September 2016

New Melleray Church Window and Bench

Neighbors

I am an unusual monk in the sense that I have not always lived in the same monastery. I have called four different monasteries home, New Melleray being the fourth. If you throw in an eight-month stay at Snowmass in Colorado and the four years I was away for studies in the late 1980s, the number of monasteries I have lived in during my thirty-eight years in the Order amounts to six. Most monks, on the other hand, join a monastery and stay there or if they move, they usually move only once. I have seen how adaptable Cistercian monastic life is to different circumstances—its location, the size and age of the community, for instance. One constant feature of all monasteries is the close relationship the monastery has with its neighbors. It is a relationship that is always mutually supportive and enriching. From the very beginning and for some years thereafter the founders of New Melleray in the middle of the 19th century depended on their neighbors for their very survival. Neighbors for their part draw spiritual solace from the presence of the monks and sometimes material assistance as well. I have heard people in the village near a monastery talk about “our monks.” By nature and vocation, monks are reserved and quiet and most of us don’t engage socially with neighbors, but we are aware of them and alert to their needs and concerns and are always happy to see them, and we hope our neighbors feel the same about the monks.

Fr. Mark

IT IS THROUGH THIS MYSTERIOUS POWER THAT WE TOO HAVE OUR BEING, AND WE THEREFORE YIELD TO OUR NEIGHBORS, EVEN TO OUR ANIMAL NEIGHBORS, THE SAME RIGHT AS OURSELVES TO INHABIT THIS VAST LAND.

-- Sitting Bull

  

Books

Zero-K, Don DeLillo (2016). The first line of the novel, “Everybody wants to own the end of the world,” echoes through the novel. Ross Lockhart is an investor in a secret facility in the windswept wastes of Central Asia where failing bodies are euthanized and frozen until a time when they can be resurrected back to full health. Ross’s son, Jeff, an aimless drifter, the opposite of his capitalist father, visits the facility to see his dying stepmother for the last time. Yet Zero K isn’t so much about the fear of death as the fear of life. An apocalyptic anxiety runs through the minds of its characters. Zero K’s setting is the landscape where the Chelyabinsk meteor came close to destroying the earth in 2013. DeLillo seems to be saying that in a world of random chaos and violence, where a rock falling from the sky could wipe out the entire span of human existence, we have lost our fear of death and instead yearn for it as a deliverance from the sinfulness and anxiety of modern life. With endless atrocities screened 24 hours a day on rolling news stations, fears of unknown viruses and pandemics, financial crashes, and natural disasters, in Zero K human beings are reduced to walking bundles of eschatological anxiety. Saint Augustine is quoted: “and never can a man be more disastrously in death than when death itself shall be deathless.” Zero K’s sentences shimmer like specimens in laboratory jars and the characters flicker like ghosts, but at its core the novel is trying to balance the atrocities and sufferings of life with its small, human pleasures: walking down a street, checking your wallet, starting a conversation with a stranger. On the last page of this book Jeff sees a blood-red sunset that seems to portend the end of days. But then he notices a small child, also watching the sunset, his face drowned in wonder. The sunset is literally awesome but, also, at the same time, a marker of God’s grace spilling into the fallen world.

 New Melleray a School of Charity in Prayer

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Neighbors, Zero-K, Don DeLillo

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