2 Kings 2:1-12/Psalm 50:1-6/2 Corinthians 4:3-6/Mark 9:2-9
One of the things that drew me to this community back in 1996 when I was contemplating monastic vocation was the brand new Rule of Life. Br. Curtis, who was the novice guardian at the time, sent me a pre-publication copy. The new Rule was the fruit of eight years of reflection and revision by the Society. Since it was completed before I got here, I feel like I can “brag on it”, as we sometimes say in parts of the Midwest where I’m from.
It is a most extraordinary document. It is written with a depth and richness that reward reading and re-reading and re-re-reading over time (which is what we Brothers do, actually). I’m continually struck by the two chapters on Obedience. Each of the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience has two or three chapters devoted to it. I haven’t made a study of other monastic rules of life, but I suspect the chapters on obedience are ground-breaking in their depth and subtlety.
Q: When did you first have a sense of your own vocation?
I grew up in the age of cheap gasoline. There was a gas station down the street from where I lived, and I have a distinct memory that the gas was twenty-nine cents a gallon. When gasoline was cheap, a favorite family pastime was to go for rides. Sometimes our rides took us to attend Vespers at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, which was about forty miles from where I grew up. This was still in the day when the Roman Catholic liturgy was in Latin, and there was an area in the chapel that was screened in with curtains, because the monks were still under strict cloister. I remember that, from the extern area, you had a view of the altar but couldn’t see the choir monks. I was fairly small; I could peer through the opening in the curtain.
When I had my first thought about being a monk, I was probably about seven years old. I remember looking through the curtain down the nave of the abbey church, which seemed huge to me, to where I could see the monks at the far end of the choir in their white robes. There probably were about seventy monks at the time, so there were a lot of these white bodies down at the end. And I just remember having the thought, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”