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“So – like . . . if a monk has a vision of God – does he talk to the other monks about that . . . ?” About twenty students from a local college are looking at me intently. They appear genuinely interested to hear what I am going to say. A second or two passes in silence. Now – it is clear to me, this kid is no cynical unbeliever. He didn't ask me: “Do you guys believe people can see God?” He wants to know what the monks do when they have a vision of God, something he evidently serenely accepts as a possibility. That's interesting.
I'm standing at the lectern in church with the abbot and thirty three monks sitting in front of me rehearsing with them, the new translation of the Missal, coming in two days. I'm doing the priest parts: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The halting, stop-and-start feeling of the first ten words is making me self-conscious.
For a week now, our monastic community has been conducting a “visitation”, and my nerves are a little on edge. A vistation happens every two years and involves the abbot of the monastery who founded your monastery coming and reviewing the state of affairs in your community. Maybe the nervousness is just my issue. I am generally a little anxious and excited about the very idea of a “visitation” which basically means an encounter with one who comes from another place. But maybe a visit, especially from one who comes from far away, puts butterflies in the stomach of most of us.
Brother James is a novice, thirty years old; who joined New Melleray Abbey about a year ago and was just recently clothed a novice. Very intelligent, a former English teacher and website designer, he seems excited about the New Roman Missal to be implemented in a couple weeks. The other day, after presiding at mass, he comes up to me in the sacristy: “I was looking at the “collect” for the First Sunday of Advent.