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

22 July 2012

The countdown clock says that I have 61 days left in Rome. Of course, that depends on whether I am re-elected or not. I should know that by the end of August.

Furious preparations are underway for our sexennial General Chapter. Our translators are ready to revolt as during the last few months they have had to translate hundreds of pages of the most boring reports ever committed to paper. Once the Chapter delegates receive the reports and realize that they are expected to read all of them, they'll be the ones ready to revolt. Many of the brothers did as they were asked and kept their reports to two pages, but you can always tell the ones who have an inflated sense of their self worth. They are the ones who list everything they did for the past six years, no matter how insignificant —

  • attended quarterly planning meetings (24x);
  • put new ink cartridge in pen (6x); 
  • refilled the sugar bowl at the coffee station (2x); 
  • refilled paper tray in copier (including opening the package and riffling the stack) (3x); 
  • etc. 
Other than elections, the big topic at this year's Chapter is the proposed revision of the Order's Constitutions. Our first set of Constitutions was written in 1536 and remained nearly unchanged until 1909. They were completely rewritten in 1968 to reflect the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council. Those were considered experimental. A new, "definitive" version came out in 1982, largely based on the 1968 version. Several minor changes were made several times since then. The Chapter of 2000 voted to re-write the Constitutions again, but the version proposed in 2006 did not pass. In its infinite wisdom, that Chapter reconfirmed the decision to revise the Constitutions so we have been working the past six years to come up with something that will meet the approval of the delegates.

Of course, revising one's Constitutions is no easy task. In order to have enough time to deal with the inevitable proposals for amendments and sub-amendments, we lengthened the Chapter from its usual three weeks to five weeks. Naturally, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth about that. There will be a presentation on each of the Constitutions' twelve chapters, as well as a presentation introducing the work as a whole. On top of that, there is a 40-some page introduction to the introduction, whose purpose we have yet to ascertain. The Cunning Linguist bitterly joked that we should have a Preface to the Introduction of the Explanatory Notes of the Foreword to the Preface. So you can imagine the joyful atmosphere that awaits us.

The great adventure begins in four weeks. I am hoping that in the meantime a better offer will come along — such as cleaning Calcutta's sewer system.