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

31 July 2006

Legenda Fratrum, Part IX

Often during community prayers, an especially crotchety old brother used to stare at the younger brothers that he suspected of a lack of seriousness. One of the young brothers, a frequent object of these stares, had his fill of it one day and decided to out-stare the old brother. The match continued for the whole period of prayer. As they were leaving the chapel, the older brother stopped the younger one and snarled: "Brother, if you'd look at the tabernacle as much as you looked at me, you'd be a g*dd**n saint!"

30 July 2006

I'm tempted...

to get one of those blow-up dolls and take it to bed with me—after I've filled it with water and put it in the freezer for a few hours. I'll call her Sant'Artica.
"You can be on top every night, you naughty girl!"

22 July 2006

Rules for community living, part 1

After living in a religious community for over 25 years, I have noticed certain behaviors that are so common that they become unspoken rules. I do not presume to speak for female religious communities; they may have a different set of rules. This is "part 1" because I suspect I will notice other rules as time goes on.

Rule 1: If you see a mess, ignore it. Don't say anything about it, even if you see the culprit in the act of making the mess. Example: If Brother Porcinus absentmindedly walks up two flights of stairs holding an open, upside-down bag of pretzels and a previously-full cup of coffee at a 45 degree angle, you should walk up the stairs in a way that implies you do not hear the odd crunchy/squishy noises underfoot. Reason: If you say anything about it, the other brothers will naturally ask why, if you saw the mess, you didn't clean it up? By not saying anything, you can plead ignorance.

Rule 2: If you do any task that was previously unassigned to anyone (such as cleaning up pretzels and coffee on the stairs), it automatically becomes your job for the rest of your life. Another reason to abide by Rule 1.

Rule 3: Section A (for discrete, indivisible foods, such as Oreos): Before removing said food item from its bag or box, ensure that there is more than one remaining piece. Never remove the last item of food from its container. Reason: Removing the last piece would require you to dispose of the container in the nearest receptacle, which clearly poses an unacceptable burden and is beneath your dignity.

Rule 3: Section B (for infinitely divisible foods, such as chips): No piece is too small to be considered the last piece. If necessary, use tweezers to break a single remaining crumb into two even smaller crumbs, then eat one of them. For the rest, follow Rule 3, Section A.

Rule 4: If there is the slightest chance that someone will need a particular item from the refrigerator in the near future, leave it out for him when you are finished with it. Example: After you have poured milk on your cereal, consider whether anyone else will want milk on their cereal in the next several days. If so, leave the milk out for them. Reason: Obviously, this is an act of charity. You don't wish others to strain a muscle reaching into the refrigerator for no good reason.

14 July 2006

Legenda Fratrum, Part VIII

Brother A: "I'm the only brother here who has a paper proving that he's sane" (Which was true. He'd had a psychological evaluation a few years earlier.)

Brother B: "Oh, Brother A, never lose that piece of paper!"

12 July 2006

Oh, how the mighty [egos] are fallen

I took a break from my usual supper of bread and water to eat out with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Suburbanite, yesterday evening. We went to a Brazilian restaurant, where the food was excellent and the mojitos were heavenly. Highly recommended.

I've known Mrs. Suburbanite since we were teenagers. I quite fancied her (and still do, although in a less hormonally-driven way). She was, in fact, the most formidable obstacle to my decision to become a brother. That obstacle was overcome when she decided to marry someone with greater lifetime earnings potential, was more handsome and didn't respond to her flirting with ramblings about wanting to live as a celibate. Go figure! It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that she would make a good wife and mother, but as a rocket scientist, he figured it out sooner than I did.

During the meal, I recalled the time she came to Kansas City, where I was attending university, and we spent the day at an amusement park. It was one of the greatest days of my life—one of those days to which you build a shrine in your mind and burn candles before. She responded by professing to have no memory of such a meeting.

This morning, I pondered what to place in the gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to reside and how to repair the ruins of my mental shrine. While I pondered that, I filled the gaping hole of my stomach with the delicious homemade rhubarb jam that she made for me. I think all is forgiven.

09 July 2006

Legenda Fratrum, VII

This was related to me as a true story, but to be honest, I am skeptical. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable.

In the early sixties, a brother is giving a retreat to a group of sisters. As any good speaker will do, he started by complimenting the audience, saying, "Standing up here in front of all you beautiful women, I feel like a thorn among the roses."

At the end of the retreat, Mother Superior rose to thank Brother, as was the custom:

"Brother, you may be a thorn among the roses, but we didn't feel your prick."

08 July 2006

Becoming a homicidal maniac, step 1

Two recent experiences with bureaucracy....

Me: I need to change the registration of this vehicle from state A to state B. (Handing over documents) Here's the title, current registration, emissions inspection, VIN verification and proof of insurance.
Bureaucrat: (Clearly not impressed with my efficiency) You need authorization from a corporate officer on official letterhead.
Me: But it will be registered under the same name. I only need to change the address.
Bureaucrat: You need authorization from a corporate officer on official letterhead.
Me: (Okay, I didn't want to brag, but she's forced my hand) I am an officer of the corporation. I'm the treasurer. (Take that, b***h)
Bureaucrat: You need authorization from a corporate officer on official letterhead.
Me: You mean you want me to go back to the office, type a letter of authorization, sign it and bring it back?
Bureaucrat: You cannot sign it. It must be signed by another officer giving you permission.

I leave in a huff, go back to the office, type said authorization, have the boss's secretary forge his name (he was away at the time), go back to DMV and get back in line. This time, I'm called to a different window.

Me: (acting dumb) Umm, I have a car that's registered in state A, and I want to register it in state B. What documents do you need to see?
New bureaucrat: I'll need the title, current registration, emissions inspection, VIN verification and proof of insurance.
Me: That's it?!
New bureaucrat: Yes, that will do it. Here's your new registration.

Experience 2

Me: Hi. I'd want to close this account and transfer the balance of the funds to this other account.
Bank "service" rep: All the signers on the account will have to present themselves in person in order to close the account.
Me: What?! All of them?! But they're scattered all over the United States. There must be another way.
Rep: Well, maybe if you had a corporate resolution authorizing you to close the account. I'm not sure. It would be better if all the signers came in. I'm sorry that's our policy. It's for your protection.

Clearly, this man knows not of what he speaks so I call the corporate offices.

Me: Hello, could you tell me what I need to do in order to close an account at your bank.
Phone rep: All the signers must come in person to the bank to close it.
Me: But that is next to impossible. Surely there must be another way!
Rep: I'm sorry, but that's our policy. It's for your protection.

A few weeks later, I have an idea. I go back to the first bank rep on a Friday afternoon.

Me: Hi. I talked to you a few weeks ago about closing an account, and you said I would need to have all the signers here in person to do that. It occurred to me that I am not even sure who all the signers are. So could you please pull the signature cards for our four accounts from the files, and make copies of them for me? Here is a list of our account numbers. I'll wait here.
Rep: (Pause) Umm, you said you just wanted to transfer the balance to another of your accounts, didn't you? Oh, in that case, I think I can take care of that right now. (Five minutes later) Here's your deposit slip.

06 July 2006

The World According to Porcinus

Today is the feast of Saint Maria Goretti (to be exact, it's an optional memorial in the Catholic Church's calendar). This fact will go unnoticed by most of the world, including most Catholics, but not in San Lorenzo Monastery. Not as long as we have Brother Porcinus, anyway. The story of how a twelve-year old Italian girl preferred death to rape is, according to Brother P, the perfect teaching tool for a bunch of old, obese monks—in case we are ever faced with a situation in which an older man attempts to rape us. Maria's story has everything Brother P could want in a story: sex, violence and imprisonment. These are, essentially, the filters through which he looks at the world.

In his homily this morning, he retold the story in breathless tones and expansive gestures, repeating at least twice that she was stabbed fourteen times. By the end of the homily, I was thinking how lucky she was. He finished by explaining how important the repentance of Maria's murderer was to all the world's sex addicts (I guess he runs in different circles than I do).

To put a positive spin on it, I guess I am now more prepared in case I ever find myself in the position of being a twelve-year old girl.

Sleepless in Soliloquy

It's been a while since my last post. No, I haven't been ill. Thanks for asking. As the new members of our fraternity arrive, there are zillions of little details to which I must attend—transferring insurance policies, teaching the newbies how to use the phone system, the photocopier, the postage meter, where to find this and that, etc. All this on top of my usual work, which is a little heavier than usual because we just ended one fiscal year and have started a new one. On top of that, I was asked to attend a funeral in exotic Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last week, which involved a day of travel to the Pitts and another one for the return. I refer you to my earlier post about the lack of consideration on the part of many dying people.

We held our first house meeting as a newly-constituted fraternity yesterday. It lasted two hours and 15 minutes (approximately three hours if you use the metric system). The main agenda item was the horarium. Here's the new one:
05.45 Meditation
06.15 Morning Prayer
06.30 Mass
07.00 Meditation
07.30 Breakfast
12.00 Midday Prayer
12.15 Lunch
17.00 Meditation
17.30 Evening Prayer
17.45 Office of Readings
18.00 Dinner
21.30 Night Prayer

With the exception of some minor changes on Sunday evening, this is the schedule seven days a week. In fairness, we are allowed to choose from two of the three meditation periods. Do I need to clarify that I did not choose the 5.45 period? What I want to know is, who decided that getting up in the middle of the night somehow equates to holiness? Why don't we ever hear of saints who worked late into the night, then slept until 10 o'clock? If you ask me, many of the church's ills can be traced to a lack of sleep. For instance, Martin Luther was a monk and so undoubtedly was required to get up several times a night for prayer, then to rise early in the morning. Here is the grumpy, sleep-deprived Martin Luther:

(Mumble grumble simony corruption mumble fornication) I have had it with this Pope, and I'm not going to take it any more. Here are the first 95 reasons that I came up with. Stay tuned for more. (thunk thunk thunk thud OUCH sonofa......!)

Now, compare that to the relatively well-rested Marty:

(whistle whistle Do you have to, do you have to, do you have to let it linger) Man, this Pope Leo is crazy if he thinks that people can pay their way out of Purgatory. Good thing he won't live forever. No doubt the next Pope will set things right again. Who's for a game of cards?

Or take those half-dazed Inquisitors:

This woman was caught taking the name of our Savior in vain. Clearly she is a witch. She must be burned, along with this terrible cake that she gave us on Sunday.

Now, the eight-full-hours-of-shuteye version:

I'd advise you to stay away from Mrs. Bianchi today! Her husband spent his whole paycheck at the goat races yesterday so she is on a tear. Not to mention that it's the 14th of the month.

See the difference?