October Information Forum
The community met on Thursday, October 26th, for our monthly Information Forum to exchange current news and events. We had hosted three sisters from Mississippi Abbey from October 4th through the 10th. They shared in our community exercises and prayer for those days. The purpose was to allow them to view and suggest ways we might improve some of our practices to foster a greater sense of shared community living. They brought a different perspective to our habitual patterns and forms of life. Mother Rebecca, the abbess, has been appointed “Mother Immediate” of our community, and this afforded her the opportunity to know the community on a more immediate and close level.
They addressed the community at the end of their visit and shared some general observations. They were especially impressed with our liturgy and the prayerful and orderly atmosphere in the monastery. Their suggestions emphasized communal engagement in the monastic practices, e.g., common lectio and common work. We need to make explicit the support and common sharing that tends to remain implicit and unspoken. One implementation of their advice is a common lectio and mediation period in church after the office of Vigils, beginning Monday the 30th. The community will remain in church for twenty minutes and share the time and space in personal meditation and prayerful reading.
On the vocation front, four men will be coming this weekend (October 27-30) for a Come and See Program. This is an opportunity for men discerning a religious vocation to share more closely in the life of the community with personal discussions about the monastic life. We haven’t offered such a weekend program since the Covid pandemic. Br. Joseph joined two of the Mississippi sisters in addressing the local Serra Vocation Club. They made presentations on the monastic life and their personal vocation stories. The Serra Club is a lay organization which supports vocational work in the archdiocese.
Speaking of the archdiocese, Fr. Brendan represented the community at the installation of our new archbishop, Thomas Zinkula, on October 18th. A man with local roots, he had been bishop of Davenport, Iowa. Following the call of Pope Francis and of our own Abbot General, the community will observe a day of prayer, penance, and fasting on Friday, the 27th, for an end to the horrific violence between Israel and Gaza. We will celebrate a Mass for Peace and Justice with special readings and sparse fare for meals. The annual Memorial Mass of the Dead will be celebrated on November 7th for all those buried in Trappist Caskets or Urns during the past year.
Several maintenance projects are still in process. New speakers are being prepared for our refectory. The solid stone walls present an acoustic challenge for clear listening. The pipes of the heating system in the church need to be realigned at a slant to prevent the banging sound that trapped water causes. Some security locks and systems will be installed in our guest house kitchen area to provide greater safety for our employees. The room being prepared for our informal meetings after mass twice a week is still far from ready. We have been using a visiting area in the infirmary in the meanwhile. These gatherings have been very successful opportunities for casual exchanges and sharing before we head off to work assignments.
The garden was very productive this year and we were able to exchange what we had in abundance with the sisters at Mississippi Abbey, who reciprocated with produce they had. It is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need (2 Corinthians 8: 14). We had some generous help in harvesting the apples, and now have a good supply for the coming months. The local farmers have been reporting very good yields in spite of close to drought-like conditions this summer. The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness.