It is Monday evening, October 14, and for the last nine days I have been with two different religious orders. For five days I was with the Franciscan Friars at Mount Irenaeus in Friendship, NY and for the last four days I have been with the Benedictine Monks at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, AL. The purposes for my visits were distinctly different, but both are a blessing in my life. The Franciscan and Benedictine spirituality are very different, but rich in assisting one relate to our Creator.
My time at Mount Irenaeus was for a personal private retreat. My routine each of the days was to rise before dawn, start a fire in the wood stove and absorb the beauty of a new day being born. The silence of the mountain top and the colorful woods were a prayer in themselves. Before I left for retreat my spiritual director recommended a variety of Scripture readings which I used to prime the pump of my conversation with the Father and Jesus each day. It is amazing how God can talk to us without dependence on social and mass media. The Friars at the Mount are authentically in touch with the roots of their founder St. Francis. They pray twice a day as a community while appreciating the beauty of the world around them. An added rewarding feature to the Mount is the young people who visit from St. Bonaventure, they give me hope and excitement. My time on retreat was a time to bring me back to my center, for at least a few days or weeks. If you need a place for a private retreat I highly recommend the Mount.
The primary purpose for my visit to St. Bernard Abbey was to attend the Abbatial Blessing of their newly elected abbot, Right Reverend Marcus Voss O.S.B., Tenth Abbot of the Abbey. Marcus has been a friend since my college days and he has stayed with me during his visits to alumni in Western New York. The events of the weekend included Solemn Vespers, a banquet in Marcus’s honor and the Abbatial Mass of Blessing, with Bishop Robert Baker, Bishop of Birmingham presiding. In attendance were 350+ friends and relatives of the new Abbot, plus eight abbots from other monasteries, thirty diocesan priests and the monks of St. Bernard. The music and singing were outstanding and inspirational. The Blessing ceremony included an examination of Abbot Marcus’s readiness and willingness, as well as the presentation of his miter, ring and crozier. For me the highlight of the ceremony was the sung communal blessing of Marcus by all in attendance. As always my time with the Abbey community was a blessing, including praying with them four times a day and sharing meals. Their ministry to the students at their school and pastoral ministry in the parishes they serve in Northern Alabama are a rich blessing to our Church. These men truly live the Benedictine Rule to the fullest, if you are ever in Northern Alabama please stop by for a visit.
It is always good to get away, but I always look forward to being home with my primary faith community, the people of Transfiguration.
Let us continue to pray and act for an end of violence in our world!
In peace and courage,