Saturday, September 17, 2011

Now back to regular programming...



So what's up with that Fr. Pavone?
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Just kidding - I'm not touching that story lest I too have to be afraid to leave the house.  But his call back to Amarillo did remind me of the reality and the demands of obedience in the priestly and religious life.  It's a really big deal.
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I used to joke and say most people could bypass the obedience requirement and do as they wish because there is such a shortage of priests and religious - but it doesn't work that way.  Some will say it does, pointing to all the liberals who seem to do as they please, and they may have a point - although even Fr. Pfleger had some explaining to do.  Gratefully faithful consecrated souls are usually too honest to live in disobedience or preferring their own way...  I better shut up now.
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Holy obedience in my life.
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I was thinking back this morning on how well I've done with obedience in the spiritual life.  When I first tried my vocation in the Discalced Carmelites I recall my discussion with the Prior concerning my progress and impressions of the community.  It didn't go well.  He had kindly suggested I do this or that to adjust to what I termed a more or less lax observance of religious life.  I wasn't buying it and ended the conversation by telling Father Prior he didn't know what the hell he was talking about.  I left the novitiate shortly after.
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When I entered the Trappists, the very first day as the Novice Master was showing me to my cell he said, "We'll have to do something about those glasses!"
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They were blue tinted lenses in very fashionable - at the time - aviator frames.  I protested, "Do you know how expensive these were?"
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Father looked at me smiling and said, "They just aren't appropriate for choir - don't you have other ones?"
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Excitedly I pulled out my Max Kolbe glasses - "I got these great tortoise shell 'nun's glasses' - they look just like Max Kolbe's!"  I put them on, placing the others on my back pack, which suddenly fell over, and my books inside fell out crushing the aviator frames.  After a moment of stunned silence, we both laughed and Father observed with delight, "That's providential."  
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Calling in sick in the novitiate.
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That was my first lesson in obedience, and so I decided it was not the time to complain about my cell.  I wasn't happy with the view for one thing, and it was way down the hall from the bathroom.  Though I thought I lived like an angel in the monastery I found numerous ways to do my own will and to keep my own schedule.  I got up earlier than the rest so I could shower before vigils.  I tried to call in sick once but they sent me to the infirmary - it was so dreary and I had planned to spend the day  alternating between the chapel and the library - making my own personal hermit day of it.  But oh no - they made me stay in bed. 
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We novices weren't permitted to fast beyond what the community did, so I invented 'just take whatever portion remains on the serving spoon'.  I ended up anorexic. Seriously.  One day I asked a fellow novice if the habit made me look fat.  BTW - when he left to return to the world the, rather than expressing any kind of sorrow or concern, first thing I did was ask for his cell - he had a better view.  (We were friends - I knew he was leaving anyway.) 
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Is there a heavier tunic - this one seems rather thread bare?
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As for the novice's habit, I really did have issues with it.  For one thing, I hated the cloth belt - I was convinced the leather belt the professed wore would look much better.  It turned out my shoes were not appropriate for choir either, so I had to get new ones.  I talked the Novice Master into getting me Earth Shoes instead of the normal black dress shoes the monks wore - explaining I had trouble with my feet.  I maybe did a little bit, but I hated black oxfords even more.  I also thought the habits could have been weightier or at least lined - you could see right through the tunics.  Happily, when I went into town for the shoes, I didn't have to wear the habit - the monks just usually dressed in work clothes when they had to do such things.  (I'm not a big fan of habits BTW - for me, that is.  I like blue jeans.)
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Oddly enough, when I left the abbey, I explained that I wanted to live a life of greater poverty than what was offered in the monastery.
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Where's the body wash Father?
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Even during my month with the Carthusians I thought to myself, "They at least could have put a shower in the bathroom."  Each cell had a private toilet and cold water sink - but you had to shower elsewhere.  And yet, before trying my vocation with the Carthusians, I complained I could never find an order penitential enough to suit me.  What foolish delusions I had about religious life - and myself.
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I've never really told anyone about some of this stuff, nor did I vocalize any complaint beyond the glasses and shoes - or maybe I did?  Anyway - I didn't want anyone to think I was disobedient.  LOL!  I never would have persevered, that's for sure. 

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing, I always find religious life so interesting.

    I also wish that there was a lay Catholic habit to wear... I dont know for something. Not all the time... I know, how pretentious! I guess it would end up serving a "Look at me!" purpose, which is contrary to the idea. I dont know.

    You always make my brain hurt thinking about the important things. Sometimes I feel like I am striving to be Aquinas (how ridiculous to think I can even utter the name) and you pull me towards Augustine.

    Interesting that you discerned the Trappists. We have one, Fr. Menninger, coming here this weekend to give a talk. I am not going, for several reasons, but mostly because there are some things I find questionable and I am too susceptible to a slew of things were I to go.

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  2. Fr. Menninger. Oh yes. I'd stay home from that one as well.

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  3. A Random Friar3:53 PM

    I wouldn't have minded being a Trappist, save that those choir stalls would kill my back. I could do chores and waking up early ok.

    Although I probably would've gotten into trouble, hiding in the library instead of working the fields. OP suits me much better than OCSO.

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  4. Terry, I love this glimpse into your life. Were we separated at birth?

    When I was discerning with the Cistercians, I used to complain about how lax the House was by not observing silence more, and the professed monks taking jaunts into town at all hours for gourmet meals with benefactors, etc. And then on Saturday afternoons which were essentially free for us till Vespers, I used to sneak into the kitchen and throw back a few glasses of wine from the box. *hic*

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  5. Recently, a prelate of the Curia, after having read the book "On priestly holiness" ("La sainteté sacerdotale"), by Archbishop Lefebvre, confided, "I cried after a while because I went through seminary and I had never had the priesthood explained to me as he does there. It is a whole world that opens up for us, for no one had explained to us what the priest was." It is a whole world that opens up..." (from another blog post)

    You might want to read the book.

    God bless Archbishop Lefebvre, may He keep him in His glory.

    *

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  6. "One day I asked a fellow novice if the habit made me look fat."

    LOL!
    You're a hoot!

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  7. I thought of this:

    A guy joins a monastery and takes a vow of silence: he’s allowed to say two words every seven years. After the first seven years, the elders bring him in and ask for his two words. "Cold floors," he says. They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him back in and ask for his two words. He clears his throats and says, "Bad food." They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his two words. "I quit," he says. "That’s not surprising," the elders say. "You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here."

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  8. Nan! That's like the best joke ever! I never heard it before. I hope a monk reads it and repeats it at chapter or something. LOL!

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  9. I've always wondred if religious life/formation is like military life, especially Basic Training...you learn obedience, discipline, following instructions, getting up early in the morning, cutting your hair and beard.

    The military does have their own "habit" so to speak, their uniform..

    Joseph--us Secular Discalced Carmelites have a "habit" we wear the Brown Scapular, under our clothes. I also know a lay individual with a particular devotion to St Philomina who wears her cord with much dedication. Many other lay individuals may have a particulare habit or uniform they wear....I remember a few years back of a particular Marian group who although they were lay people wore shades of blue--even navy blue-- and white...most civilian clothes you could put together various clothing outfits without drawing the needless attention to yourself that robes or other items would..

    Sara

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  10. If you don't mind me asking, out of all the religious orders you tried, which in your estimation was the most mentally healthy and, you know, normal and sane when it came to the people within the community? I'm sure you have a lot of interesting stories to tell lol

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  11. Mark - the Cistercians and the Carthusians seem to me to have been the most balanced. The OCD's - at the time - didn't seem to know who they were. That was in the 1970's however - when everything was very unsettled. Every community has its characters however - just like any family.

    I think the way to persevere in monastic life these days is to always maintain the resolve to seek God alone. Don't go l;ooking for some ideal of monastic life - with a handsome habit and a charming cloister and elegant chant, nor some lofty state of prayer or contemplation, not even some particular apostolate. Rather, to seek God alone - for Himself alone - that's the ticket.

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  12. Thanks for this glimpse of the monastic life through your eyes, Terry. I really do enjoy reading these best of all. Now there is a book you could write, filled with all those characters that you come across there. It'd be fiction, of course, with a lot of mystical and oddball humor, but you'd be the main character taking the reader inside your weird, funny and crazy head. :-D

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  13. "It's a really big deal."

    Why do you say obedience is a big deal? I don't know that many priests, but I can count upwards of a dozen in our archdiocese for whom obedience is not that big of a deal at all.

    And if you look at the ranks for the theologians and some religious orders, many of them seem to be quite free spirits.

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  14. Of course it's a big deal. A priest promises obedience to his bishop or religious superior. Christ's whole life was lived in obedience to his Father's will - as an example and demonstrating the way of salvation.

    Just because you know dissident clergy doesn't discount the obligation of obedience for them, nor does it excuse faithful priests from their duties and obligation of obedience.

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  15. I always justify my will. It's sad, all of the little lies I tell myself, but all the while I convince myself, I'm doing Gods will.

    But when you write about it, it's funny. I hope God has a sense of humor about these things.

    You wrote.."One day I asked a fellow novice if the habit made me look fat"

    Yeah, I ask my blog administrator if my clothes make me look fat too but he always say's no, what could he say? He wants to live.

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  16. Terry: This is one of your best posts. It has your humor and attempt at spiritual humility both on full display. I love this.

    Nan: ROFL!

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