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

09 April 2009

A day in the life - Rising

My day in the monastery, whenever I am there, typically begins at 5:45 a.m. with a shower and associated ablutions so I can arrive for prayers at 6:30, fresh as a bedewed rose. Okay, I am lying about the rose thing. I am about as fresh as that leaf of lettuce that fell behind your kitchen counter last week. I am not a morning person, and while rising before dawn has become easier with the passing of the years, it still feels unnatural. Surely God meant the sun to be our alarm clock, no? Community prayers are an important part of the day, however, and skipping them would scandalize some of the younger brothers so guilt trumps my desire to stay in my celibate bed each morning.

Judging by the looks of many of the other brothers, I am not the only one who is not a morning person. A few of them tumble into chapel with seconds to spare, complete with pillow-tousled hair and sleep in their eyes. Occasionally, one can spy pajamas under a brother’s habit. On the other hand, there are those brothers who have been in chapel since before 6:00—bright-eyed, perfectly groomed, in attitudes of smug prayerfulness. Oh, how I hate them!

The reader might be asking himself or herself why, if so many brothers dislike this early hour, we don’t move prayers to a later hour. Actually, when I first moved to this monastery in 1988, prayers started at 6:15. After battling for almost 20 years, we normal brothers finally won a 15 minute concession from the "Aurorists". Somehow, whenever the topic came up in a house chapter, the early risers managed to grab the high moral ground and to convince the majority that rising later than 6:00 will insure one’s eternal damnation. Frankly, however, I am suspicious of these people. The Psalmist wisely said, “God gives to his beloved while they slumber.” I ask myself, why will the consciences of these brothers not allow them to sleep to a normal hour?

(To be continued)

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