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 August 2012

Words that hurt

We sat for three hours today as one of our brothers read the entire forty-some page report that we were given a week ago to study beforehand. Another brother quipped, "The Americans may have perfected waterboarding, but the Italians have perfected wordboarding!"

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Countdown is reset

As you can see by the countdown clock below, BroLo has been "granted" another six years in the international cloister. He now has 2191 days left in exile.

27 August 2012

Legenda fratrum, pars XXIII

Another true (or only slightly embellished) tale of the brothers.

Brother Gabriel was phoning the other monasteries to inform the brothers that Brother Alphonsus passed away during lunch that day.

Brother Taciturnus: Had he eaten his dessert yet?

Brother Gabriel (slightly puzzled): Well, yes, I guess he had.

Brother Taciturnus: Trust him to get every last bite out of the Order!

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18 August 2012

Days of wine and robes

August 18, 1980 was the hottest day of the year in Kansas. I remember this because it was the day I became BroLo by professing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Brother Party Pooper never fails to remind me how much he suffered through the long, hot ceremony. It seems that Mother Nature is celebrating my 32nd anniversary of profession by giving us the hottest day of the year in Rome.

I am not one of those people who have their whole lives planned in advance—I prefer surprises to disappointment. Still, I certainly never expected that I would spend 16 years of my religious life living in Rome and six years traveling around the world. In fact, before entering the novitiate one of my confreres and I took a road trip to see something of the world before being locked away forever into a monastery. Our Grand Tour consisted of driving from Kansas City to Chicago. I then took a train from Chicago to Washington, DC, while he drove back to Kansas City. Such an adventure!

Life for these past 32 years has not always been a bed of roses, but I have no reason to complain. I have many good, supportive brothers. There is no doubt that I have had opportunities to see places and do things that would not have been possible if I had chosen a different path in life. Overall, the positives have far outweighed the negatives.

In the old days, on the vigil of one's birthday or patronal feast, you ate your supper sitting on the floor. The idea was to prevent you from becoming proud. It seemed like a silly tradition and I am glad it was discontinued. Still, I am beginning to see the sense of it—sure, life seems goods right now, but don't get used to it!

15 August 2012

My other generation

Years ago when I visited the Tower of London, the tour guide mocked the Americans as having come "looking for history". For the record, he mocked everyone—the Australians who came looking for culture, the Europeans for something to do with football, and the English for not having self-identified themselves as Europeans. There was probably some truth to what he said, at least in the case of Americans, which is probably why so many of us are obsessed with genealogy.

My interest in genealogy began when I was in high school. One of my grandmothers had immigrated to the U.S. at the age of eighteen or so, and she used to tell me stories about life in "the old country." The thought of leaving behind almost everything and everyone you knew to move to an unfamiliar place fascinated me. I started asking questions about the family, and looking up records at the county courthouse and parish. I recently discovered that the Czech Republic has made available online all the parish baptism, marriage and death records they had in their archives, which has re-ignited my curiosity. I can now name almost all my ancestors going back at least six generations, and in some cases up to ten generations.

Someone once told me that priests and religious have a greater interest in genealogy than the average person. Maybe it is our way of compensating for our lack of contribution to the future survival of the familial genes. In my experience, however, the brothers are only interested in their own genealogy. Oh, they acted interested the first time I excitedly mentioned my latest fantastic discovery. The next time, I received a half-hearted "Hmm". After that, they started walking the other way when they saw me coming. No one appreciates great research any more.