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

11 April 2007

Legenda Fratrum, Pars XIII

This week, I can be found in the great plains of America presiding at my first provincial chapter*. By pure coincidence, this chapter happens to be in my own province. If Jesus was correct that no prophet is accepted in his own country, then I must not be a prophet because I have been rather warmly received.

Being here is a homecoming, of sorts, for another reason. The monastery where the chapter is being held is where I made my novitiate back in the early 80's. The monastery and its attached church are dedicated to Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Capuchin friar martyred by a group of Protestants in the Grison area of Switzerland. I visited the site of his martyrdom several years ago, and my Swiss brother guide informed me that St. Fidelis got what was coming to him. Apparently, his fiery sermons had exactly their intended effect of infuriating the locals.

One of the brothers who lived in the monastery during my year as a novice was Father J. He was 85 years old at the time, the senior brother of the province and a transplant from Germany. His uncle had been pastor when the church was built so Fr. J was understandably proud of it. The church was an historical landmark so it received visitors by the busload from near and far. Fr. J would provide a tour for these visitors, including his own brand of theological reflection on each picture and stained glass window in the church. For example, "In dis vindow, ve haf the Nativity. Ven Jesus vas born, he passed tru da vomb of the Virgin Mary like light tru da vindow."

One day, a group of Baptists, complete with minister, visited the Church and took Fr. J's tour. When he reached the picture of the martyrdom of St. Fidelis over the main altar, Fr. J. stated, "Hier is da martyrdom of Saint Fidelis. He vas murdered by the heretical Grison Calvinists." The minister, wishing to spare Br. J any embarrasment, whispered to him, "Father, I think you should know that the Baptists are followers of Calvin."

Unimpressed, Fr. J responded, "Dats alright. You're all heretics just like they vere!"

* A chapter, for those of you unfamiliar with monastic terminology, is a meeting of the brothers for electing leaders and discussing matters affecting the life of the brothers.


Blogger Pog said...

I think I love Fr J ...
Unt hiss ecksent.

12 April, 2007 17:32  
Blogger heartinsanfrancisco said...

Great story!! Ya. Ya gotta luff und mann who shpeaks hiss mint.

Und how did das Calvinist heretics hrespondt to der shpiel?

13 April, 2007 03:50  

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