Wednesday, May 05, 2010


We have a lot of destruction and construction going on here at the monastery. Some old barns were taken down and new structures will go up in their place. The abbot asked me to take photographs of the entire process, so, rain or shine, I head down to the work site every day with my camera and take tons of pictures. I enjoy it. The workmen are very friendly and I like chatting with them. They even gave me a hardhat to wear.
One of the men’s names is Jeff and his name is easy to remember because that is my “real” name. I find him especially easy to chat with. A few days ago he mentioned that he was going to see his fiancé later that night and I asked him when the wedding was to be. He said they had not yet set a date. I forget the winding pattern of the conversation but it does not matter.
Oh. Now I do remember and it does matter. I asked Jeff where he was from and he said not far from here. But he had heard of the monastery. He said that his dad used to visit here and that his mom knew about the place, too. He smiled and said that he wanted to bring his fiancé over and that she is Jewish. He paused a bit, smiled again and said that he is Baptist. “We are working things out,” he offered. I told him that I know a couple I married many years ago who entered the same blend of promises for life – Laura, who is Catholic, and Len who is Jewish. They have three grown daughters now and I hear from them every Christmas. Life, faith, love and their promises have all gone well. I told Jeff that they would do fine and that I hope to meet his fiancé some day.
The above matters very much to me. We live in times when many long-standing structures are coming down. Religious and cultural certitudes that were, until fairly recently, comforting in their seemingly self-obviating truthfulness have given way to shifts and tides that have come from all directions. The wondrous event of two people from different religious paths, cultures and backgrounds falling in love and getting married moves them to place the claims of love above all other expectations. The spiritual maturation of the world can be seen at work microcosmically in the lives of two differing, living histories who look into each other’s eyes and say, with love and hope, “I do, till death do us part.”
It is amusing, when you think about it. A Catholic monastery is a place of a cherished and definitive identity in terms of who God is and who we are as monks. Our library is filled with theological literature that supports and encourages a clearly defined framework of the acceptably holy.
A Baptist man is here and he is as friendly as can be. He operated a big machine that demolished our barn and did so because he will turn to other tools and machines to build a new one. And while his hands hold tools and turn the wheels of derricks and earth movers, his mind and heart will turn as well over and through thoughts of love, of what he has found in life through a woman, and what God has given him through her. He wants to build with her a life that will last and the tool he has is one within him, the flesh and determination of his heart. Changes lie ahead for him and they will be changes that will be new and challenging – and whose patterns cannot be found in any text or map or plan. He and his fiancé will meet them with love and create something new. And the children born to them will be raised and loved in ways that truly offer them a new sense of God.
God is at work in this world, too. Taking down the old and building the new on the sites he knows best – those places where people fall in love and leave all they know to be with each other, stay with each other andbuild what is new and holy through each other.

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