March 2017

Sleep

A fixed point of the monk’s day is 3:15 a.m. That is when Br. Charles leans on a loud electric chime like a doorbell. He rings it like twenty times, like an over-anxious Trick-or-Treater on Hallowe’en. This is the signal, call it an alarm, that is supposed to awaken the brothers from their sleep, giving them 15 minutes to get to Church for the office of Vigils at 3:30. I say “supposed to” because, like Br. Charles himself, several of the brothers have already gotten up; some are praying, some are reading, some are having a first cup of coffee that has been brewed by Fr. Neil who got up even before they did to brew it. In any case, officially, sometime between 3:15 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. all the monks are up from their beds and from their sleep. But what sleep? The earliest someone could have gotten to bed would have been 8:00 p.m. the evening before. But to get to bed at 8:00 you would have to be pretty fast and disciplined, and it is evident that few of the monks are fast, leaving aside any comment about how disciplined we are. But if you did get to bed at 8:00 p.m., fell asleep immediately, and slept soundly all night, you would clock up at the end 7 ¼ hrs. of sleep. The fact is, though, that I think most monks are a little sleep-deprived. You could take a quick nap after the noon meal, but usually sleeping in the day makes it harder to sleep soundly at night. You get used to it, or you don’t. But always wishing you had a little more sleep is a pretty constant companion of most monks. But as my godmother Fran used to say, “You’ll have eternity to sleep when they put in in Holy Cross.” Holy Cross was the cemetery. So, the monk is a man who is more interested in staying awake than falling asleep. Br. Charles helps, as does Fr. Neil’s coffee.

Fr. Mark  

The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan

Book

Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman (Houghton, 2016). 

This biography of Thomas Francis Meagher not only traces the life of Meagher but also provides the context to better understand what made Meagher who he was: a rebel resisting the persecution and oppression of the Irish by the English over the course of several centuries. Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced Mar) was a man of letters, an orator, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, a soldier, a statesman, and a government official. Becoming caught up in the struggle of the Irish against their English oppressors, Meagher was banished for life to Tasmania for his political activities. But as the Greater Hunger reached its apogee, Meagher was able to escape the island and land in the United States. A hero to the Irish in the US, he was still a wanted fugitive, unable to return to Ireland. He turned his efforts in the 1850s to being a leader and symbol of Irish nationalism in the hope of leading a return to his native land to finally eject the English. As the United States descended Civil War, he became convinced that the US should not suffer the moral degradation of slavery. Meagher led his countrymen into battle as a general at the head of what became one of the most renowned formations in the Union Army: The Irish Brigade. After the brigade was decimated at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Meagher resigned his commission. With his fame and renown, Meagher was appointed de facto governor of the new Montana Territory. The mystery of Meagher’s demise is still unresolved. This is an easily read and informative book that will hold the reader’s interest, given the nature of its subject. Meagher was one of those larger-than-life figures who easily packed more than most into one lifetime. His life overlaps the first years of New Melleray, founded by Irish refugees in 1849.

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Sleep, Vigils, The Immortal Irishman, Timothy Egan

This simple communication is one way for me as abbot of New Melleray Abbey to communicate with the abbey’s employees and volunteers. My intention is to give our stakeholders some idea of the values and lifestyle of the monks and to share things that I have found worthwhile, thoughtful, and/or humorous. It is hoped that this sharing from the abbot will strengthen the bonds of partnership and collaboration between the monastic community and our extended community of employees and volunteers.

Fr. Mark

Abbot