Thursday, June 2, 2011

Longing for the Contemplative Life

Yesterday I accompanied Cedar Tree's 3rd grade on a field trip to Mt. Angel Abbey, a Benedictine monastery about an hour and a half from the school.  It rained both ways but the weather while we were at the Abbey was fine.  We took in the Abbey's museum, highlights of which include a Vatican-authorized replica of the face of the Virgin from Michelangelo's Pieta, an 8-legged calf (stuffed), and some large bezoars (petrified hairballs, basically) from the stomachs of pigs.  We spent some lovely moments in the rare book room of the library, perusing illuminated manuscripts and learning the meaning of incunabulum (it's a printed book from the earliest or "cradle" days of the printer's craft).

We observed the monks at midday prayers and followed along in the prayer book as they sang their antiphons, then ate our own packed lunches while the kids asked Brother Basil questions about life in the Abbey.  These kids have spent the year learning about the Middle Ages and the feudal system, as well as introductory Latin - so they knew about Ora et Labora and vows of silence.  But they had lots of practical questions, like "Do you get to see your family?" "Why do you have a hood?" and "What do you do all day?"  Brother Basil was young and kind and could relate easily to the kids, so it was a memorable time.

I'm now entering the final rush of exams and crazy grading schedules leading up to the end of the school year, so the peaceful sojourn at the Abbey was all too short for me.  Especially since, on the drive back to school, all 5 girls in my car practiced all the memory songs they've learned since Kindergarten, and then at school, one poor little guy got sick all over himself and the girl standing in the line of fire.  Thanks to St. Benedict, I was able to clean up vomit with a little better grace than usual.

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