Changes are in the wind. Sometimes one has to read the signs, witness the symbols, hear the prophesies of the wise, lament past failures and transgressions that cannot be changed… then look inward, try to hear the gentle whisper on the wind (I Kings 19:11-13), which, to bear, one need simply listen with the ears of one’s heart.
I was recently so depressed and desperate of heart that I went to the priory a few times around Christmas and the New Year. I was so “out of it” I don’t think I even knew where I was driving,… I obviously just needed to be where I felt at “home” and where my soul could get some solace.
It is funny that a person can tell where they are, what direction they need to take, what things preoccupy and encompass one’s soul, when everything one reads or hears seems to serendipitously describe one’s predicament. Like a silly love-lorn teenager trying to emotionally handle their first breakup, every song on the radio seems to speak directly to him or her about the travesties of heartbreak. And I seem to be that way with trying to understand where I belong in the world. Thus when I read in my prayer day-book the Lectio Devina for January 5th—the day I found myself at my former Benedictine monastic community and had the chance to say ‘hello’ and to speak with several of the brothers, including br. John—the passage seemed to be speaking directly to my predicament of self-imposed exodus from that community:
“Be careful to observe this whole commandment that I enjoin on you today, that you may live and increase. Remember how for these forty years the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
…And I decided that I wanted to come out of the wilderness.
So I will be returning to monastic life with the Benedictine community that I call “home.”
It does not escape me the irony of my timing: While I had sincerely hoped to enter the monastic community during the Year of Consecrated Life (what could be more appropriate for a middle-aged soul finally fulfilling his life-long wish for Christian community?); instead, I will be trying to start anew and return during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Even though the prior—br. Richard—says there is nothing to forgive of the transgression of my leaving the priory, I have asked for the brothers’ mercy and forgiveness for my cowardice in abandoning my dream of monastic living. While God always walks with us, nowhere do I feel as present with Him as with my family of brothers. Obviously, I cannot make promises beyond my capacity—none can know what the future will hold in store. But I should not want to deny myself the chance to try being successful at that chosen life of community again.
I have many stories to share with the brothers of this year of trials and adventures experienced while living away from them, and ruminations to discuss and probe in their company. The thought of being amongst those brothers again lifts my heart out of a dungeon I have been in. And the thought of experiencing renewed communion among them affords me a rejuvenated sense of purpose.
I have no grandiose illusions of being considered the returning prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). I have to say that I rather come begging at the door full of much shame and subjecting myself to that pinnacle of awkwardness and humility in order to beg of the brothers their forgiveness. I made a mistake in leaving; but I thought that I was doing the responsible thing at the time. People tell me that there is no shame in that, but it’s not a reflection of having been very prescient was it? Alas, I simply must stake claim to being human, and accepting my fallibility as such.
It used to be that if I visited the priory (during my exodus) that I would be sure to bring the old journals from my time there, as a kind of amulet or foil in order to be able to remind myself—if distress ever caught me out of sorts—of the reasons why I felt I needed to leave in the first place. And while those obstacles and challenges have not changed much, they wither compared to the sadness and disconsolation of not being there in the company of my brothers and bathed in the richness of gospel instruction and study.
Sister Mary M. McGlone of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet recently wrote a reënvisioned contemplation of the Wedding Feast of Cana (John 2:1-11) for the National Catholic Reporter in which John the Evangelist and Mary the Mother of Jesus recount and discuss how John will eventually narrate the story in his writings. It was a lovely contemplation, and a particular phrase she used struck me poignantly: “A wedding is our best symbol of God’s future with us.”
The phrase made me think a lot about the various facet of relationship… the weight of the commitment, but the joy, the shared emotional burden, and the selfless collaboration. It also made me ponder the flippancy of some wedding feasts today—how many view it as solely a means to throw an extravagant party without much prudence as to what the party represents or the “prophecy” it takes to envision a future entwined to another. Also that so much of society and particular institutions (even the one under which I sacramentally practice) are still apathetic to the fact that not everyone is—or has been—allowed to marry those to whom they wish to make that sacred commitment. There are so many nuances to consider. But… when a true sacramental calling of commitment is present, miracles can happen.
During the homily at Sunday Mass (on January 17th, 2015), Father Thomas of St. Peter’s Church in Rutland reminded those of us in congregation that Pope Françis was very deliberate in his decision to create a Jubilee Year of Mercy. He wants us to remember that God always forgives—and that we do well to learn from that example. I actually had no qualms and no doubts that the brothers at my monastic community would forgive me and welcome me back with open arms. It is their way, and the boundlessness of their acceptance and love has not yet ceased to astonish me. That I could learn from their example, indeed, would be a blessing. But Father Thomas said something else during his homily: that sometimes it was extremely easy to forgive others… sometimes the hardest thing to do is forgive ourselves.
The catalyst issue of some of my angst and an institutional cause for my grief—the inequitable classification of LGBT persons in the Catholic doctrine—was the primary reason for my need to break stride from my discernment track. By October of 2014 a large number of individuals employed at Catholic institutions had been fired from their positions for refusal to sign contracts affirming the Catholic Church’s providence in discriminating against LGBT people and doctrinally classifying LGBT people differently than heterosexual catholics. (In some cases the issuance of those contracts were a back-lash to the perceived progressivism of the newly appointed Pope Françis by the curia and conservative archbishops.) I wasn’t able to reconcile the discrimination against those fellow catholic brethren when I felt so succinctly safe and comfortable in communion and community with my family of brothers. There wasn’t any solidarity in the existence of my comfort and joy…which sounds like an utter paradox. But it was this precise paradox and conflict that was too much of a burden. My empathy was my undoing.
The need to work and create a renewed Church environment for LGBT people is still important to me (which the brothers also know), so I am hoping to continue a sort of missionary focus to that end from within the consecrated life—in whatever simple way that might actualize itself, whether in scholastic, theological, or published writing, or simply in joyfully welcoming guests to the priory, or to those searching for a “place at the table.” To do so within the Rule of St. Benedict is not a constriction of that initiative; rather it is a way of realizing that vision through the grace of the Rule, as well as the inclusiveness to be found in the Gospels, and the lessons of the Christ to be found therein. I’m trying to face that missionary hope without fear… without being afraid of repercussions from a future that hasn’t happened yet, or from misguided people hungry to discriminate and see their fellow brethren suffer.
While this news is good, it also means changes to this site and for the independent business interests I had worked so hard to create… I will, obviously, no longer be available for consulting services. You’ll be able to note this announcement on my Services Page.
In the same vein, I may have residual art pieces available at some galleries around the state of Vermont, but the focus of my artwork will undoubtedly change and will not necessarily be available through third-party art dealers or galleries. My Benedictine community does, in fact, have it’s own gallery and gift shop, but my contributions there are as yet undetermined. Links will be made available if and when such items become available.
Likewise, knit items for sale are still residually available at retailers in Vermont where supply remains. But renewing supply order at those establishments is unlikely. Work and prayer at the monastic community (ora et labora) will likely preclude the continuance of production on the same scale of which my previous crafts business could produce. You are welcome to inquire using the Contact page form for special request commissions. But I can make no promises.
I do hope to be able to continue blog posting on this website. However, it is likely that postings will be less frequent, due to the same reasoning as noted above, and the scarcity of “free time.” But I do not plan to abandon the historical research into which I’ve put so much effort—a book-length study is still anticipated. You may even see me at a tarot conference or an historical symposium here and there as I continue in this field of study. Then again, it might all evaporate. One can never know the future for certain.
Thanks to any and all followers of my ramblings thus far. I encourage you to continue on your own journey of discovery… wherever the whispers in the ears of your heart might lead you…