Another year, another day, another visit to Gethsemani. This wasn't just any old visit, though. This was to be my first meeting with Brother Luke, the vocations director. I was finally going to start putting into action what until now had probably been seen by some as nothing more than a passing fancy. Time to put all of my thought, aspirations, and fears out in the open.
I needed this trip. Things at home have played out in a way that, while not totally unexpected, has certainly not been great, or even pleasant. Work has not been particularly fulfilling. My prayer life had been slipshod, and I needed to reset my focus.
A few observations about the Mass:
= Once more, their chanting was sublime. I don't know if it's the acoustics, the harmony of their voices, or the pure love and reverence that they bring, but I have never heard anything like it, even at other monasteries.
= The church was heady with the sweet fragrance of incense, and it only served to enhance the experience.
= Even though the Mass took exactly one hour and five minutes, it seemed to move at a slower pace than other Masses. The chanting of prayers emphasized each word, particularly during the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and the Lord's Prayer. This was not people trying to rush through Mass in order to get to Denny's in time for the senior citizen discount. These were men (and women) of God, devoted to Him and His Word, and this Word was to be savored and cherished.
= I think this may be one of the last Masses I attend there where Father Damien is the celebrant. The Trappists will be electing a new abbot general in France to oversee the order, and this house will also be electing a new abbot. Fr. Damien has been abbot since 2000, and it is time for him to hand the care of this house and it's brothers over to someone else. I have to admit, I will miss hearing his lilting Irish voice leading us (and yes, I am deliberately including me in the group) in prayer. At the same time, nothing lasts forever, and a new spiritual leader will surely have the blessings of God and the saints to guide him.
= What a joy it was to see people (and priests) behaving properly at a Mass. No talking in the pews beforehand, no ad-libs or superfluousness in the prayers, and with a very few exceptions, everyone took the Host on the tongue instead of in the hand. (The ones that did were also the same ones that joined hands with each other during the Lord's Prayer).
Once again, the grace of God had brought me here on an auspicious occasion. The Mass I attended was in honor of Saints Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen, the founders off the Cistercian order in Citeaux, France. I can't think of a better way to begin my formal discernment than to receive their prayers and blessings. As Msgr Schaedel would say, "Providence never fails!"
At the rosary that evening, I surprised myself by leading a decade. I really don't like praying out loud in public, and I felt the hot flush come over me as soon as I opened my mouth. However, God was with me. It is somewhat of a tradition at Gethsemani that the person leading the rosary also gives the intention for that decade. Considering the recent developments in my archdiocese, I thought it only right that my intention was for all doctors, nurses, and caregivers, that God may bless them with the gifts necessary to ease the pain of the sick and suffering, and that He bless them with compassion and strength to persevere in their work.
(I would ask all of you to please say a prayer for Archbishop Buechlein, that he make a speedy recovery and continue to lead the people of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.).
Since I didn't get home until late last night, I'm a little tired, so I'm going to skip the road trip today. It just felt too good snuggling under the covers to get up in time for an early Mass. I'll find somewhere close that has an 11:00 Mass (I know that at that time, it's definitely going to be a happy-clappy folk Mass or some such rubbish). I'll save the drive until next week.