Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Day 14 of the General Chapter

What would a General Chapter be without a cold going around and a great number of people getting it? Whatever this year’s bug is, it seems to hit some people worse than others. Poor Dom Augustine of Conyers has been out for several days. This is his first Chapter, and not exactly a pleasant experience so far. I saw him today and he seems to be looking a little better. He asked to borrow some electric hair clippers I brought along in my suitcase. One of the latest victims has been Fr. Jan from Caldey who has been writing half of these blog posts. He felt it coming on last night and warned me that I might have to cover for him today with an entry. He was out all day, but looked a little better when I saw him this evening. 

Our liturgy this morning was in Italian. The Mass, with so many of us gathered together, is such a wonderful experience each morning. Everyone is so respectful and reverent. Work began in the aula at 7:00. We wished a Happy Birthday to Dom Lino, Titular Prior of Boschi in Italy. Mother Rebekka of Klaarland in Belgium was our main moderator for the day. She always does such a fine job. I marvel at her ability to lead a group like that with such grace and good humor. She is in my commission too, and a real gem in our Order. Born in 1967, she still looks quite young. 

Then we moved on to voting. The first two votes were fairly significant. I would love to share what they were but I might get fired. Next, we voted for two members of the Abbot General’s Council. After that, we voted for the members of the law commission. There were some more votes and some other business, and we finished out the last half hour of the morning working in our commissions. The two periods of the afternoon were also devoted to work in our commissions. We have some very likable people in our 2nd Commission, and we seem to be making rapid progress in the tasks assigned to us. We’re hoping to finish early and have an extra day or two off. A lot of that is due to our phenomenal secretary, Dom Erik Varden, who is able to compose brilliant-sounding summaries of our discussions on his tablet right there during the meetings and read them off to us at the end as if it took no effort at all. Our commission president, Dom Mark of New Melleray, and our vice president, Mother Rebecca of Mississippi, have also been putting in stellar performances.

Impressions: A theme that has come up several times in our work in the aula is a concern for handing on the Cistercian charism to the next generation. We have received such a rich tradition. It has been handed down through the centuries, and we are now its custodians. The decisions we make will affect this passing on of the baton. When we look around, we see a lot of diminishment in our Order. Will there even be a next generation? In a great number of places, vocations aren’t exactly booming. Is what we have to offer still relevant? The culture that our youth are coming from is so different than it was in the 40s and 50s when our Order was flourishing. How much should we adapt to that culture? Like the wise householder, we need to be able to bring out things old and new. We also need to be able to listen to the young without compromising any of our fundamental elements. This will take a lot of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. We can also count on the motherly care of Our Lady. Our Order is dedicated to her and she has guided us thus far. She will not allow us to flounder. I see many signs of hope in this General Chapter of 2017.

Fr. Stephen, Genesee