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

19 June 2010

Legenda fratrum, pars XXII

Okay, this time you must be acquainted with old American advertisements to fully appreciate this story.

From the founding of our Order in the 1500's until 1968, every member was required to wear a beard, which were supposed to indicate that we were "manly, natural and austere". By the 1940's, however, many American brothers were anxious to send their beard down the drain. When an American brother from Milwaukee was elected as head of the Order in 1946, many American brothers thought he would do away with the requirement. Unfortunately for them, he did not abolish the rule. In fact, not only did he keep his beard for his entire term of office, he actually let it grow longer and bushier, or shall we say, more "natural".

Piqued by this development—or lack thereof—, an American brother dubbed it, "the beard that made Milwaukee famous".

14 June 2010

It's a mystery alright

Those of you who follow churchy news may know that some months ago the Vatican announced it would be conducting a "visitation" of all the women's religious congregations in the United States. There were mixed reactions to the announcement, to say the least. At one end of the spectrum are congregations that feel that it is long overdue. At the other end are those that see the visitation as intrusive, heavy-handed and unwarranted. Much ink has been spilled over the issue, and it has, predictably, divided American Catholics along ideological lines. Again.

Of everything said and written, I think the cleverest thing I've heard so far came from a religious sister I was introduced to a few days ago. In light of the displeasure this has caused among many of the congregations, she suggested that "The Visitation" should be switched from being a Joyful Mystery to being a Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.

Okay, you have to be a Catholic of a certain age and caliber in order to understand it.

09 June 2010

There goes our image

In many of our monasteries, it is a custom to have a daily reading of the Necrology—a short biography of all the brothers of the province who died on that day. Today's Necrology in the monastery I am currently visiting recalled a brother whose hobby was gardening. He was the very picture of a pious, nature-loving brother, except for one thing. He hated sparrows. Each morning, he would walk meditatively around the garden while praying his rosary. And in his other hand there would be a stone to throw at some unsuspecting winged warbler.
Ave Maria, plena gratia... BAM!