Prior's Journal: July - August 2011

We can all connect with summer sounds as they speak of different personal experiences. Think of the sound of a riding lawn mower off in the distance, or as it becomes more invasive right under your window. Mowing grass is like getting a hair cut, you know when you need it and when it’s finished there’s a freshness and neatness about it all. Think of the sound of locusts in the trees, especially at dusk as the sun is going down in the still of the evening. It could be the evening prayer of some of God’s creatures, doing what they’ve always done, but calling us to hear, to remember, and be grateful. For us in the country we even get to hear the conversation of coyotes in the darkness now and then. Because sound travels easily on a calm summer evening those four legged family units even at a distance may sound like they’re just outside your window.

Although summer provides some of the leisure necessary to enjoy these pleasant summer sounds, it also gives way to a great deal of activity. A good number of our monks took on summer assignments this year such as directing retreats or attending summer classes. Several also planned their vacations with families and friends. Leaving the remaining remnant of monks in the choir stalls feeling the responsibility of carrying on the apostolate of prayer and remembering our absent brethren. During those weeks of extreme heat we all very much appreciated the air-conditioned comfort of the basilica. How well we remember the "old days" when a very distinctive sound of summer was the hurricane sound of many large fans blowing over the choir to keep it somewhat bearable. As you might guess, the question of fans or no fans, and their position, was an on-going debate back then.

The beginning construction of our new guest house continues to be a point of community interest as the new building begins to take shape. This year our summer has also included the sounds of heavy earth moving equipment as they began forming the base foundation of clay and fill dirt. There was a kind of respectful dance among these lumbering giants as another team of earth movers and bulldozers joined them. Taking turns slicing off the clay from the same nearby hill these additional machines worked to complete the renovation of the small pond we call Maria Laach. This pond east of St. Maur Hall was completely dredged, and repairs were made to the leak in the dam. The moat around the island was cleaned out, and a sealing coat of clay was laid down across the bottom of the pond. Construction sounds have continued into these late summer days as concrete transport trucks bring their revolving loads of wet concrete to the new guest house site to be pumped into its final resting place, in the walls and floors of the new building for untold decades to come.

Major Wind/Hail Storm: Just as this Prior’s Journal piece was about to be posted on the website, we had a "Wind Event" with a very special and ominous sound! At 7:30 pm on Thurs., August 25th winds in excess of 70 miles per hour, rain, and hail covered a large area, from the Iowa state line south along the corridor between Maryville and Conception and on south including the St. Joseph area. We had marble-sized and some golf ball sized hail which riddled most windows on the north sides of our buildings. A whole set of 25-30 foot windows on the north side of St. Joseph’s hall (Library windows) had just been installed a few days before. Fortunately their double pane strength allowed them to withstand the hail without damage, but the older upper story windows in the student rooms were ruined. We lost power, water, and phone service (after the phone system’s batteries failed) from Thursday evening until mid morning on Saturday. At one point 40,000 people in the whole area were without power. The sisters at Clyde Convent had even more property damage than we did, including some priceless Austrian stained glass windows on their Sorrowful Mother Chapel. We can be so grateful that in spite of extensive property damage there were no serious personal injuries. The newly arrived first year students spent their first two nights here without power. Welcome to the rigors of seminary life!


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