Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back From Retreat

32nd Wednesday in Ordinary Time 
Lk 17:11-19

Leprosy appears regularly in both the Old and New Testaments, particularly the Old.  Leprosy as understood in the Ancient Near East  had, and has, nothing to do with leprosy as known in more modern times, a disease now called Hansen's Disease.  Indeed, there is no good evidence that Hansen's disease existed during Jesus' time in the area where he lived.  In scripture, leprosy was not necessarily a disfiguring physical illness due to nerve destruction.  It was a vaguely defined non-specific group of skin conditions and blemishes that resulted in the bearer of the lesion being cast from society.  Even clothing or the walls of a home could be declared to have leprosy. Today we would call it mold.   

The Gospel highlights the interdependence of faith and thanksgiving. Only one of the ten lepers healed by Jesus in Luke's narrative returned to express his gratitude when he realized that he had been healed.  The response of those healed, the response, or lack of response, of those who could now return to normal society, is the main point of the narrative. The gospel highlights the unfortunate disconnect between faith and thanksgiving that characterizes too many Catholics today.

Obviously the ten lepers had some degree of faith in Jesus.  Otherwise, they would not have yelled to him from a distance, pleading to be cleansed, nor would they have set out to present themselves to the priests simply because he told them to do so.  But only one, a foreigner, returned to give thanks, upon realizing he had been cleansed.

The story recalls the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes.  Alas, many of those who get out of the foxhole alive resume their atheist ways.  We saw a similar phenomenon after 9/11.  Churches were packed in the aftermath.  Briefly.  And then shopping, the childrens' sports competitions, and other forms of diversion resumed their place of primacy thus improving the parking at most churches but keeping the mall humming. 

Faith cannot exist, it cannot grow or persist without prayer.  Faith cannot be maintained without thanksgiving.  Faith depends on prayer.  Prayer is not just for petition.  It is not, or should not even be, primarily for petition.  Prayer is praise.  Prayer is thanksgiving. Prayer expresses gratitude to God for what He has done, for what He is doing, and for what He will do for us, even if we don't understand it at the moment. 
Long hiatus.  I was on retreat at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT from 27 October to 4 November.  Regina Laudis is a cloistered monastery of forty Benedictine nuns.  Their age ranges from the mid-20's to post-80's.  Mother Dolores Hart entered in 1963.  She is the subject of an academy award nominated documentary "God is Bigger than Elvis."  She gave Elvis his first screen kiss.  Her films include "Where the Boys Are" and "Come Fly with Me" where she starred with Dean Martin.  She told me it was her favorite movie.  A very gracious woman. 

After the retreat I drove to Plymouth, made a quick trip to State College to see Al and Karen, and then went to D.C. for a baptism on Sunday.  Got back here Tuesday, fifteen days after leaving.  Except for the time in D.C. I had little access to internet.  Another two-week sojourn, non-retreat, is coming in February, more details later.

It was a good retreat with some important discernment.  Lots of light, a helping of shadow, and much rest.  I celebrated Mass daily  for eight days.  The difference was that the Mass was novus ordo and chanted in Latin using classical Gregorian notation.  Found out that I could actually write a homily longhand and read it, if I was careful.  

I took many photos while there.  The Abbey is on 400 acres of forested land.  Quite a bit of it is outside the enclosure and thus accessible.  The church is on top of a hill and not attached to the monastery.  Interesting arrangements but after seeing the church I can understand it.  Am posting quite a few photos. 

The original monastery for the tiny group of nuns who began it in the late-1940's.  It is now the men's guest house.  The first floor corner in the foreground was the two-room chaplain's quarters.  Rustic but comfortable.

In the rustic theme I was doing some inside photography trying to capture of Dutch genre painting feel.  These things were on the shelf.  It was simply a matter of tilting the brass vase. 

The grounds are lovely.  Autumn leaves were coming to an end but some were falling into a nearby pond. 

The view from the back of the Monastic Church. 

The Church taken from the choir lost.  The nun's choir is behind the grille.  At communion the door in the middle is opened and they approach the opening to receive. 

The door opening for communion. 

The crucifix on the altar.

The nuns during vespers one evening.  I took the photo through a glass door so that the shutter wouldn't disturb the sisters hence the glare. 

The three postulants approaching the altar at the end of vespers.  The woman in the middle entered the novitiate on 1 November in a very moving ceremony when she was clothed with the habit and white veil. 

The chapel in the lower monastery.  This was, I assume the original church.  It is used for some of the hours during the day, compline at night, and for Mass either when the road leading to the church on the hill is inaccessible or, as was the case on All Soul's Day, there is a special Mass for the sisters.  The curtain at the lower half of the grille is pulled back during the hours. 

The Benedictine motto is Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work).  The sister below is wearing the work habit.  You see the ear protector.  You do not see the chain saw she was using to cut trees.  The Abbey has a farm, a small dairy herd whose milk is used to make (excellent) cheese, and sheep.  They grow much of their produce. 

An old barn on the property.

A sun-catcher in an old shed, first from the outside and then from the inside. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    Thank for the interesting piece and beautiful photos. I am working on a documentary about a nun who spend 30 years at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. I would love to use some of your photography for the documentary and would like to speak to you more about it. . Thank you for considering.