Monday, July 09, 2007

Picnic At The Monastery

Yesterday I rolled out of bed at 6:57 AM and headed for the shower. It was early but the sun was up and daybreak had already arrived. As soon as I was out of the shower I woke up my son. He was going to accompany me on a trip to the monastery. Soon we were ready and we left home, stopping only for gasoline, coffee, and some muffins. Part of our plan was to stop at the home of my friend, Fr Dennis. There we would share breakfast and celebrate an intimate and causal mass. Driving south the sun shining out of the eastern sky was bright and piercing. It was glorious in its early morning radiance. Traffic was light and the days heat had not yet taken over. I always enjoy these usually solitary drives to the monastery. This time my son shared my solitude. He was engrossed in a book so conversation was light and each of us was lost in is own thoughts. The time with Fr Dennis was relaxing. The three of us had mass in his small chapel. I believe it was the first time my son had been part of such a simple mass. Later in the morning we headed to the monastery where we were planning to join a group of friends and monks for an annual summer picnic. It was with some dread that I anticipated being outdoors. The temperature was supposed to be 95 degrees. I silently prayed that we wouldn't go up in the woods near Dom Frederic's lake. Although a beautiful spot in cooler weather, I find the woods a dreadful place in the summer. Hot temperatures, high humidity, and the usual tick infestation made the woods less than appealing. Fortunately, when I met up with everyone I learned we would gather at Thomas Merton's Hermitage. It was still in the woods but located in a clearing and the house would provide some respite from the heat. Several of the monks, and a large group of people I did not know until yesterday, also joined us. This hermitage was a place where Thomas Merton lived seeking solitude. There was no solitude yesterday but the gathering was enjoyable and the food was great. Yes, even simple monks enjoy a good meal! At one point we moved outside on the porch to hear Br Paul read some of his latest poetry and for all of us to dodge the kamikaze wasps that seemed to endlessly attack us. Fr Michael also shared some thoughts with us. I love these trips to the monastery and my memories of living there as a young man and also the blessed times I had alone staying in Merton's hermitage. I was happy to introduce my son to this part of my life. It keeps me spiritually grounded to maintain friendships with the monks and others who come to the monastery. I enjoy its simplicity while I am there but I admit that I truly enjoyed the air conditioning in my car on the way home. It was still mid afternoon when I arrived back home and soon I fell into a deep sleep. It was all good. This week an advisor to the Dalai Lama will be visiting the monastery. Wish I could be there!

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