Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Field Trip

Three men are making the thirty-day Spiritual Exercises at the Campion Retreat Center.  Monday was their second break day.  During the retreat there is a break day around day 10 and another around day 20.  The break is not rigidly set at days 10 and 20.  In Australia one of the break days was changed in favor of better weather two days hence.  The men wanted to visit St. Joseph Abbey (Trappist) in Spencer.  The director could not take them and asked if I could.  With pleasure.  The two Carmelites were most interested in seeing the Trappist Preserves operation.  They make small batches of jams and jellies at their monastery in TX.  

After lunch at a place with good pub grub near the monastery we perused the gift shop and spent some time in prayer in the church awaiting the 3:00 PM meeting at the guest house.  One of the men who is a friend of mine took us to Trappist Preserves at 3:00.  As I simply buy the stuff and have little interest in how it is made I wandered throughout with the camera.  Then as a treat we wound up in the Holy Rood Guild where the vestments are made.  Spencer-made vestments are instantly recognizable and exquisitely made. They are also made with impeccable taste.  In general there are no pictures of saints, no mottos or anything else.  Most especially they are nothing at all like the dreadful vestment that has faux-tapestry of the children of the world all over it  There are few vestments I refuse to wear but that is one of them.  By the time it was all over I'd taken over 200 photos.  

The leaves were at peak color at the monastery.  Given the wind and rain that is falling at the moment I suspect they will all be down by the weekend.  However, one can't complain because we have had a splendid autumn.  Rather than posting a homily today I want to post photos and some explanation.  Lots of photos.

Details of a Celtic Cross in front of the gift shop at the entrance to the Abbey.

 The  bell tower of the monastic church taken from a hallway.

The second is "the cottage" where men who are testing their vocation to the abbey spend time until it is felt they are ready to stay in the monastery itself for an observership.  I made last year's vow retreat in the cottage, indeed in the room that is pictured.  It is the only self-contained room with its own entrance thus I didn't distract the other men who were there. 

The foliage in front of the cottage was brilliant, as it was last year when I made my retreat at the end of September. 

There was ivy climbing on the pink wall of one of the buildings.

 The road leads about a mile before it ends at the boundaries of the enclosure.  There is another road in the other direction about the same distance.  The abbey sits on 2000 acres of beautiful rolling land. 

The Trappist Preserve plant is highly mechanized.  The monastery, founded in Rhode Island, was moved to MA in the 1950's.  The original plan was to make a foundation in MA but the monastery in RI burned and thus everything moved to Spencer.  

The storage area fascinated me.  One of the monks wondered why I was taking a photo of an ugly green and very large storage area.  Answer:  Because it looks great in black and white as a study in angles and geometry. 

The prior (second after the abbott) gave the men the tour.  He is the one in the white robe and black scapular.

The boxes are filled automatically.  The preserves are made in small batches and are delicious.  The best is the Red Pepper Jelly that is hard to find in markets but is easy at the gift shop.  I go to Spencer monthly so I rarely run out.  There is nothing like peanut butter on a Ritz cracker with a dollop of red pepper jelly first thing int he AM to help "the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down. . . . in a most delightful way."

These are some of the preserves.  The ginger preserve is also amazing (along with mango pepper, cranberry pepper, and the usual flavors).

The Holy Rood Guild showroom where the vestments are displayed and sold is like Nordstrom's or Sak's for Catholic priests.  The colors and textures of the fabrics were the reason for the photos.  The first is a watered silk chasuble that is on display.  They don't make anything of watered silk these days. 

I took the next three because of the color and texture.  Sometimes photography needs an abstract or at least a non-figurative approach.  

As we were leaving the cloud cover arrived allowing this photo of the sun's rays. 

And here we have the happy group at the end of a good day. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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