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

30 August 2010

Family politics

Politically speaking, I am the black sheep of the family—a half-hearted Democrat in a sea of dyed-red-in-the-wool Republicans. I am sorry to say that my own, dear mother is among the most extreme of the group. She's an intelligent woman, yet she has allowed herself to be convinced that President Obama is Muslim and, worse yet, she too would like him to produce his birth certificate. Whenever I visit them, as I am this week, there is an unspoken agreement to avoid talking about politics, although she occasionally can't help herself. "What do you think about those terrorists building a mosque in New York," she'll ask. At least there is no doubt about where she stands on the issue. Of course, I knew where she stood on the issue before she asked the question because I know from whom she gets her information. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and Glenn Beck have become my parent's daily bread.

At the moment, they are especially taken by Glenn Beck, which isn't surprising given that he has wrapped himself in a cloak of religiosity. They were all set to watch his Washington rally in its entirety on Saturday, but couldn't find the correct channel. They knew better than to ask my help. The "Restoring Honor" rally was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Just a coincidence, said Glenn Beck. An attempt to subvert the legacy of the civil rights movement, said his detractors.

At the health club this morning, talk of the rally was all the rage. I overheard a comment (thankfully, not from my mother) that pretty well says it all: "We got those people out of Africa; what more do they want?!"

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26 August 2010

Really, really ahead of his time

The most popular of the writings of Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1881 - 1226) is almost certainly the "Peace Prayer of St Francis". The only problem is that he never actually wrote it. The prayer, whose author is unknown, was printed on the back of a holy card bearing the image of St Francis, which led to its being attributed to the saint from Assisi.

What should be the most popular writing of St Francis is his "Canticle of the Creatures," a beautiful poem in which he calls all of creation his brother and sister, and asks them to praise their Creator. The poem inspired the title of Zefferelli's film "Brother Sun, Sister Moon", and for the popular hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King". One of our monasteries used the poem in a recent fundraising letter, which elicited a rather strong response from one of its donors, which can be paraphrased as follows: "How dare you print this New Age crap. I will never donate to you again!"

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Apropos of nothing

Brother Maltus just returned from his parents' 60th wedding anniversary. He told us it was a nice, simple ceremony. One of the other brothers then began to reminisce about this couple's 25th wedding anniversary. Both husband and wife were close to fifty years old at the time and had brought three children into the world. For his sermon at that Mass, the priest choose the very appropriate theme, "The Evils of Birth Control."