The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Play-Do, pursuits, and POWs

Wow, it has been quite a while since I’ve posted anything new here! So, I thought I’d provide an update on what’s been going on.

As previously mentioned, I took a little vacation in mid-April. Nothing too exciting, really, but some much-needed rest and relaxation. I did a lot of reading, and watched some Cincinnati Reds baseball on television (which I don’t normally get to do). One highlight was a brief visit with my sister and her family, including my little nephew Evan (soon to turn 3 years old, believe it or not). That’s him pictured above, busy creating Play-Do “pizzas” and “cookies” (two of the major food groups). We had a lot of fun; he sure is a joy to be around—and says the cleverest things.

Other than that, I’ve settled into my new job as secretary to the Archabbot in the monastery, and have been busy with the practicum portion of the spiritual direction program I’m in (besides meeting with directees, there’s a lot of self-evaluation, writing, and supervision work involved). This summer, I’ll also be filling in temporarily as secretary to the abbot’s council and the monastic chapter (the voting body of solemnly professed monks). Recently, I also was appointed to the liturgy advisory committee.

Last week, I gave a presentation on the topic of addictions as part of the formation program in the seminary. Over the next several weekends, I will be doing some traveling to Evansville, Indianapolis, and Louisville to present conferences to the oblate chapters in those cities. In the coming months, I need to prepare conferences for a retreat I’ve been asked to give two novices before they make their first profession in August (God and chapter willing), and also for a November day of recollection for oblates in New York (that will be my first-ever trip to New York City, so I am looking forward to that). On the side, I’ve been able to do a little writing, and recently had an article accepted for an upcoming issue of America magazine. Another publication has expressed tentative interest in another piece I’ve written, but has asked for some revisions.

The really big news around here at the moment, however, is the impending move of all the monks from the current monastery to Anselm Hall (which, until 1982, had been the monastery). This is due to extensive upgrades that are needed in the monastery—primarily to the heating, cooling, and plumbing systems throughout the structure. In addition, plans are to have the infirmary area expanded and reconfigured, and to remodel the refectory and pantry areas. All of the monks, and everything in the monastery, has to be out during the work, which is scheduled to take about 14 months.

The extensive moving operations are stepping into high gear right now. The target date for being totally in the “new” dwelling (which is actually the “old” monastery, and in any case is temporary) is May 27. The infirmary has already moved out, and crews are already doing some demo work in that wing. Things will soon be pretty messy around here—but, of course, with the idea of improving our home. The work certainly needs to be done. I hope to move my cell around the middle of May, with the secretary’s office more toward the end of the month (I’ve made some preliminary preparations, as have most of us, in the last month or so). Then, for the next 14 months, we will be living in quite different arrangements than what we have now. We will be occupying space normally reserved for seminarians, who will be shifted to areas on the Hill typically provided for guests. So, accommodations on the Hill may be a little tight for the next year and a half—if you’re planning to make a visit, get your reservations in early!

In my free time, I’ve been paying close attention to the fortunes and misfortunes of the Cincinnati Reds. Things don’t look all that rosy for them at the moment, but the season is still young, and there are enough bright spots to warrant some degree of optimism.

I’ve also been reading a compelling and inspiring book—Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand (there’s also a movie that came out recently). In Unbroken, Hillenbrand, who also wrote the best-seller Seasbiscuit: An American Legend, relates the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American who was one of the world’s bright young track stars in the 1930s. Literally one of the fastest men on the planet in long-distance running, he competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin at age 19, and was looking forward to almost certain gold in the scheduled 1940 Olympics in Tokyo. Of course, World War II intervened, and the Olympics were canceled. Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in September 1941, and became a bombardier. He and his crew saw significant combat action in the Pacific. After their plane sustained substantial damage in one battle, resulting in several injuries to the crew, Zamperini and a few of the more healthy crew members were transferred to Hawaii, and participated in a search and rescue mission for a missing aircraft. During the flight in May 1943, their plane encountered mechanical difficulty and crashed into the ocean, killing 8 of the 11 men on board. Zamperini, the injured pilot, and another crew member survived, and together they sought refuge on a flimsy raft, floating on the open water exposed to the elements with almost no food or water. Besides battling severe thirst, hunger, exposure, and isolation, they were on constant guard against ravenous sharks, who brushed up against their raft and even tried to leap in to make a meal of them. For good measure, while American search parties never found them, a Japanese bomber did, and strafed their raft with bullets. No one were injured, but the raft was ruined, and they had to make speedy repairs—while also fending off the hungry sharks. Zamperini and the pilot endured this long ordeal, but the third member of the party eventually died. The two survivors continued to drift westward toward the Marshall Islands. They were adrift for 47 days. The U.S. first informed family members that they were missing in action, and then declared them dead. And then things got really bad….

In the Marshall Islands, the two were captured, interrogated, and imprisoned by the Japanese. For the next two and a half years—until the war ended—they endured not only unbelievably deplorable living conditions, but intense starvation, beatings, torture, slavery, and simply the most inhuman brutality imaginable in several prisoner-of-war camps. It is simply amazing they survived (not to mention sickening what human beings are capable of doing to one another).

After the war, Zamperini got married, but he was understandably tormented psychologically by what he had endured as a POW (pure nightmares, only they were real!). Bitter and angry, he became a heavy drinker and quite abusive. With the aid of his wife and a Billy Graham crusade, he experienced a religious conversion, quit drinking, and finally experienced peace of mind after being able to forgive those who had tormented him as a POW. He became an inspirational speaker, and in the 1950s, returned to Japan, where he met with and expressed mercy to the imprisoned war criminals who during the war had made his life a living hell. Some, he later said, became Christians themselves as a result.

In 1998, when he was 80 years old, Zamperini ran a leg in the Olympic torch relay in Nagano, Japan, near one of the POW camps where he had been held captive. He died just last summer (in July, 2014) at age 97! It is simply an amazing story. What a testament to the grace-filled endurance of the human spirit, and the power of mercy! Zamperini's story is one worth listening to.

So, that’s my little book review. I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen the movie yet—though I hear the film version, unfortunately, doesn’t include what happened to Zamperini after the war.

Other than that, I’m currently enjoying the spring weather. Everything around here is beautiful right now—the landscape is plush and green, and bursting with colorful blooms. I’m always glad to see that each year—and amazed that it happens without fail. God is good.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Honor Your Inner Monk

On Good Friday, WISH-TV in Indianapolis aired a segment about Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and specifically about the popular "Honor Your Inner Monk" phone app developed by the Vocations Office here. It's worth a view!


Novice Timothy Herrmann (and fellow native of Findlay, Ohio; there are three of us in the monastery!) recorded this time-lapse video of the Easter morning sunrise over the Saint Meinrad Archabbey cemetery. In the background is a recording of the monks chanting the Philippians Canticle (Philippians 2:6-11). Enjoy--and a Blessed Easter season to all! (Soon, I will be taking a week or so away from the monastery for vacation, so I likely won't be posting anything during that time.)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Come to me

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever. Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter through its gates.
Revelation 22:1-5, 14


All seems silent today, but...

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh, and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

--The Lord's Descent into the Underworld
From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
(cf. Ephesians 4:7-10; 1 Peter 3:19-20; 1 Peter 4:6; Revelation 1:18)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why is this Friday good?

"When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
John 12:32

Christ Jesus,
though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name.

Philippians 2:6-9

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Food for the journey

“This is my body
that is for you.
Do this
in remembrance
of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:24