March 2016


A Body Not a Corpse

The other day I was visiting in the monastery tailor shop. Br. Gilbert was in there. He was making pillow cases for Trappist Caskets. We talked about how intimate his work was, that what he made would be the last thing someone’s head would ever rest upon. He would not know who this person was, and that person would never know him, so there was a distance in the intimacy, too, an anonymous intimacy. We remarked that even so, Br. Gilbert making those pillow cases with care and attention would also be praying for that anonymous person all along, just like Br. Vitus and Br. Nicholas and Br. Joseph and all at Trappist Caskets pray for whomever will benefit from their work. That there is anonymity doesn’t matter: the prayer itself bridges the gap and creates the intimacy. Our caskets hold corpses. A corpse is not a body; it is a token, a sign, of a body. A corpse is forever prone; only a body can stand upright. A body is living and directed beyond the earth that supports it. Even more, a body is a person’s way, her only way, of being with and for others. The body is not chemicals, cells, tissues, and organs. A body is relationships. A body is a history of care and caring, and a history of desires fulfilled and unfulfilled. At Easter, Christians say they believe in the resurrection of the body. We do not believe in the resurrection of corpses, which in any case decompose. We believe in the resurrection of the body, of the person and her history, but a history fulfilled and healed in ways should could hardly hope for or imagine. And that brings us back to Br. Gilbert’s praying for the anonymous person whose head will rest at last on the pillow he made in the monastery tailor shop.

Fr. Mark




 Selma(2014), is the first big-screen dramatic feature film with Martin Luther King, Jr., as the protagonist in the half-century since King’s assassination. Selma not only to liberates possibly the most iconic American figure of the 20th century from his own mythology, but also to captures a lively sense of the civil rights movement as a cause of many players with varying points of view. The film presents tactical nonviolence as a bid to provoke a crisis forcing the nation to face up to its problems. In Selma King is seen as a man with flaws and weaknesses, a man who at times lets down the people closest to him. A painful private moment between King and wife Coretta underscores the emotional fallout of King’s infidelities, domestic turmoil aggravated by harassment by the FBI. The film is shrewdly structured to cover a definite period of just a few months in Dr. King’s life, from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in December 1964 to passage of the Voting Rights Act in August 1965. Still, even in the triumphant final montage there are hints that the struggle against racism was far from over, and the opening words of the Oscar-winning song “Glory” over the end credits (“One day, when the glory comes”) is a somber reminder that we aren’t there yet.


In an ecology of love, people can relate in trust and face the future without fear.

Jonathan Sacks


The Environment

Earlier this year Pope Francis issued his encyclical letter, Laudato si’, On the Care of our Common Home. Don’t think of an email letter. This letter is 180 pages in length. It is a fairly in depth study of the responsibility of the human race and of individual humans to care for our planet, its human populations, its plants and animals, its rivers and seas, its atmosphere. It is the planet that is “our common home.” In one sentence, Pope Francis tells us what the purpose of this letter is: “to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and this to discover what each of us can do about it” (19). The monks have read this letter together and have begun a communal reflection on it and its challenges. We realize that as a community blessed to be stewards of prime farm and wood land in eastern Iowa, we must be open to the challenges of the Pope’s letter and must be open to change the way we live and do things, especially in so far as how we live has an effect on our neighbors and on “our common home.” We would like our monastery, our farm land and forests, and our business Trappist Caskets to become models of a healing, sustainable relationship to the environment. Especially, we want for ourselves and for our stakeholders a real experience of solidarity with one another, with the broader community, and primarily with the poor and disposed. 

Fr. Mark

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: corpses, Selma, Environment, Laudato si'

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