Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturday Compline...The Day Comes To An End

There is still daylight outside but today is essentially over, at least in this monastic world. It has been a very long day. Most of it has been spent in meetings discussing the practical challenges and frustrations of managing a spiritual lay group that now numbers 230 people in 30 states. I feel like I was in a meeting at my employer. There were disagreements and occasional emotional tension. People and their personalities are universal in their sameness. It doesn't matter if they are spiritual. Everyone has an agenda and everyone has buttons that other people push. I am not sure these people are any easier to manage than the people I encounter in my corporate world.

Before today's meetings started my day got off to an interesting start. Someone from my group had the idea that we would plant a tree in memory of any monks who passed away in the last year. It seemed like a simple and meaningful idea. However, I don't think any of we city folk realized that we would have to actually dig the hole. We were told to meet one of the still living monks across the highway from the monastery at what is called the family guesthouse. Most of us were freshly showered and ready for a meeting. The next thing I know Brother Conrad shows up in a pickup truck full of shovels, a pick, and buckets of mulch. Father Michael is driving a small tractor. If I had been chosen to swing the pick I may have needed bed rest for the remainder of the day. Brother Conrad, who is approximately 80 years old, could have worked circles around any of us. After sharing the labor and no one getting hurt, the main tree and a couple of saplings were planted.

My dinner tonight left something to be desired so I went downstairs to the dining room for a bowl of cheerios. There was still some daylight when I finished so I decided to take a walk through the part of the monastic cemetery. From my time in the monastery many years ago I knew most of the monks buried near Thomas Merton and also those buried in the newest section section of the cemetery. All of the monk's graves are marked with the same type of simple cross and plaque identifying them by name and date of death. I walked from cross to cross and quietly spoke a few words to each of them based on my particular memory of them. Almost all of these now dead monks, some more than others, touched my life when I was a young novice. In the evening, when the orange glow of the sun is setting behind the distant hills, the surrounding landscape has great beauty and peacefulness. This beauty has not diminished one bit in the many years that I have been visiting here.

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