Saturday, June 7, 2014


Downtown Paris in the springtime
I spent this week giving the community retreat to the thirty-some monks at Subiaco Abbey - that's just outside of Paris! Paris, Arkansas. It was a week of gaining perspective.

First, during the plane trip over the country's midsection down to Dallas and then on to Fort Smith, Arkansas, I was really overwhelmed at the endless expanse of farmland of all kinds. As we got into Texas I could see that sometimes a single farm field looked to be the size of a county back home. I kept saying to myself as I gazed out of the window, "So this is where all our food comes from." A prosaic but still impressive bit of perspective.

A second perspective came from living with the community there. It's a contrast in lots of ways from my own monastery: it's rural, situated on a lots of acres and surrounded by farmland, three times as many monks, a fairly even distribution of ages from old to young, a couple of organists to accompany music at mass and at Vespers. The huge monastery building, built around the classical cloister garden, is impressive to say the least. Oh, and let's not forget the air quality. I almost hyperoxygenated a few times on the beautiful country air.

The contrasts reminded me that a monastery takes its "shape" from its immediate environment and from its circumstances. I wasn't the least bit jealous of their having  a bunch of younger men, because I'm convinced that the Lord is working in our community too, and is shaping us as he needs us to be.

A third idea of perspective came to me when one monk was explaining that airline pilots flying their approach
The Red Roofs of Subiaco
to Fort Smith Airport (45 miles or so away) use the monastery's red tile roof, far below, as an easily distinguishable landmark. They'll tell the flight controller "we're over 'red roof' at the moment." They see the monastery from a few miles up, while people coming by car see the church tower on its hill from a few miles away.  I hope that our monastery, too, offers our neighbors and students a sense of perspective, a sense of God's presence on our own little hill,  and perhaps offers some sense of direction for them the wsy the "red roof" of Subiaco helps those pilots to know where they are.

A final perspective came from my own retreat conferences. I really learned a lot about myself as I made this retreat and listened to my conferences. It was interesting to be able to stand back from my own words and let them speak to my heart.

So, it was quite a week. But as always, it's great to be home in my own community - even if it's nowhere near Paris, and the air's not quite as fresh here. But you have to keep things in perspective, right?
Above the fruited plain...

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