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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Return to Clear Creek Monastery - March, 2012

It had been two years since we visited Clear Creek Monastery, or Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey.  Every year our local home school group would travel up to Oklahoma and spend a weekend doing manual labor for the monks.  The history of the place is described very well on their website, and I recommend it to the two people who bother to read this post.  While you are reading it, you may come across the name John Senior, a University of Kansas teacher who had some part in helping some of these monks find their religious vocations.  Mr. Senior is is an example of how one man can change things for the better.  We need more men like this nowadays....

Here is a link for all the older posts about Clear Creek Monastery.  They are out of order, for some reason, and as you scroll down the posts become less relevant......

Here is the cathedral.  When we were last here, only the lower chapel existed.  That is the area below the white line of bricks.  It will one day be the crypt chapel.  The first time we visited the monastery, it was as cold as a walk in freezer.  It is nice to see that the construction is progressing nicely.  There will be more pictures later.

Here are Augustine and Benedict, two of the three boys who went with me.  I couldn't find a picture with Nathaniel.  It's too bad, because one picture of the three boys would heighten the contrast between my blood and Carolyn's blood.  Note that Gus is wearing long pants and a coat, while Benedict is sporting some cool shorts and a T-shirt.  I was dressed more like Gus, because is was cold and rainy.  I think it actually snowed a little that day - when it wasn't raining.  Nathaniel was dressed like Ben.

Here is another picture for those who don't believe the picture above.  The guest house is in the background.  No, that is not where we stayed.  The guest house is just where you meet up with the porter or the monk known as the Guestmaster.  Either of them will get you a room at some of their cabins(like where we stayed), or in the monastery itself.  For men considering a religious vocation, they can arrange to spend some time living the monastic life.  For a glimpse of life as a monk, I strongly recommend reading the Rule of St. Benedict.  I reviewed it briefly here.

I went into the crypt chapel to look around.  It was dark, with only the candle lit by the Tabernacle.  Light streamed in through the windows behind the side altars.  Imagine a chapel with about eight side chapels.  When Low Mass is said first thing in the morning, priests are celebrating Mass almost all around the congregation.  In addition to the side chapels, there are main two altars - one behind the other.  This is the farthest back side chapel on the left side looking toward the main altar.

I ventured to use the flash on my iPhone to give a little more detail to the picture:

At that moment I realized that the organ music I could hear was from another new addition.  The monks had an organ, and one of the brothers was practicing.  I took a brief video of the chapel so you could hear the music:

Hopefully you could appreciate the side chapels. On the right hand side my iPhone picked up the votive candles.  The organ music reminded me of the kind of music one hears in movies whenever the plot takes the characters to a church.  It seems as if someone is always noodling with the keyboard in church.

Now, on to the outside.  The upper part of the cathedral was not complete.  They had a stone cutter working on the elaborate sculpted figures which were over the main doors.  This stone cutter was transforming what was a piece of rock into figures.  That was cool.  Here are a couple pictures:

And another.........

Here is the interior of the church.  I suspect that by now, almost a year later, that it is complete.  This is the view from the altar, with the main door in the background.  Here you can appreciate the layout of the Benedictine chapel.  The congregation occupies the pews farthest from the camera.  There is a space, where I suspect a Communion Rail will be positioned.  Closer in are the seats occupied by the monks when they come together for prayers of the Divine Office.

Here are some of the folks in our group, with Father Guestmaster showing us around the church.  Note that the roof is not complete.

Here is one of the covered walkways on the outside of the church.  I thought the light and shadow contrast was kind of cool.

Of course we did more than just tour the facilities and eat the monastery food.  We also had some work to do.  In the past, we have cleared brush and put up fences to keep the animals in their assigned pastures.  This year we got to do a bit of both.  Most of our work was with fences, but on Saturday afternoon we got to all act like little boys again and start fires!  We lit up huge piles of brush which had been sitting for at least a year, so they were ready to burn.  Our main job was to stamp out any embers which landed on the ground.  There was hardly a breeze.  The brother who was supervising us taught me something that may one day be good to know.  I thought it would be best to light the fire on the 'upwind' side of the pile so that it would burn faster.  Brother Joseph pointed out that if he did that, even a light breeze would fan the fire too much.  By the time it reached the 'downwind' side, the flames might be high enough to light some of the surrounding tree tops.  That could lead to an even greater fire.  Instead, a fire lit on the 'downwind' side had to slowly work its way upwind to consume all the brush.

Here are some fire shots:

At last, I include some pictures of the chapel crypt with the lights on.  If you compare these shots with some of my earlier blog entries, you will see how they really improved the chapel.  It is no longer as cold as a freezer.

This was the first time we had ever been to Clear Creek during the month of March.  It was warmer than going in February, but that brought some new problems.  The biggest one for me was dealing with ticks.  I don't like ticks, and I know people who got Lyme disease and are still suffering from the complications of the disease.  Even though I don't like the cold, I would rather deal with being a bit uncomfortable than have to pick little arthropods off myself or someone else.

I look forward to going back to Clear Creek and see how the construction has progressed.  That is not the only reason, though.  I find the monks to be an inspiration as well as a source of strength and consolation for me.  It is edifying for me to see these men forsaking all to spend their lives - sacrificing their lives - in continuous 'ora et labora' for the greater glory of God.  It is also reassuring to know that they are praying for my soul - and yours as well - now and at the hour of death.

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