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Fr Paul's June Newsletter

Dear Friends, Mid June, 2022

I likely will never tire of driving the back roads of southern Missouri -- with any change being a slight variation on sameness. But the months are confused, with temperatures in the 90’s and the heat index well over 100 -- genuine August weather. But instead of harvesting, the farmers are trying for an extra haying this year. The only flowers are fleabanes (their tiny flower on the top of an extravagant stem); further south emerged Queen Anne’s Lace, and finally purple Scolded Dogs as I neared the monastery, One variation was a pasture of integrated cattle -- brown, white, black, grey -- contentedly eating together. May we humans give that a try.

This visit marked the 30th anniversary of my becoming a Family Brother for Life with Assumption Abbey. What a deep and rich journey this has been -- through abbots and superiors, through sneezing postulants and dying elders, through building and rebuilding, through concrete blocks and fruit cakes, through varied flavors of ethnicity -- holding on in trust that we were in God’s hands.

It turned out that things at the monastery were fairly normal: The garden is half planted; the grass cut; the diverse roses blooming; the swallows gracefully swooping up the Garth insects in flight; orchids adorn halls and church; we have been released by heat from wearing extra garb to worship; there is a new holder for dish pan lids, the Lectionary that I forgot was found; we are open for retreatants (had a female Nazarene pastor and a male Catholic priest); the Gift Shop remains closed; parish volunteers working on our cemetery have finished with refurbished crosses and re-sodded graves; the air conditioning in the infirmary is working well, with a fan in each cell; and the monks are still sharing generously the cold virus. They gave it to Fr. Cyprian and to me on Thursday and we were both bed-ridden in the infirmary until Sunday. The monks are very kind; but not the virus.

There is a feel of instability about the place, with monks coming and going. Br. Austin went to his parents’ home to complete healing of his severe Migraine condition, and returned Saturday. Fr. Alberic will be visiting the Philippines during July and August. Br. Hillary will be leaving this week for four years of theology studies in Vietnam. Fr. Michael will be leaving by the end of this year for two years in Vietnam, before returning. It is the hope of Fr. Alberic (from New Melleray) and Br. Austin to spend as least a year at the Motherhouse in Vietnam. Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Ignatius, who wish to come to Ava, await the outcome of their interviews at the American Embassy in August. When I left on Sunday, there were nine monks at regular worship.

The homily at Wednesday mass began with the saying that when we are about to die, the whole of our life flashes back before our very eyes. In today’s Old Testament reading Elijah does this one better. When the day comes for him to die, he uses it to make a one-day pilgrimage that not only condenses his own life but also the sweep of Israel’s history -- for which he has given his life. So, in the company of Elisha, he begins in the town of Gilgal, which is rich in Israel’s history, having served as headquarters for the conquest of the Promised Land. They leave and go to the town of Bethel, which is where Abraham

began the pilgrimage from his homeland into Palestine; and is the first town that Israel captured in entering the Promised Land. Here it is that Elijah asks his companion Elisha to remain so that he can continue his memory pilgrimage alone. But Elisha will have none of it, which is like him-- for he is loyal to his final breath, as is God. “I will never leave you,” he resolutely says. So they take the road to Jericho, which again is rich in history, for it is where Jacob had his visionary dream marking Israel’s commitment to the Lord. And it is the city around which Israel marched for six days and on the seventh the walls came tumbling down. And again Elijah asks Elisha to stay there, but Elisha again responds, “I will never leave you.” So they go to the Jordan River, and there Elijah strikes the water with his mantle, just as Moses with his rod had done at the Red Sea; and together they cross dry-shod as had Israel, into Elijah’s “promised land” where his ascension is about to occur. There he asks for Elisha’s final hope. The response comes quickly: “I wish a double portion of your spirit” so that I may pick up the inheritance of your mantle and lead Israel on the next step toward the PromiseLand. Then, much like what the apostles did after witnessing Christ’s Ascension, Elisha picks up the mantle of Israel’s history, and crosses the Jordan to the task that awaits. All of us are called to be like Elijah, and to make the response of Elisha -- that is, to be able to trace in our own lives the Biblical journey, to pick up the mantle, and walk forward with others toward the Promised Land. One of the most meaningful moments of my life happened at my ordination, when I was instructed to prostrate myself before the altar as the congregation called forth the great saints of the Church’s history whose mantle I was being called to assume -- Augustine, Francis, Bernard, Teresa -- 32 names in all. But as today’s gospel indicates, most lay persons will likely assume this mantle alone, in one’s own room with the door shut. But whether alone or with others, this is when we come to realize that the ability to make Elisha’s words our own can happen only when we hear them spoken by God to us. The words are these: “I will never leave you!”

Corpus Christi began with a recalling a meaning for Father’s Day from the Eucharistic Prayer from our 6th special mass -- “Lord, you have bound together the human family to yourself with a new bond of love so great that it can never be undone. And by word and deed you have announced to the world that you are our FATHER and thus you care for us as yours sons and daughters.” Our Corpus Christi scriptures provide us with a rich history about how central the Eucharist is not only for us but to the whole of Judeo-Christian history. Early in the Old Testament we are told of Melchizedek, King of Peace, who brings bread and wine to Abraham after his victory, and delivers perhaps the first Eucharistic Prayer. Then today’s psalm prophesizes that Jesus will be a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek. Then Luke’s gospel portrays Jesus acting out this calling, gathering around him a multitude of 10,000 persons, and with the disciples as his deacons, he generously provides the bread of life for everyone. Then finally in our Epistle reading, Paul hands on to us the tradition that Jesus gave to him -- that we are to take, thank, break, and offer, proclaiming over the bread and wine the words, “In remembrance of Me. ”For me, Corpus Christi will always be bound to an event that happened twenty years ago, when the local priest had a heart attack and I was asked to become the interim priest. I was excited, for I had only been ordained for 7 years and had never served as a parish priest. As a result, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the experience with the enthusiasm of a teenager. One time I symbolized the incredible love

that Christ has for us by having the teenagers dressed in Mickey Mouse T-shirts pass out Mickey Mouse dolls for those in the congregation who seemed lonely, to hold throughout Mass. But it was the mass for Corpus Christi that was most memorable for me. Having previously been a Protestant, I gathered some of the older folks of the parish to search their memories as to how tradition had observed Corpus Christi with a flourish. But the result was disappointing, for either their memories were fading or past celebrations actually were quite tame. But what they did remember was that we might need a yellow canopy under which the monstrance would be carried during the parade. So I gathered together our small group of teenagers and shared some of the things I had learned. We got excited and started by finding a dusty monstrance in the attic. But what about a canopy? One of the kids remembered that his mother had a bright yellow bathrobe that might do. Good! Another person suggested using swimming floppers to resemble the sandals that Jesus and his disciples wore. Then we found four mop handles, some safety pins, and each of the youth promised to find a colorful scarf to wear as a stole. We were ready. On our big day things went well as they served at the altar with me. But as we began our parade throughout the church, the congregation singing with gusto, a few of the youth stumbled in their floppies, some of the neckerchief stoles began sliding off their shoulders, and one aisle was so narrow that we had to go single-file. But the real crisis happened when the safety pins malfunctioned and the canopy fell down over me and the monstrance. Yet by holding the four corners of the bathrobe with upraised arms and abandoned broomsticks, we finally made it back to the altar -- with the congregation giving us a standing ovation. After Mass, one youth recalled that because of Communion, Christ was now within each of us so that we were living monstrances. So like the Medieval Church could we visit several important places in our town and have our presence be a blessing? And so we did. I will never forget that day, nor will the congregation -- but what can we learn from that event?

Well, maybe that sometimes intent is more important than always getting things correct. Yet, perhaps more, it might bring us to realize that not all of our dealings with God need to be serious -- for even God took a seventh day to play with the cosmos that he had just created. In fact, the medieval church forbade Christians from kneeling of Sundays, for being the day to celebrate the resurrection; we should be dancing with the Lord, making a joyful noise before our god.

Now I wrote this on Saturday afternoon, in anticipation of how it would hopefully work out. How it actually will happen, I do not yet know. I only know that our Superior who also has been ill this week saw me at None and said I was released because of health reasons from presiding at Corpus Christi. Mass. Please pray for us.

Fr. Paul

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