Monday, September 18, 2017

Day 13 of the General Chapter

 Well, we started the day “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” after the refreshing afternoon off yesterday. Members of our houses in the British Isles led us in the liturgy. Dom Roberto of Cardena in Spain was our main moderator for the day. Today is the birthday of Fr. Godefroy from Aiguebelle in France and currently chaplain for our sisters in Syria. He is a usual face at these Chapters for his interpreting skills. He was the equivalent of a Navy Seal before becoming a monk, and still looks very fit. It was noted that it was a national holiday in Chile – I think their Independence Day. Today was our last day of having Lauds at 7:15. It will be moved up to 7:00 in response to some of the suggestions in our mid-Chapter evaluations. 

After the announcements were out of the way, Dom Erik Varden from Mt. St. Bernard in England gave his presentation of “The Vision of the Order”. I think that is number 5 in a series of 7. It was excellent! Outstanding! He is such a gift to our Order. We were told earlier in the morning that these papers on the Vision of the Order in the 21st Century will be made available on the OCSO website at the end of the Chapter. Time is needed to render all the translations. Anyway, I would highly recommend seeking out Dom Erik’s presentation once the texts are posted. To give you a taste: “I feel gratitude. I also feel perplexity. My perplexity springs from what I see as a crisis of transmission. It is on this I wish to reflect. When I entered the monastery in 2002, I was conscious of entering a flow of continuous life. I was no less conscious of entering a history of rupture.” As you can imagine, much stimulating discussion followed it. 

Then we went on to the 7 remaining reports from the commissions on Fathers Immediate. After the mid-morning break, Dom Gregory Polan, the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order, gave a presentation. It was mainly about an inter-religious dialogue he had been involved in recently with Shiite Muslims. Before being chosen Abbot Primate, he was the abbot of Conception Abbey in Missouri, USA. 

After accomplishing some other business, we broke for two hours and another wonderful midday meal. I made use of the opportunity to run up to Assisi and take some more photos. Such a wonderful place!

We met back in the aula at 2:30 for None and then nominations for two positions on the Abbot General’s Council. That was followed by nominations for the Law Commission. Afterwards, we finished out the afternoon with work in our 14 commissions and ad hoc commissions. 

I would like to reflect on what a central role the House Reports play in General Chapters. Someone remarked to me, before I even left for the General Chapter, that the House Reports are really the main work of the Chapter. At the time, I had a hard time making sense of that statement. Now I see the truth of it. A tremendous amount of time is devoted to having commissions study them. The abbot of the house is invited into the commission to ask him questions and make comments. Often, the Father Immediate of the house is also invited in to get his input. It is all done in a spirit of solicitude and genuine caring. Picture the gathering of a close-knit family where people are asking each other how things are going at home, and each has the opportunity to share his burdens, his struggles, his joys and successes. All is done in a spirit of trust and transparency. There is much mutual concern. As mentioned in our commission today, we receive inspiration from some of the abbots and abbesses we interview, and learn things that we can take back to our communities. At the same time, the abbot or abbess connected to the House Report under review feels the support and love of the people in the commission. They are genuinely seeking the health and well-being of the community in question. Often, too, we would ask what the abbot or abbess was doing to take care of herself, in order to make sure she wasn’t letting herself get spread too thin and allow her life to get out of balance. Even before all of this, when the House Report is being drawn up by the individual communities, the members of the communities have the chance to air their concerns and get things off their chest. It is a call for the community to take a good, hard look at itself and do a self-evaluation. I realize now that House Reports play an important role in fostering the health of the Order. 

Fr. Stephen, Genesee