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There's a sun-dappled lane I wander along every morning after mass. "Thanksgiving Lane", you could call it. This morning I presided at mass. In the presence of thirty five of my brothers and a handful of our neighbors, I ministered as priest in the person of Christ to make present again to my brothers, the real and saving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross by which death is changed into life. I often feel it is only after the mass, taking this solitary walk, that the entire hallowed mystery breaks over me like a baptism.
I am awake. It's a little after two in the morning. I am lying here on my bed in the darkness a full hour before the 3:15 a.m. bell for rising - and I am awake. Why am I awake? I was languidly, blissfully asleep only a minute ago. I can still savor the heaviness of my limbs weighting the bed; still recall how, only a moment ago, my mind was darkened and I wasn't thinking about anything. Now I'm awake and my mind is roaming. Good Lord, I'm thinking about all sorts of things. They say this happens as you get older: you wake up repeatedly during the night for no reason. Splendid.
Aunt Sarah hasn't spoken to any of her sisters for more than five months now. Not a word. This has never happened before in the seventy – plus years these four sisters have known one another. Their mother, my grandmother, was a scary lady when they were growing up. She would shout. She would throw things. The girls learned to stick together, look out for, and protect each other. That bond held till five months ago, and then it broke and a terrible silence filled the crack.
“Albert”, will be his new name. James was clothed as a novice on Sunday morning and was given a new name in keeping with a tradition that goes back centuries. He is really excited about wearing a monk's habit. The habit is pure white, the scapular laying over the brilliant white robe and the belt itself a simple white band tied around the waist. There is a radiance, but I can't tell if it's coming from the stark white habit or from Albert.
“All the things I was most afraid of as a young monk - never happened!” Having a few days ago celebrated the Feast of St. Benedict, the Father of Western monasticism, I'm remembering monks I have known. These words were spoken by Brother Charles. He was probably 89 years old at the time; the monk responsible for doing the laundry at Gethsemani Abbey, back in 1987 when I visited there for the first time as a junior monk.
With the monks in choir this morning I'm singing the psalm verse: “deep calls unto deep”. What does that mean? “Whoah”, a voice in me says, “Best not to get too close to those words. There are depths in you that are infinite! Your infinity makes you susceptible to His call from whose infinite depths you were dropped fifty four years ago like a hailstone from the sky into a bed of grass. What can awaken a hailstone to the infinity he harbors inside? Cancer did it for me.
So, here's the task at hand: I am to provide our dear Fr. Bernard with a little company and brotherly kindness for a little while as I do each Sunday night by reading to him. Vespers is over – it's time. Go. First, I select a reading. Not a lot of time, so I snatch a copy of Guideposts magazine. Five minutes later I'm in Fr. Bernard's room – and he's not there. Must be in church. He'll need the motorized wheel chair to get back to his room. I'll drive it myself, which I don't mind. It's fun. Two minutes after six, I'm rolling into church in a motorized wheelchair and Fr.