31 July 2009

Photos of Mount St. Bernard

Here are a few photos from around the abbey.

Here is Tim, the lion of Mount St. Bernard

This is the guest-house. The church is to the left in back.

This is the back of the abbey.

They have a Calvary at Mount St. Bernard that was carved by hand in the 1930's by one of the monks. Interestingly, the statue of St. John looks down at the pilgrims and not up at the cross.

30 July 2009

Back Home - with the attack cat

The second half of my live-in is now complete. I left the abbey at abbey at 4:50 AM on July 29, 2009. I was home by 4 PM Chicago-time. I was back about 2 hours when my cat started using me as a chew toy --my punishment for being away for 2 weeks. I got a few bites from him this morning, too, just for good measure. Lucky looks harmless, bbut don't be deceived. He is 25 lbs of furry fury.

It is a shame I had to leave the abbey so early. Later on that morning one of the postulants was scheduled to be clothed as a novice. As this is done in Chapter, I would not have been able to attend the ceremony, but I would have liked to have seen him after words.

This trip went quite well.I met with the psychologist that the abbey uses for screening applicants. He was a bit too Jungian for my liking, but he was a very affable person. I got a copy of his review a few days later, and he gave a thumbs up. My meetings with the novice master and abbot were both positive, too. So now I wait for a few days, PRAY, and then I send a formal letter asking to be accepted. The novice master and I discussed a possible entrance date(which I view as a good sign). So if I am accepted, I will most likely enter on 29 September - Michaelmas. Please pray for me!

The Manual Labour was a bit more laid back for the summer months. On many of the nice days we were picking summer fruits like. We picked pound after pound of red currants, black currants, and raspberries. I made an interesting observation while doing this: Chickens like raspberries. Who knew? After feeding them a couple handfuls, the chcikens remembered me, and rushed over to the fence when ever I walked by.

I treated myself to a digital camera before I left for England. I took about 55 photos while I was there. One photo came out very well, which surprised me because I am not a very good photographer. It is a photo of the abbey church from the peoples nave. I think the Holy Spirit guided my hand.

Take care and God bless you all. I will post more photos tomorrow.

27 July 2009

Monastic Vocation - Continued

To me, I think one of the biggest indications that one has a monastic vocation is a love of the Liturgy of the Hours (aka:Divine Office, Prayer of the Church, and Breviary). If I had been more "on the ball" I think I would have realised my monastic vocation much earlier in life. I think that the Liturgy of the Hours is a wonderful way to worship our Lord. As the Psalms open up to you, you can see them on so many different levels. You may see it as King David crying out to the Lord in time of need; you may see yourself crying out to the Lord in time of need; or you may see Jesus talking to you; the same Psalm may hit you a different way. And all of these are valid ways of viewing the Psalm.

I actually did not know about the Liturgy of the Hours before I went to seminary at Oscott College. It was there that I discovered it, and there that I began to treasure this way of praying. If you are unfamiliar with the Liturgy of the Hours you might want to check to see if there is a monastery, religious community, or even parish that prays it near by. The Liturgy of the Hours can appear in numerous forms. If you do not like it at one place check another. Some communities have it in Latin - if you do not understand Latin you may not like it or you might still appreciate the beauty. The American translation is a bit dry in my opinion. I have seen "politically correct" breviaries - one can take that as they will. Also the Roman Breviary take the 150 Psalms over a 4-week period, some communities take the Psalms over two week and some in just one week.

What ever your vocation is, this way of prayer is open to all Christians: married, single, younger, older, priest, lay-person - Everyone. But if you are looking to celebrate the complete Liturgy of the Hours everyday, you may just be called to a monastery.

26 July 2009

Do I have a monastic vocation?

I was talking with one of the postulants here at Mount St. Bernard's Abbey. Whilst he is much younger than I am I found out we had something in common about our vocational journey. When we were younger we assumed vocation=priesthood. We did not know why someone would join a religious community, much less a monastery. We did not even know what questions to ask to try to make a determination

If you are a man or a women wondering if you could have a monastic vocation there are questions you can ask yourself:
Do I love Christ, and do I want to follow him closely?
Would I benefit from living with others trying to follow Christ in the same way?
What are my feelings about Liturgy: Mass and the Divine Office?
Liturgy is nice but there is more important work to do
Liturgy is nice, but let’s balance it with our apostolate
Liturgy is a way to offer God proper worship, and St. Benedict says we should prefer nothing to it.

The first answer I would say is a counter-indication of a monastic vocation. The second answer might be an indication of a quasi-monastic vocation or a vocation to a teaching monastery. The third answer is more along the lines of a more enclosed community.

I must run to Compline. I will post more on this topic tomorrow.
God Bless You.

18 July 2009

Bicentenary of Ambrose March Philipps DeLisle

Ambrose March Philipps DeLisle was born 200 years ago. After his conversion to Catholicism, he desired to re-introduce monasticism to England. His family seat, Glarendon Hall, was built on the site of a Cistercian Monastery that was founded in 1133; so Cistercians are selected for the monastery. The monastery that he founds is Mount St. Bernard's Abbey, and that is where I am today.

The abbey celebrated Mass today in honor of Ambrose March Philipps DeLisle's 200th birthday. A number of his decendants were in attendance. Ambrose and his wife Laura are buried here at the abbey.

The Abbot was the principal celebrant, but the Mass was concelebrated not only by the other priests of the community, but by priests from the parishes of Shepshed, Whitwick, Loughborough, Rawcliffe College, and the Rosminian order. The presence of all these institution owe a debt of gratitude directly to De Lisle. Ambrose was not, however, a triumphalist Catholic convert. He truly desired Christian Unity. He longed for the day where Christians could all share one Eucharist.

God Bless Laura and Ambrose March Philipps DeLisle

14 July 2009

Back in the Sandals again.

If you are old enough, you may get the attempt at a joke in my title. Well I am back at Mount St. Bernard Abbey. I have been up for way too many hours, and am trying to stay up at least until 7PM.

The anxiety that I mentioned the other day evaporated as I got out of the cab. There is a peace that is ever-present; and I received quite a warm welcome.

On this trip I treated myself to a new camera. Hopefully the pictures will be enjoyable. Below is a picture from the back garden.

Sorry for the short entry, but I must start moving around before I fall asleep at this desk.

God Bless.

10 July 2009

Monastic Live-in,Part Deux

On Monday I am flying back to Britain with Mount St. Bernard Abbey as my sole destination. After my half-month stay, I can formally apply to enter the abbey. I decided that I would not be doing any further traveling on this trip.

On my humble little blog I try to be honest. Honest about what I see and honest about my feelings. And I try to avoid being overly-positive or pollyannistic. So, emotionally speaking, the anticipation for this trip is very different from the previous two trips. There was a sense of adventure and discovery for the previous trips, but I am not expecting that anything will be different from my last trip in May.

Yesterday I started feeling anxious about this upcoming trip. At first this feeling worried me. On reflection I think the enormity of my decision to apply to the abbey has finally hit me. And it is about time. This decision is HUGE.

When I resigned my self to the thought that my religious vocation had fizzled, I put down roots. I established a career for myself, bought a house, entered in to public life (including a run for alderman), and most importantly I made a lot of friends. I thought that I was going to here in Blue Island for life. There were a few parishes in and near Blue Island that I checked out. None of them fit. Just over a year ago I joined St.Isidore the Farmer Parish, and I thought the final piece of the puzzle was found. I was there about three months when my vocation was reawakened.

I firmly believe that the Cistercian life with its focus on God and simplicity of life is what God wants for me. So the aspect of getting rid of my possessions is not a big deal. There is also the aspect of detachment from family friends. This is more of a challenge, because these relationships are two way streets. I will write more on that topic on a later date.

Sometimes I think God lifts some of his sweetness from our lives so that we are aware that we are entering into a new phase of life. A number of years ago I had two friends that were expecting their first child. As the due-date approached the dad-to-be confided to me that he was very nervous and afraid he was not up to the task of being a father. I told him that it was good that he was feeling that way because it showed that he was taking being a father seriously. I think the same thing can be said of my anxiety.

Again I ask for your prayers as I go to the abbey and as I apply to enter it. If any of you have prayer requests, please feel free to forward them to me.

God Bless you.