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Monday, March 24, 2008

Wood Chips, Smoke, Diesel, and Sweat


Add to that a little bit of incense.

Happy and Blessed Easter!

Jesus is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Now that I have celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I can tell some of the adventures over the past weeks of dadwithnoisykids, and explain the title of this blog entry.

On March 14-16, I went on a retreat of sorts with three of the boy Noisykids. I call it a 'retreat of sorts' because the weekend was more of a service retreat than a spiritual retreat. Still, God works in mysterious ways, and a memorable weekend doing cool boy stuff at a monastery could be the beginnings of a call to the priesthood or religious life.

I still recall participating in a Eucharistic Procession in Visp, Switzerland back in 1973. I think it was the first procession I ever was in. Of course, I recall that as a wonderful experience which certainly did not lead to a religious vocation - unless you consider being the head of a domestic church a religious vocation.

We went to Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery of Clear Creek by Hulbert, Oklahoma. We went to see how the monks live, and to contribute some of our time as service to the monastery. We were part of a group of fathers and sons from our local home school group who traveled from the Dallas area, and the monk in charge of the property told us to bring tools for clearing brush. We spent Saturday clearing brush, piling it in big piles, and setting it on fire. Hog heaven for boys and men alike! I went to bed smelling of wood chips, smoke, diesel, and sweat.

We worked on a wooded slope, turning it into a smooth area to be seeded to make it pasture. We left some of the larger and healthier trees to give it some cover. It reminded me of a book I read about forests, fires and slopes - especially slopes where the fire outran the firefighters.




Young Men and Fire is a book by Norman MacLean about the Mann Gulch Fire in Helena National Forest, Montana. But I don't want to talk about THAT book right now; someday I shall review it.


No, on this retreat weekend, I took the Rule of St. Benedict with me. The Rule of St. Benedict is a list of rules drawn up by the saint on how to run a monastery. It included sections on the characteristics of an abbot(the head of the abbey), material needs of the monks(including a knife), discipline, and rules for when to say the various prayers that fill the day. Along the way, St. Benedict includes good advice for getting along with our peers or superiors - even for those who live in the world.


On Saturday night, we joined the monks for dinner. The dinner began with a tradition which is extended to all guests of the monastery: the abbot, or in this case, the prior, washes the hands of the guests before the meal. I had just read that in the Rule of St. Benedict!


I was also warned that the meal would be very,very brief.


After washing our hands, dinner began with a prayer(Latin) and a reading from the Rule of St. Benedict. Once again, I had just read the chapter on the care for sick monks. After the reading, we sat, and as the monk who was doing the reading began a sermon from Pope Benedict XVI(from L'Osservatore Romano), dinner began.


The first course was a soup which I thought had lentils in it, but my sons told me later there were pieces of potato in it. I guess I did not stir it enough before trying it. Along with the soup we got whole wheat bread - rather plain, but still very good. I love wheat bread.


The second course was a large omelet rolled up and smothered with BARBECUE SAUCE! Now, for a transplanted Texan, everything goes better with either barbecue sauce or salsa. But I couldn't imagine what the predominantly French monks must have thought of the combination. It was delicious.


Dessert consisted of rice pudding and prunes. Yes, I ate prunes.


All of the food was good, and if I were inclined I could have eaten more. As I drank some of the water poured for me by the guest sitting across from me, I suddenly realized what all the banging and clattering was that started with the beginning of the meal. The monks had metal plates, and were eating faster than we were - only they were not enjoying the same three courses that we had. As I finished my prunes, I realized that the monks seemed to be wiping their plates clean. After dinner grace was chanted in Latin, and we were escorted out of the refectory. As we left, my sons saw some monks sitting back down to eat. I explained to them that those were the monks who served while the rest were at table, and I told them how St. Benedict's rule stipulated that the reader during meals was to drink some dilute wine before dinner to sustain him.


One of the priests showed us around parts of the monastery, and showed us the model for completed monastery. It was sitting on the floor, and I almost backed up and stepped on it. Perhaps my boot heel mark would have been incorporated into the final design of the church.


The Masses - Low and High


Saving the best for last, I must describe the Mass. On Saturday morning, we attended the Low Mass - all 8 of them. With six side altars, and two altars in the Crypt Chapel(the rest of the church is still under construction), the monks split up and celebrated Mass at all of these locations. Beautiful. Mass was in Latin, and I followed along in the Mass books which were provided. There were some times when I was not sure what to do, such as when the priest to my immediate left elevated the Precious Body while the priest at the main altar was still saying the prayers of consecration. I ended up acknowledging Our Lord each time He was elevated.


Palm Sunday High Mass was 2.5 hours long - something to consider when bringing the whole Noisykid gang to the monastery. Even I, stoic dadwithnoisykids, was whining around the end of Mass. But it was a beautiful Mass, complete with the Passion of Our Lord chanted in Latin. Once again, the books provided by the monks helped those of us who 'no habla Latin' to follow.






I could go on describing the good time we had on this weekend - the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours were wonderful - but your time would be better served looking at the website they have. I hope to take the whole family up to Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery of Clear Creek soon, and I recommend it to you, also.

I wrote a note to the Prior, and I mentioned that I hope that this weekend started the seed of a religious vocation. I figure that God used a burning bush to call Moses, so perhaps a pile of brush burning in the hills of Oklahoma may have the same effect on some of my children.

Now, lets see what I got in my Easter basket:


1 comment:

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

My husband & I are hoping to visit the 'burning bush' in Egypt in 3 weeks time! The advantages of having a 21 year old daughter! You have all the fun to come..mind you it seems as though your retreat was profitable..every Easter blessing to you all!

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."
Amen.

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