Prior's Journal: February and Mid March 2011

Long winter moves toward spring:

Monastic life is a lot like a revolving melody. Remember when you get a particular tune stuck in your head and it just seems to go round and round forever. Our ordinary monastic day is our melody of praise and doing the ordinary work that goes along with our community life. We can become so familiar with it that it becomes almost second nature but it’s like a familiar melody line which never becomes stale because it’s supported by harmonic chords and a solid rhythm which provides a certain amount of stability and direction. Far from becoming boring the ordinary repetition of the schedules and interaction within the community provides a very important and enriching structure.

I think of this when we see the weeks and months passing by as we flip the pages of the calendar. Much of January and February was conditioned by the changes brought on by Old Man Winter which certainly provided a wealth of topics for table conversation.

The passage of time and the waiting for spring, which seemed to be tantalizingly close at times, was a great preparation for the official arrival of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent on March 9. We continue to follow the practice of each of us meeting with the abbot before Ash Wednesday to discuss how we plan to use the Lenten season to prepare for Easter. The three things we choose for our Lenten effort make up what is called our "Bona Opera" which St. Benedict describes in the Holy Rule. The late date of Easter this year can assure us that the glories of spring will help us to celebrate the full meaning of Easter as the coming of new life and hope.

Comings and goings:

We’ve had a good number of monks involved in giving preached retreats and private directed retreats both here at the abbey and away. No matter how much "self-help" material might be out there (a stroll down the aisle of a book store shows you that there is truly a LOT out there) it is always amazing that people still see the need for making a retreat. Perhaps it’s a hunger for spiritual refreshment which comes from sharing the faith and wisdom of another through the power of prayer and dialogue in a peaceful environment. Our guest department continues to be extremely busy as they arrange for visitors, individual retreatants and retreat groups. There are some weekends when every guest room is reserved. It’s quite a challenge for the housekeeping crew to keep the rooms ready for the next group.

Revised Grail Psalms:

Abbot Gregory has been especially busy these months as his schedule takes him around the country attending meetings, workshops, giving retreats, and giving lectures about the new translation of the Revised Grail Psalms. There seems to be a lot of interest in praying the psalms in a translation that lends itself to private meditation as well as community recitation with or without music. We at Conception are very gratified that Abbot Gregory’s scholarly work with valuable contributions from others in our community has made a significant contribution to the prayer life of the English speaking Church around the world. That’s a wonderful legacy, isn’t it?

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