Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Homily for Newly Graduated Medical Doctors

There are two unusual things here.  The first is that the homily has nothing to do with today's readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter.  Ten years ago today I gave this homily as a deacon at the baccalaureate Mass at Georgetown University School of Medicine.  I was ordained three week later.  The gospel for the Mass was the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.

Georgetown University School of Medicine
Baccalaureate Mass
20 June 2007

In about twenty-four hours we will process into Constitution Hall wearing the dark green-trimmed black robes of Doctor of Medicine.  Those of us seated on the stage will be wearing hoods lined with multiple colors; some of which will clash audibly if we stand too close to each other. You, the graduating class, will enter with your hoods hanging over your arms.  You will exit the hall with the blue and gray lined Georgetown University School of Medicine hood draped over your shoulders.  Doctors of Medicine.  At last.  Enjoy every minute of tomorrow.  We will enjoy it with you and think back to our own graduations.   On behalf of the four dozen or so  Jesuit physicians throughout the world  I want to say:  Welcome. . . . Doctors.

The hoods have a substantial weight that is physical, affective, and spiritual.  The burdens they impart are significant.  They are the burdens of this gospel:  The burden to notice.  The burden to care.  The burden to act.   The burden to be an instrument of God’s justice.  Thus, Luke’s familiar recounting of the Good Samaritan is particularly appropriate to celebrate your formal entry into the world of medicine as physicians. 

The story of the Good Samaritan is more than familiar.  It is overly familiar.  The Good Samaritan—like the Prodigal Son—is a figure of speech, the meaning of which is sometimes diluted through overuse and misapplication.  Agreeing to switch call at the last minute because a residency classmate has just been given tickets to the hottest concert of the year is admirable.  Whether this action qualifies one to be called a Good Samaritan is debatable.  A good friend?  Yes.  An example of treating others in the way you would hope to be treated?  Also yes.  A good Samaritan?   Tough call.  

What is distinct about the action of the Samaritan?  Risk.  The risk of stepping outside the script for the day and intervening in a way that bound him to another forever; in a way that added a quantum of justice to the world.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  Apathy was the sin of the other passers-by: not caring enough to notice or get involved. Or, to notice but assume, “I can’t do anything to help.”  Consider the reenactment of the Good Samaritan which I witnessed a few years ago.
The psychiatry department at Temple University Hospital was on the second floor of a building across from the busy Tioga Street entrance.  I was standing at a window contemplating the scene below on the kind of perfect day that occurs only in May:  Food trucks selling hot dogs and soft pretzels dotted the street.  Patients, families, white-coated physicians, scrub suited staff, and pedestrians were passing by.  It was a Friday lunch time.  All was right with the world.  Then the drama unfolded.
 A young man and his mother were seated on a bench eating hot dogs they had just purchased from one of the food trucks.  They were plainly dressed and both appeared to be developmentally disabled.  Suddenly the woman began to choke.  Her son was gesturing frantically and calling for help.  Two ear, nose, and throat residents passed within fifteen feet of the frantic boy  and continued walking as if they heard and saw nothing.  Other people ambled by as well.  Suddenly one of the psychiatry residents and a student, who were crossing the street to the hospital, raced up to the boy and his mother.  The resident applied the Heimlich maneuver.  The student disappeared into the hospital and, after a few moments, emerged with a wheelchair.  They put the still coughing and agitated woman into the chair and raced into the ER with her son running behind.

Later I spoke with the still shaken resident and student.  They were rattled not only by the ENT residents’ reaction—perhaps non-reaction is a better term—but were also unsettled by the response in the ER.  The student initially went to get one of the physicians, but was told they could not go out of the ER to help a patient.  The patient had to come in by ambulance.  Thinking quickly, the student grabbed the wheelchair, which was apparently an ambulance equivalent, and flew back to the plaza.          

What were the facts?  Two ENT residents, experts in treating choking patients, ignored a woman with a piece of hot dog in her trachea.  ER policy kept the doctors indoors, no more than 150 feet from the woman and her overwhelmed son.  A psychiatry resident and a junior student, neither one of them particularly trained to deal with this sort of thing, intervened.  Unlike the others, the resident and student got involved.  They acted instinctively without weighing the risks:  Could I be liable to a malpractice suit if things didn’t turn out well?  Am I violating hospital or school policy?   Am I going to look like an idiot doing the Heimlich in the middle of the Tioga Street Plaza? 
Justice.  Social involvement.  These do not necessarily require agendas, policy meetings, demonstrations and speeches.   Sometimes meetings are necessary.  But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  During the next few years you are not going to have the time or the energy to get involved with issues of justice and fairness in the way you may have been in college and med school.  Eighty hour work-weeks and thirty-hour shifts every fourth night or so take a significant toll on time and energy—especially the latter. 
When we think of peace and justice many of us  tend to think macroscopically:  Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Voter registration drives, and so on.  But justice is—indeed it must be—microscopic as well as macroscopic.   Perhaps it has to be microscopic before it can become macroscopic.  Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa both started small, on the level of the individual

The action of the gospel Good Samaritan  was a relatively simple event.  Man gets mugged.  Passers-by ignore him.  Someone finally stops to offer aid.  The Samaritan gave of himself, his time, and his treasure.  So it was for the resident and student.  Only a few people in the plaza bothered to notice what was going on.  No one came over to help.  It was microscopic justice when the resident and student intervened.  It was a moment in time that would be forgotten by everyone except the primary actors.  I often wonder what kind of difference this event made in the lives of the patient, her son, the resident and, particularly, the student. 

Justice begins when one notices injustice.  Injustice is corrected only by action.   In time some of you may become involved in health care policy. You may work to change inequitable distribution and availability of health care for the poor.  You may work to improve insurance coverage for those who currently do not have or cannot afford it.  You are not going to do that as first-year residents.  In reality, most of us will not be able to attack these issues on the macroscopic level.  But, as we all learned in histology, the microscopic supports the macroscopic.  Indeed, the microscopic determines the structure and function of the macroscopic.

Physically you will wear this hood for an hour or two tomorrow.  In reality, however, the Georgetown University School of Medicine hood will be draped over your shoulders for the rest of your lives.  The privileges and burdens implied and granted by this hood do not come off at 5:00 PM.  You can’t fold your responsibilities as physicians neatly into a drawer when you’re on vacation.  Tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives, you will wear the gospel on your shoulders. 

The Good Samaritan helped one individual.  The Good Samaritan made a commitment to care and thus became an instrument of justice.   Go and do likewise.

The second oddity is the photos.  I took them last week at the Carthusian Charterhouse in Pltereje.  Using my iPhone.  Have never used the phone to take photos but as I didn't have the real camera with me thought I would give it a try.  The only reason they came out well was the light.  It was great, first time in a while. I will be back there in a few weeks.  As I will not need the computer will take the camera instead.  Extraordinary place.

The entrance to the monastic church.  The Carthusians are the most cloistered of all orders.  The church is not open to the public at any time.  They order has no external ministry.  They are purely contemplative.  This is the entrance within the garth.  The monastery is not as old as the Cistercians in Stična.  The order is older but the monastery had a very rough go of things and was destroyed several times over the centuries and rebuilt.

The view of the church from within the monastery.

The church with the monk's choir stalls along the well.  The most characteristic aspect of Carthusian liturgy is that the office begins at midnight and ends at about 2:30 AM.  It is chanted in the dark.  There is a light above each stall for when needed.

A view of the choir from the gallery.  The church is very large and thus, during the winter when it would  be impossible to heat, the smaller brother's chapel is used for the liturgy and Mass.

One of the office books.  I wish I'd thought to put my day planner next to it to give an idea of the scale.  These books are very large and heavy.  The studs on the cover makes them easier to close.  When I am in the choir for vespers I do not touch the book or try to turn the pages.  One book is shared by two men.  I let the prior turn the pages.  I can't imagine ripping one of them.

The chant.  This book was up in the gallery and open.  I felt a bit better about shooting it.  Most of the liturgy is in Latin.  Latin Gregorian chant has a mystical quality that cannot be captured in English.  

The "bishop's room."  It is not used and I do not nap on the bed when I use it.  It is actually a small apartment with a living dining area on the other side of the wall.  Carthusians live as hermits.  The priests live in a two floor cell with outdoor garden that is accessible only through the cell and not from the outside.  They take their meals alone in the cell, coming together only for the midnight office, Mass, and vespers in the early afternoon.  All other prayer and work is done alone and in silence in the cell.  The monastery has no central heat.  The monks' cells are heated with a similar stove.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, May 13, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33
1 Ptr 2:4-9
Jn 14:1-12

During the Easter Season, we hear many readings from the Acts of the Apostles.  This is important because Acts tells us the earliest history of the Church.  And it describes the behavior, struggles and conflicts of the earliest communities. 

On Tuesday we heard, “And it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians.”  Today we hear more of that early history:  complaining, perceived slights, and everything else.  Being part of the Christian community has never been easy.  Our status as sinners reveals itself again and again, century after century. That should be no surprise as the history of the Church reflects the history of the world and our own personal histories.  The Greeks complained that the Hebrews weren’t fair when distributing food.  It is likely that the Hebrews had their own complaints against the Greeks that didn't get written down.  But something had to be done.  That something was the beginning of the order of deacon, ". . . select seven reputable men whom we shall appoint to this task." The task was to serve at table.

A close reading of scripture reminds us that what we have in the Church today--the Eucharist, a hierarchy of leaders, and human arguments and disagreements--has been with us from the beginning.  Human behavior has not improved much over the past two millennia.  It will not improve much over the next two millennia either.

The second reading from the First Letter of Peter is taken from a section subtitled, The Dignity of the Christian Vocation.  “Like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house . . .”  The Church is always under construction, it is always being rebuilt and remodeled, in the same way  that our lives are always changing and being renewed.  Think about building or remodeling a home. Some of the work is obvious such as repainting or adding a room. Other work is overlooked.  Who notices new wiring or a new hot water heater?  Like us, like our homes, and like our society, the Church changes and renews itself, but unlike the other categories mentioned, the Church  remains timeless.  It changes in response to external factors.  It remains timeless in the Eucharist.  It changes through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It changes in ways that may take a long time to appreciate and understand but the Eucharist endures and will always endure.

Our spiritual home, the Church, is constructed of living stones. We are those living stones.  When we transmit the faith to others, particularly our children, if and when we have them, we assure a continuing supply of building materials.  The exchanges that Thomas and Philip have with Jesus are revealing. Thomas asked, “how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered with a triple I AM statement.

It is important to point out that whenever Jesus begins with "I AM"  He is making a statement of exclusivity. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

Jesus is the only Way . . . in a world of blind alleys. 
Jesus is the only Truth . . .in a world of politics and lies. 
Jesus is the only source of Life . . .  in a culture Saint John Paul II called a “culture of death.”
Jesus is the cornerstone. He is the cornerstone who bears the weight of the entire edifice constructed by Him and on Him.

Philip’s request reflects the inability of the disciples to truly recognize Jesus; “Show us the Father, that will be enough for us.”  Of course, that would change when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.  One can sense Jesus’ irritation in His answer:  “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” 

The only access to “seeing” God is through the Son, the Son who took on human flesh, the Son who took on human concerns, the Son who lived life the same way we do.  The only way to “see” the Father is to see the Son, to see the Son with the eyes of our souls. To see the Son who endured temptation but who, unlike us, did not sin.  There is no direct vision of the Father.   We are limited to the indirect vision of faith, which the Letter to the Hebrews defines as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." 

All that Jesus is for us He is by reason of His obedience to the Father’s will.  Therefore, the works He does, the signs He performs, the words He speaks and the revelation He brings are all the work of the Father.  They are all windows through which to know the Father.

Later on in John’s Gospel we will hear a beatitude to add to those from the Sermon on the Mount:  “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”  It may be the most important beatitude of all.  Only as we remain the living stones of the Church, only as we allow ourselves to be held in place by Jesus, the cornerstone, only as we believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the great gift and mystery of the Eucharist, only then can we say, as we will in a few moments:

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. 
Hosanna in the Highest."


The week has been busy to the point of exhausting.  Peter asked, last minute of course, if I would go to Maribor with him on Monday at 5:30 PM for a student concert.  And would I take my camera?  Well of course I would take my camera.  It was a very good concert in the Jesuit church just down the street from Magis, the residential college.  Got back at midnight.  As I am giving a retreat to a group of physicians next week (Friday to Sunday) I've been working on it.  Some of the handouts and prayers will be in both Slovenian and English.  Other parts will be in English.  The retreat is requiring quite a bit of computer time. 

The photos below are one of a photographer's favorite things.  Flowers.  They can be a challenge but the results are usually pretty good.  Raindrops on roses?  A total cliche that few can resist. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, May 6, 2017

54th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations

The Fourth Sunday of Easter has been set aside as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life since Pope Paul VI of happy memory designated it as such fifty-four years ago. The word vocation derives from the Latin: voco, vocare, vocatus,  meaning to summon, to call, to invite, to challenge.  Each of these roots carries subtly different shades of meaning.  Each root is important when trying to understand a vocation to religious life. 

Jesus challenged a young man in Matthew's Gospel (Mt 19:21) when he said, "sell what you have, give to the poor . . . and come follow me."

" . . . . come follow me." 

Those three words are simultaneously summons, call, invitation, and challenge. The simple phrase is a radical challenge, an open invitation, and an irresistible summons.  Many have heard that call and responded to it with a yes.  Each of the following vocation stories is unique.  Each story is important.

By the time she graduated from Villanova University basketball player Mary Michelle Pennefather, known as Shelley, had scored 2,408 points and made over 1100 rebounds.  After four years playing ball in Japan the six-figure salary and the things it could buy meant little.  In 1991 she walked through the doors of the Poor Clare Monastery in Alexandria, Virginia.  Now known as Sr. Rose Marie, she remains within the enclosure.

Grant Desme announced his retirement from professional baseball in 2010. He was considered such a golden prospect by Oakland that he received a high six-figure signing bonus when he went to the minors.  His move to the majors was inevitable.  That is why many found  his vocation to religious life incredible.  He entered the Norbertines (O. Praem.) in California where, known as Brother Matthew,  he is a seminarian moving toward priestly ordination.  When the story of his retirement appeared on the ESPN web site comments appeared quickly.   Some were supportive but too many were hostile, sacrilegious, obscene or all of the above.

Chase Helgenbrinck played for the U.S. National Soccer team.  After playing in Chile for several years he returned to the United States to play with the New England Revolution. He left the New England team in 2008 after playing four games to enter Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  Ordained a priest for the Dioceses of Peoria, Illinois, he described the reaction to his vocation as "polarizing" and controversial.  Father appears to be a master of understatement.

The final vocation story is the oldest. It also the story of a woman I know personally. Dolores Hart made ten movies between 1957 and 1962. She gave Elvis Presley his first screen kiss in her first movie in 1957 and went on to act opposite stars including Montgomery Clift, Robert Wagner, and George Hamilton.  Her parts ranged from St. Clare in the movie "St. Francis of Assisi" to a college student on spring break in "Where the Boys Are."  She was exceptionally beautiful and engaged to a man who loved her dearly. In 1963 she emerged from a chauffeured car in the tiny town of Bethlehem, CT.  The movie executives who arranged the car were unaware that when she walked through the high wooden gate of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a monastery that now has forty cloistered Benedictine nuns, she would not emerge for decades. Mother Dolores was prioress--second in command to the abbess--for about twenty-five years. She celebrated the golden jubilee of her vows in September.

The most significant thing about these stories is not that each of the four gave up money and fame.  Nor is it that each abandoned "the good life" or was perceived to have "thrown it all away."  The most important part of their stories is that they've been honest in admitting that it wasn't always easy.  Each of them struggled with doubt, uncertainties, and fear. That struggle is ongoing for all of us in vows.  But, doubt, uncertainties, and fear are elements in every life.  Religious life is no different.   A vocation to religious life is not easy. It is not an escape from the pressures of the world; it is enduring those pressures in a new way.  A religious vocation doesn't answer all questions, remove doubts, or allow us to escape problems; it asks new questions and adds new layers of insecurity.  A religious vocation is not an escape from the realities of life.  Rather, it magnifies those realities.  Even in the most silent and isolated of monasteries, life is neither stress free nor overflowing with mystical experiences.

The first several years of settling into one's vocation may be difficult. Mother Dolores admitted in her autobiography that she cried herself to sleep every night for the first seven years in the monastery.  In the end, however, the faith and hope that allow one to say yes, the faith and hope that almost force one to accept Jesus' challenge to follow Him in this radical way despite having other desires, deepen one's life. One now lives in true freedom. 

A religious vocation does not begin in a vacuum.  Others are necessary to any vocation.  Everyone must pray for vocations.  Parents and grandparents, in particular, are needed to encourage and support vocations. The lived example and visibility of members of religious orders is crucial.  Most importantly, a religious vocation requires that someone, anyone, ask.  One need not be a member of a congregation or order to ask.  However, it requires courage to ask someone "have you ever thought of becoming . . a Jesuit, a Franciscan brother, an Ursuline Sister or a priest?"  I've asked twice.  It is nerve-wracking in the same way as asking someone you just met to go out on a date:  dry mouth, sweaty palms, vague nausea, and trembling.  I cannot easily describe my feelings when the first man I asked about becoming a Jesuit pronounced his vows in August last year.  I did not even try to hold back the tears as he knelt and read the vow formula.

Choosing to follow Jesus in vowed religious life means no longer choosing my own path. It means merging my will with His.  Accepting Jesus' challenge to follow Him affects the relationship to time.  We are rooted in the traditions of our orders and the Church, we live in the present, and are pushed toward the future that was given to all of us through Jesus' saving act. 

And so it is that we are able to sing with the psalmist,
"The Lord is my shepherd,

there is nothing I shall want."

Very surprising day.  Forecast called for rain.  It is just beginning at 9:30 PM.  Th day was glorious.  Yesterday Peter asked if I would take photos of a race in which he was running.  It was an interesting race.  He was running the 29 km route--odd distance, will explain--in which all runners had to run in teams of three and finish together. Thus the team's final time reflected the slowest runner.  On paper the course looked challenging and it was.  However, there is an historical reason. 

In 1941 the Italian army wanted to squash the resistance based in LJ.  To do so they erected a 29 km barbed wire fence encircling the city.  For over 1100 days no one could enter or leave the city without documentation as to why and an extensive search.  The plan didn't work.  The resistance was able to go under and around.  However, the people of LJ were imprisoned in their city.  

While returning through Prešernov Trg I stumbled upon the "Dunking Devils."  They are a group of young Slovenians based in LJ on an "acrobatic basketball team."  Underline acrobatic.  They were doing close order drills that involved launching off of a spring board, a full front flip in front of the basket while holding a ball, and then popping it into the net on the way down.  Astonishing.  

Peter and his team.  They finished in under three hours.  The time on the clock reflects the 12.5 km (there was also a 10 k) that started earlier.  Peter is the one in the white shirt with the Darth Vader sunglasses.  Had he not waved I would not have recognized him.  The sun--which was fierce as my facial color proves--made his hair look gray.  I shared that with him.  Probably shouldn't have. 

Some of the guys waiting to start.

These are self-explanatory.  I couldn't help wondering if their mothers knew what they were doing.  Got to capture three different runs from three different perspectives with two different lenses.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33
Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11
1 Pt 1:17-21 
Lk 24:13-35

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice and proclaimed . . . . “

Is this the same man who denied Jesus three times?  Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?”  Peter, who swore he did not know this Jesus of Nazareth, is now proclaiming that He is risen from the dead.  Peter, whose nerve failed him at the first hint of threat, is now professing Jesus as the one  of whom David spoke.  Fearful of being known as one of His disciples while huddled around a fire, Peter is now preaching what, to many ears, was blasphemy. He was telling all who could hear that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Talk about a makeover!  What did Peter look like as he proclaimed these words about Jesus’ mighty deeds and told of Jesus' wonders and signs?  How did his voice sound?  What gestures did he make? 

It is likely he did not resemble the cowering man in the high priest’s courtyard who said, “I do not know Him.”  Something fundamental had changed.  The change was not subtle. Peter was taking an enormous risk when he spoke. Of course this was after Pentecost.  Filled with the Holy Spirit it is obvious that Peter now understood that which he had failed to comprehend earlier. 

Luke’s narrative of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, with its expertly set scene, is ripe for contemplation.  One can sense the despondency of the two men. Their weariness is palpable. There are hints of disbelief and fear as they journey toward Emmaus.  Are they walking away from Jerusalem because their hopes have been destroyed?  Are they retreating because Jesus was not the Messiah of their dreams?  What was the subject about which they were “conversing and debating?”  Conversing is a neutral word but debating suggests disagreement and attempts by each to change the other’s mind.  Who was winning?  

They stopped talking when Jesus appeared. They were shocked that their unrecognized companion was not aware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ impatience with them is palpable.  It is  approximately seven and one-half miles, or twelve and one-half kilometers, from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained “what referred to him in all the Scriptures." The conversation must have been a long one. 

Like the entire Jewish nation the two disciples had had hopes for the Messiah.  Many of these hopes were attached to the politics of the day and driven by Israel's desire to be free of the yoke of Roman domination.  They had desires for the one of whom David spoke to be a military leader, a super-politician, and a social reformer all at once. Today we expect the one of whom David spoke to have, in addition the skills of a five-star general, unifying politician, and presto-chango  social justice warrior, a sufficiently relaxed moral compass that would enable him endorse anything that feels good no matter the fundamental wrongness of the act.  Jesus fulfilled none of Israel's expectations.  Jesus will fulfill none of those expectations even today.  Given that he seemed to be apolitical it is ironic how often Jesus’ message is politicized and twisted to promote a particular agenda on both the left and the right as in, "You cannot call yourself a Christian if you do not  . . . . . .  (fill in blank with  pet agenda)."  The only thing one can say about this statement is that it is breathtakingly manipulative.  It is  on par with the recent suggestion, "You can't be a democratic candidate if you don't support abortion." 

Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted.  He was the Messiah Israel needed.  Jesus is not the Christ we want Him to be.  He is not the Messiah we try to force Him to be in our attempts to remake God in our own image.  He is the Christ we need. 

Jesus’ two companions on the road to Emmaus were deeply consoled after the fact.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”   They immediately began the long walk back to Jerusalem to share the news.  Peter’s heart was aflame with ardor as he interpreted scripture and shared the news with his listeners. 

When we pray we are continually on the road to Emmaus.  In prayer we are continually forced to recognize the One who joins us along the way.  We are continually meeting this stranger who we may not recognize at first.  We encounter Him every time we partake of the Eucharistic Feast.  

Listen carefully to the words you will hear as the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord are elevated above the altar just before communion.  Let them sink in.

"Behold the Lamb of God,
Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those who are called
to the supper of the Lamb."

And attend to the response you will give.

"Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed."


Last Tuesday Fr. Peter knocked on my door.  Short version of story:  Can you go to Stična for the night at 5 PM to help with the first day of a retreat?"  I could.  The demands of the retreat were such that there was plenty of time to shoot.  Took one lens along, a 25 mm f/1.4.  The 25 mm is the equivalent of 50 mm on an Olympus DSLR.  It is a good length as it captures more or less the field of vision we see.   The f/1.4 means that it can capture light where there is none.  The good news is that I just got an e-mail from Peter asking if I can go back tomorrow night until Tuesday should the other priest chooses to remain in LJ.  Absolutely.  I only took one lens because I came back by train  with an already heavy backpack that made the mile walk back to the house from the station seem a lot longer.  

The monastery is Cistercian  but is O. Cist. rather than OCSO aka Trappist.  The Cistercian Order was founded in the waning years of the 11th century.  It split into two branches about five hundred years later.  This particular monastery, founded within thirty years of the the order's foundation, is one of the most important sites of religious visits and pilgrimages in Slovenia.  It is the home of 14th century illuminated manuscripts that I didn't get a chance to see during the twenty-four hours I was there.  That may change.  Some of the exterior walls, particularly of the monastic church are original. The interiors are mostly not.  The church was redone in baroque style during the baroque.  (Hint for Americans traveling in Europe.  Never describe something in the U.S. as "really old" because, unless you are speaking of the sequoias, it isn't.  Being enclosed by walls constructed in the 12th century is old.)  I'm putting up a lot of the shots.  Enjoy.

The Abbey Church tower as seen from inside the visitor garth.

The view from another gate.  The shrine in the background holds a pietà. 

The visitor garth.  The church is toward the background and to the right.

A sundial on a cloudy day.  Not too handy.  Don't know the meaning of the 20th century date.  The monastery, along with other contemplative religious houses, was suppressed by one of the emperor's for a bit more than a century.  It was eventually reestablished.

Entrance to the cloister.

As soon as I saw this bell sitting in the ground I wondered where the crack was.  Is about the same size as the liberty bell.  The wooden housing, meant to go over the metal, was off to the side in very bad condition.

Beautiful detail of one of the interior doors. 

A "modern" stained glass window added in 1907.

The cloister.  The color made me close to speechless (a rarity).  

A close-up.  The color was either rubbed on or perhaps painted on and rubbed off.  Thus the texture is highlighted.  The stone is not marble.   The camera did a good job of capturing the color exactly.
 The ceiling is painted in between the arches. 

The Abbey Church serves as both the monastic church and a long-established parish church.  Unlike the OCSO some of the O. Cist. monasteries have external ministry rather than being cloistered contemplative.  The O. Cist. has a high school in Dallas, TX.  The nave is 63 meters long.

The monks' choir stalls and close-up of the altar.  

Pulpit.  Have never seen a crucifix held out by a sculpted arm before.  The decor on the pulpit almost shouts Baroque.

The entrance, choir loft and organ. 

A ceiling detail in the church.  A more wide-angle lens would have been handy here.  Interesting chandelier.  Hope to see it lighted if I go back tomorrow. 

View of one of the enclosure gardens from my room.  The hills surrounding the area remind me of Northeastern and Central PA. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD