December 2016

Winter at New Melleray

Coming up short

The monks of New Melleray follow the 6th century Rule for Monasteries by Saint Benedict. I should say we are inspired the Rule rather than that we follow it. Most of the Rule is pep talks, nudges to get on the ball, to get back on track. But the Rule is also very practical and down to earth. It doesn’t just talk about prayer and spirituality. It also talks about how to take care of tools, how to act if you’re on a trip, and about things like food and drink, shoes and clothing. About clothing, the Rule says something that has always enchanted me. It says that the abbot should see to it that the brothers’ clothes fit and are not too short. As if the abbot didn’t have enough to do, he has to measure people’s cuffs and hemline! What could Saint Benedict mean? I remember working in a men’s clothing. After Christmas there’d always be returns and exchanges, sometimes because you got a shirt or pants or a belt that did not fit. If your clothes don’t fit, especially if they’re too short, you look kind of silly. You just don’t feel good. No, it shouldn’t matter, especially to a monk who is supposed to be humble and be thinking of God and not how he looks. But notice that it’s the abbot’s concern, not the monk’s. The monk will probably not say anything, suffer the little embarrassment in silence. The abbot, as a loving father, wants to prevent the monk from that kind embarrassment, however small. Also, it’s easy to roll up your pants if they’re too long, but there’s not much you can do when they’re too short. As I say, it is an enchanting detail in the Rule. It talks about attention and care. It is enchanting like angels telling shepherds that the Savior of the World is just over there in a bed of straw, go see.

Fr. Mark

If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.

-- Joni Eareckson Tada



Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016).

A big-hearted picture full of small, understated moments of magic, the New Zealand-based comedy-drama Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an off-kilter charmer. Ricky is a troubled orphan raised on hip-hop and rejection. Placed with the latest in a series of foster families, this time on a farm far away from the city where he styles himself a gangster, Ricky is reluctant. But his foster aunt Bella breaks down his defenses with down-to-earth love and affectionate mockery. However, when a tragedy threatens to steal back the life that Ricky has come to love, the boy finds himself on the run in the bush with Bella’s grizzled husband Hec and a dog called Tupac. Gradually, the two rejected loners who only had Bella in common find a kinship, united against the authorities that hunt them down. The unreachable irresistible force versus the cantankerous immovable object—it's not a question of if these defensive icebergs will melt so much as when. The bonding is inevitable. Waititi has a weakness for sweeping helicopter shots that take in what Hec describes as the “majestical” New Zealand countryside. But the film’s main asset is an unaffected naturalism, both in the film-making, and in the unpolished characters that we root for.


Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Coming up short, Rule of St. Benedict, Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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