St John, apostle and evangelist; and the Holy Innocents. On on Saturday, we observed the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ on the eve of the second Christmastide sunday. So we have had a lot of beautiful chanting and a double dose of good preaching (you can catch up on the latter on our Sermons Blog).

On Friday afternoon, Br. Aidan and I took our postulant, Daniel Beckham, and our visiting aspirant, Ephrem Arcement to Poughkeepsie to pay a visit to the tomb of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and take a stroll on the grounds of Vassar College. I always like visiting Teilhard de Chardin's tomb and I remember the first time I visited his tomb with my Dad and Mom in 2006. My Dad was a fan as is Ephrem.

Quiet moments. From top left, clockwise: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's tomb in Hyde Park; Br. Aidan, Daniel Beckham and Ephrem Arcement visiting Teilhard's tomb; Associate Zachary Roesemann and his husband Clark Anderson from NYC, reading in Pilgrim Hall by the Christmas tree; colored light from the St Benedict window on Jonathan Kendall's Epiphany sculpture in the bell tower.

We have had a lot of guests enjoying the quiet and serene atmosphere of our Guesthouse and partaking of our Christmastide liturgies. This Sunday, the Guesthouse is closing until Thursday, January 13 to enable the monastic community to take its yearly Long Retreat. Long Retreat is eight days of 24/7 silence and rest from work duties to pray, meditate, and take holy leisure (to more intentionally than usual focus on being with God, being for God). 

As my work duties have quietened somewhat over the end of Advent and Christmastide, I have taken more walks with Brothers. It is good to be outside together enjoying God's creation and each other's companionship.

Rivers. From top left, clockwise: a tugboat and barge race on the Hudson; Ephrem Arcement enjoying a water fall on Black Creek in the John Burroughs Sanctuary; parked tugboat and barge lights trhough the morning fog on the Hudson on New Year's Day.

The Monastery Column will be back by January 24. In the meantime, would you hold us monks in prayer as we dwell in Long Retreat? The readeres of this blog are in ours.

May you have a healthy and serene 2022. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Merry Christmas!

With the exception of Br. Luc who is visiting our South Africa brothers, everyone was home for Christmas. In the months leading up to Christmas, Br. Josép has assembled and rehearsed a schola of seven men to sing before the First Vespers of Christmas and the mass on Christmas Day. On the performance days we were joined by the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie who added flute music to many numbers. By all accounts, we sounded good. It is a joyous thing to make beautiful sounds together.

The schola. From top left, clockwise: the singers listen to the Rev. Suzann Guthrie accompanying Br. Josép's singing on the flute; a warm-up session in the North end of the Monastic Library before the first Vespers of Christmas; Br. Josép singing before Vespers; our aspirant Ephrem Arcement (in the background) singing in the visitor's gallery for Christmas mass; Br. Josép giving us our beginning notes with Br. Aidan listening.

On Wednesday evening, at the initiative of Br. Robert Leo, Saint Nicholas made an appearance for readings and  songs on this not not-so-well-known saint. Saint Nick had a beard that reminded some of our Postulant Daniel and was assisted by our Intern Eric.

Honoring Saint Nicholas. From left, clockwise: the narrator of the evening, Br. Robert Leo in a suitably festie t-shirt; St Nick and his helper, intern Eric Anthony, distributing goodies; St Nick processing in.

On Christmas Eve, our guests swung into action and helped us to decorate the Christmas tree and deck Pilgrim Hall beautifully. We had the biggest, fullest Christmas tree I have yet seen in Pilgrim Hall. It took a dozen of us to trim it appropriately.

Trimming the huge Christmas tree. From top left, clockwise: Jake and Jess, from Virginia; Br. Bernard as one of Santa's elves; intern Eric Anthony and Br. Aidan looking up to a tree decorator on the ladder; Jonathan Mudge of Austin, TX, Mary Allan of Medford, NJ and aspirant Ephrem Arcement of New Orleans, LA, decorating the tree; an angel keeping watch at the top of the tree.

Christmas decorators. From top left, clockwise: Jess and Jake from Virginia; Beth Beaudin from Fairfield, CT and Mary Allan from Medford, NJ; guests in decoration mode; Jane Nunez of NYC; Br. Aidan posing in front of his patron saint's stained glass window.

While the guests were busy in the Guesthouse, crews of monks took care of greening the church and decorating our enclosure common room.

Church and enclosure decoration. From top left, clockwise: Br. Josép setting up lights on top of our common room bookshelves; Br. Randy next to a fully trimmed tree; poinsetias in the church; the "before" picture of the creche; greenery gracing the statue of the Lady and Child.

This year the creche took center stage in fron of the altar. We enjoy it more visually than in the back of the church and it is more accessible for worshipping baby Jesus.

The creche with baby Jesus having arrived.

As always, our staff enabled our hospitality to flourish. Chef Bob Morano served a great feast for Christmas Day. We fetched Br. Laurence at his nursing home for the day and he thoroughly enjoyed conversing with brothers and guests.

Christmas guests. From top left, clockwise; overview of the refectory; Br. Laurence, Br. Robert Hagler and Jonathan Mudge with his uncle Br. Bede (back visible); Bros. in conversation; Christmas mass visitors (Sisters Shane and Elizabeth, CMA and the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie); the Rev. Matthew Wright with Br. Josép and intern Eric Anthony.

May you encounter God amongst us in these twelve days of Christmastide.