August 2016

New Melleray Abbey East Side


Do monks take vacations? Some people think monks are always on vacation. Monks don’t seem to break their necks overworking and they usually live in pretty nice surroundings like the monks of New Melleray do, with a lot of nature and fresh air. There is some truth to the idea that monks are always on vacation. The word vacation comes from the Latin verb vaco. It means to be idle, to be unoccupied, to be empty—“vacant.” When people take summer vacations their intention is to spend some time unoccupied with their usual job, to be free from certain responsibilities, and even to enjoy some idleness. A vacation is empty time carved out of your life. Most people carve out this empty time so that they can fill it in with something really special, like spending more time with people they love or traveling to a new environment, say one of the national parks or even another country. Monks don’t take vacations in that sense. But the fact is, the entire life of a monk is an empty space that Saint Bernard described with the apparently contradictory phrases negotio otiosum and otio negotiosum, busy leisure and idle activity. The monk’s life is an emptiness that he hopes will be filled with the love of God and the love of neighbor: the experience and acceptance of God’s love for him, and his going out of himself to love his neighbor in humble service, availability, and continual prayer. A real danger that a monk has to be on guard against is the danger of filling his emptiness with all kinds of busyness and unnecessary worries, projects, and involvements that are really just escapes from the holy emptiness for love that he is called to. But our employees and volunteers are not monks. They need and deserve real vacations, and we support them in their summertime love, leisure, fun, travels, and sheer idleness.

Fr. Mark

The best intelligence test is what we do with our leisure.

-- Laurence J. Peter



Money Monster (Jodie Foster, 2016). George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a cable-channel investment guru. He’s smug and slick even when one of his choice recommendations suffers a glitch that costs investors $800 million. The show, broadcast live, takes a startling turn when Kyle, who lost all his inherited savings by taking Gates’s advice to invest in the failed venture, sneaks onto the set, takes the host hostage at gunpoint, and straps him into a vest wired to explode at the touch of a trigger in Kyle’s hand. Kyle doesn’t demand his money back; he just wants a televised pulpit from which to vent his outrage. Which man will raise the awareness of the other? The suspense never slackens. Nobody does charm like George Clooney. Julia Roberts’s serenely strong heroine puts one in mind of the great Katharine Hepburn. Irish actor Jack O’Connell never allows Kyle to become so menacing that we lose sympathy for his plight. What’s not to like about Money Monster? Nothing. It’s completely likable. But its very likeability is a limitation. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that one person is to blame for the “glitch,” and Lee and Kyle, now working together, will expose and punish that villain. The implication is that, once this one rotten apple is removed, the rest of the barrel will be fine. That the source of evil in Money Monster is ultimately a single villain doesn’t entirely invalidate the film’s implicit critique of the global financial system. After all, if one villain is able to take advantage of it, doesn’t that indicate a systemic weakness? But melodrama has its rules. Money Monster has another theme. At first, the program’s audience thinks it’s just one more Lee Gates stunt. But even after everyone realizes what’s going on, most are amused and beguiled, not appalled, as if they were at a sporting event. There’s one fleeting close-up of Clooney as he realizes he’s now a freak on display rather than a master of the media universe. The best thing in Money Monster is the awareness that so much of public life is turning into sheer spectacle, and that so much of that spectacle is coarsening our souls and warping our judgment.


Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Vacations, busy leisure, idle activity, Money Monster

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