Homily - priest spoke about St. Anthony of the Desert, how he searched for holiness in many saints' writings, and how he benefitted from the wisdom and experience of those who preceded him. Remarked on how his(St. Anthony's) holiness shone through him to those whom he met. Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted during the homily.
Afterwards, we met with some of the cloistered nuns in the monastery parlor. We had requested a visit, and gave one of the externs(nuns who are outside the cloister, who assist the ones inside) a copy of our family photograph for them to keep. It was so kind of the sisters to give their time to us so that we could meet with them and let our children see those in the religious life 'up close.'
In the afternoon, one of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist stopped by to visit with us. The Knights are a group of men who serve the monastery by providing security in the chapel by taking time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, making sure that pilgrims are respectful of Our Lord. They also serve as a labor pool for various jobs that need to be done around the monastery. Most importantly, they assist as altar boys at the Mass. They take vows for one year at a time.
Later we visited Fr. Robert J. Fox, whom I met in college back in 1986. I recall several of his books; in particular Charity, Morality, Sex, and Young People. He now lives by the monastery and says daily Mass at noon.
But wait, there's more! We had noticed that there is a Benedictine Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, so off we went to find it. With all of our other visits, and getting lost going from Hanceville to Cullman, we showed up right at the end of Mass, around six o'clock. Through a crack in the church door, we saw the monks processing after Holy Communion. We came in to the church after the final blessing, and saw some of the congregation following the monks. A monk approached us, and we noticed the monks taking their places in small booths which lined the walls of one of the arms of the cross-shaped church. I asked the monk if they were about to pray vespers, and he not only said yes but also invited us to join him.
I told him we would be honored.
We chanted Vespers in English along with the monks and some lay people. We were arranged in three rows on each side, facing each other, and books were provided for us at each little booth. It was spiritually uplifting. As we left the church, my 9-year old girl Noisykid hugged me and told me how she loved to see the sisters and the monks and priests.
In one day, my children had spoken to cloistered nuns, a lay brother, a diocesan priest, and a Benedictine monk. I hope and pray that the seeds planted on this day will one day flower into vocations to the priesthood or religious life.