Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

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Location: Rome, Italy

15 May 2006

Meet the brothers, Part 2

Today, I'd like to introduce you to another member of my community. Brother Methuselah is the oldest member of the community. As such, he has earned the right to be crusty, of which he avails himself liberally. He was the community's provincial in the early seventies—a time of radical changes in the church and world, when brothers were leaving the community in droves, and those who remained were pushing boundaries, sometimes in unhealthy directions. The younger brothers accused him of being closed to the signs of the times and against change. The older brothers accused him of being too lenient with those who were not following the venerable traditions of the Order. Who could blame him for being bitter? Yet, he does not seem bitter, just a little crusty, as I said.

About five years ago, Brother M received two new heart valves and a coronary by-pass. For several months after the operation, he would pray for the poor little pig that gave its life for him (the valves were from a pig's heart). He would not eat pork, afraid that he might be eating his benefactor. Due to his heart condition and age, he spends much of his day either sleeping or sitting in front of the television. He often yells at the television. He likes, for instance, to correct the grammar of journalists ('IT WAS HE', NOT 'IT WAS HIM'. Gawd, don't these people know how to speak English!). His one-size-fits-half solution for criminals is: Cut his balls off!

Despite his age, he is surprisingly well-read and knowledgeable about politics and church matters. He has no time for pompous politicians and church leaders, reserving some of his choicest euphemisms for them. Unlike many of his peers, he has no sappy nostalgia for the way things were before the Second Vatican Council. Having lived through that period, he is keenly aware of the problems that existed even then. He is mostly liberal in his politics and theology, while managing to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church.

He is my model for the day I earn the right to be crusty.


Anonymous heather said...

I'm rather hoping that you're going to become a Father Jack in your later years (Did you get Father Ted in America? If you did, are you excommunicated if you watched it?)

15 May, 2006 18:44  
Anonymous pog said...

As long as he doesn't become Father Jack, H ....
Brother Methusaleh sounds like a marvellous role model, though ...

16 May, 2006 10:19  
Blogger Br. Lawrence said...

Sadly, we do not get Father Ted here. If one can trust the blurb on the BBC website, it sounds like a good show. Maybe we'll see a more insipid version of it in a few years. All our best shows are remakes of British ones.
Brother M is a good role model, except for the farting and burping. I'll try to limit myself in those categories.

16 May, 2006 16:27  
Blogger heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have known a gentleman named Adolf all my life as he and his wife were my parents' closest friends.

At 104 years of age, he is my definitive proof that senility is not mandatory. He is now blind, but keeps up with both world and family events, and his memory is keener than that of most 40-year olds.

While my own father, an accomplished curmudgeon, died relatively young, my only evidence of crustiness on Adolf's part was gleaned accidentally.

Ending one of our telephone conversations with "Be well, darling," he fumbled with the receiver longer than usual and I heard him mutter, "Where the fuck IS it?" I had no idea he knew any four-letter words. Of course HE has no idea that I always wait for him to hang up first; since we live on opposite coasts, this is how I see him to his door.

Father Methuselah sounds like a man who knows himself well enough to be unthreatened by ideas from any source, either tradition or his own mind, and has nothing to prove. And that must bring a special kind of peace.

07 August, 2006 19:07  

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