April 2017

New Melleray Church Windows

New Melleray Barn

Whatever Possessed You?

“Got milk?” Somehow that question has taken root in our cultural consciousness like Kleenex and Scotch tape did. When you say, “Hand me the box of Kleenex” you probably don’t care that they hand you a box of Puffs. You just want to blow your nose into some soft absorbent paper. And you don’t care that the cellophane tape dispenser does not actually dispense Scotch brand; you just want some sticky transparent stuff to attach one thing to another. The thing that made “Got milk?” so successful is the “Got?’ which everyone understands as “Do you have?” Even when the question “Got milk?” is asked by a billboard or a bumper sticker and not by a person like your child it has the power to make us feel somehow deficient or negligent or even close to poverty if we have to answer “No.” It is implying, “You better stop at HyVee on the way home and get some or else your family and friends will think you’re stingy or unhealthy or an alcoholic.”  Our culture is driven—in ways we are so used to that we hardly even notice it—by the pressure to “Have,” to be able to say “Yes, I Got”, milk or an iPhone 7 or whatever it is. To possess stuff is an all-consuming desire, in our consumerist culture. So is that one of the reasons fewer and fewer young people enter monasteries? Because Saint Benedict says that for a monk to “have” or “got” his own stuff is like a poisonous weed that needs to be pulled up by its roots. “Let the monk not got anything, nothing of all, of his own.” Why? Because our treasure is in heaven. We take this seriously, though not always living it perfectly, so having to say, “No, I ain’t got,”  might just be a “game changer” when a person is thinking about entering a monastery like ours.

Fr. Mark  

Silence

Film

Martin Scorsese, Silence (2016).

Is God dead—and if not, why does he appear to be deaf, blind and dumb in the face of human suffering? That's a deep dive for any one movie yet Silence fearlessly takes the plunge. The movie is based on the 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese convert to Catholicism who found something profound in the story of Portuguese missionaries who risked their lives to bring the word of God to 17th-century Japan. That's the plot of this urgent, unforgettable movie. We journey east with the young priests played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson). In Japan the brutal feudal lords and ruling samurai are committed to flushing out hidden Christians, converts who can save themselves only by stepping on an image of Christ. Resistance can result in drowning, burning, crucifixion or being cut, hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled to death. Priests are told that by trampling on an image they can save the lives of others.At times Garfield's beleaguered priest hears Christ talking through him: "Trample. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world." The film is two hours and forty minutes of challenging spirituality daring us to examine our own feelings about faith and redemption. Neeson is remarkable at showing how Father Ferreira reconciles conviction and doubt about a God who chooses to suffer with mankind instead of ending its suffering. The film is a technical and soulful marvel. All the performances are first-rate. There is no doubting the film's relevance to a modern world in which fundamentalism and religious extremism are on the rise. Heaven and hell, brute nature and healing grace all have a place in forging faith as Scorsese sees it.

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Got Milk?, possession, consumption

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