Resuming the News
The celebration of the feast of the founders of Citeaux, (Robert, Alberic, and Stephen) is an appropriate date to resume the publication of news from New Melleray. There has been a long hiatus in reports, due both to the uneventful course of monastic life and to the failure to designate a responsible person to enter any items. The latter negligence was easier to correct than it is to produce headline events.
Coping with the omnipresent pandemic remains a current concern. Through a combination of grace, medical precaution, and luck we have not had any cases of Covid 19 in the community. The church, guest house, and gift shop remain closed to visitors. Some monks make unavoidable trips into town for medical purposes. We also have some staff come into the infirmary to help care for its residents. We try to observe recommended procedures to avoid the introduction of the virus into the community. It can spread quickly in enclosed environments such as ours. We have been promised the vaccine and perhaps we will receive it in February. That is the promise, anyway. We qualify as a long-term nursing unit, to say nothing of our being an endangered species. We just heard that the aunt (72) of Br. Juan Diego has died of the virus after almost a month of hospitalization. We pray for her and all those impacted by the virus, whether physically, emotionally, or financially.
We do regret not being able to welcome guests and visitors. The empty guest section of the church underlines how important to us is the presence of God’s people praying with us. Being able to offer hospitality is an expression of our own monastic spirituality and we look forward to better days ahead.
The shadow of modernization and automation has made further reaches into monastic living. Before each liturgical office, there is a five-minute warning signaled by a chime. From time immemorial, the bell ringer would press the buzzer for the chimes and wait five minutes before ringing the bells. To relieve some of the pressure on the bell ringer, an automated system was introduced to sound the chime before the office and for rising in the morning at 3:15. This seemed to be working for a week or so.
But on the night of December 23rd, the wires of this new system seemed to overheat and caused a fire in our computer room. The fire was confined to a ceiling area, but it also damaged wiring servicing the computers. The room was filled with smoke and soot. Fr. Stephen was able to disconnect the wiring and there was no need to call the fire department. But it left the room and computers unusable and effectively silenced the chime system for the next two weeks. It took a while to adjust to the missing warning and resume a level of self-responsibility in keeping an eye on a watch.