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 January 2007

Just call me 'Columbus'

It would seem that I have discovered a new country. I checked my site stats this morning and discovered that one percent of the visitors to my site are from an "Unknown country". Not an unidentified country, mind you, but a country that is actually unknown. Without a doubt, I will be very busy for the next few weeks taking care of all the formalities involved in registering a new country with the United Nations, setting up diplomatic ties, and most importantly, finding a crisis that will require huge inflows of cash from the World Monetary Fund.

The first order of business, however, is giving the country a name. I am thinking of something that is morally uplifting, something that speaks of the pride and dignity of this country's great inhabitants, something that will motivate them to bring out the best in themselves and in others. I've narrowed it down to Brolandia or Brolostan. Which do you think I should go with?

It is unfortunate that I had to make this discovery in 2007. Nothing rhymes with seven, which rules out a nice little ditty, such as: 'In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue....'.

29 January 2007

If these walls could talk

Among the many architectural gems of Rome, our monastery is a ring made from a chewing gum wrapper. The reddish-brown brick structure looks like a part of the Aurelian wall that it lies near. The building is not old. It was built in the late 1800’s on land that the city of Rome acquired from a financially-strapped noble family. It was originally occupied by a group of cloistered nuns, but by the 1950’s the city had grown up around it and it became too noisy for the nuns. Our Order bought the building from them, added another story and a fourth wing to it.

Historically, the building is of no importance, but it does have one interesting story attached to it.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome, our Order’s monastery was located about four blocks away from our present location. Among the brothers living there at the time was a Frenchman who ran the printing presses for the Order’s publications. Between the scholarly journals and the General Minister’s letters to the Order, however, he was also printing fake baptismal certificates for the local Jews, despite the fact that the Gestapo were stationed a mere two blocks away from the monastery. When a Jewish family came to the door of the monastery to beg for food, the brother porter would get the names and ages of all the family members. The next time they came begging, they would get a sack of food with the baptismal certificates inside.

This went on until the Gestapo either became suspicious or were tipped off. They came to the door of the monastery one day demanding to conduct an inspection. The brother porter delayed them by claiming that only the guardian could give such permission. While calling the guardian, he also managed to warn the French brother, who ran to the printing presses, retrieved the plates and ran out a side door. He took refuge in the monastery of the cloistered sisters, our present-day monastery. He remained there a few days, even shaving his beard and donning the habit of the sisters, according to one account. He was eventually hidden inside the little truck that came each week to take out the sisters’ garbage. The truck took him to the outskirts of Rome, from where he made his way back to France.

For his efforts, he was included among the “Righteous Gentiles” by the government of Israel.

Legenda Fratrum, Pars XII

This is not really about the brothers, but I heard it from a brother who heard it from a brother who heard it from an Irish supreme court judge, who admitted, 'I'm not sure this is true, but if it isn't, it ought to be'.

The young man being tried in a court case was loudly chewing a wad of gum, in evident disrespect for the judge and the court proceedings. The judge summoned a guard to the bench and instructed him, "Tell that young man to stop masticating." The guard walked over to the defendant and said, "Take your hands out of your pockets."

28 January 2007

What? It's January already?

I can't believe that it's been over a month since I last blogged. It seems like a mere five weeks since my last post. On the bright side, I've used the time to craft a clever, informative, well-honed post.

Of course not. It's the same ol' crap as always. Since all my regular readers have by now abandoned any hope of seeing a new post here, I can write about them with impunity. For instance, did you know that Pog buys the cheapest shampoo she can find? Moobs drinks milk out of the carton. I'm not kidding. Heather picks up bits of lettuce that have fallen on the floor and throws them in the salad bowl when no one is looking. I swear. Belgian Waffle sometimes put recylable plastics in with the non-recyclable garbage. Oh yes she does. Claudia once parked without putting a sufficient amount of money in the meter. Bobble has a stash of pictures showing dolls in skimpy lingerie and compromising positions—could I make this stuff up? Helen admitted that she still thinks of it as Bombay rather than Mumbai, to this very day.

Whew. I feel much better having gotten these sordid secrets off my chest. Especially since I know that the above-mentioned will be none the wiser.