Monday, September 25, 2017

Day 20 of the General Chapter

Our Mass this morning was led by the French region again. Man, Sr. Annie could make a lot of money with her voice if she wasn’t in a convent. Mother Rebekka was the main moderator again once we got back to work in the Aula. After announcements, we listened to an address by Padre Pasqualino, OFM. He was representing the Franciscans who have been making our stay here in Assisi so great. Dom Eamon responded afterwards. Then we went on to more voting, followed by reports of commissions, and discussions of those reports. We ended up spending all day in the Aula. 

When we quit at 6:00, there was a meeting of the delegates, aided by the same translators up in the booths who had been translating all day long. What an incredible job they have been doing! Anyway, the meeting of the delegates was quite lively and animated. During the time spent in the Aula we hardly ever said anything. But now with everyone gone we couldn’t hardly wait for our turn to speak into the microphones. We wanted to talk about the wonderful experience we are having at this General Chapter. 

Impressions: I’m loving the Italian people. They’re very warm and sociable. Very verbal. In general, they tend to be spontaneous, less organized, slap-happy, hang-loose, casual, free with their emotions. They’re very family-oriented. Family loyalty is big. They’re more at-home with religion, more comfortable with it. As I would walk around in my habit I was approached numerous times to bless religious articles or people. That was true of both Rome and here. Dom Eamon referenced this deeply ingrained faith of the Italians in his comments this morning too. He said they are “Catholic in the best sense of that word.” He’s been living in Rome now for quite a few years. And he has travelled all over the world visiting our monasteries, so he knows what he’s comparing them to. They’re also, on average, very nice-looking. Gratefully, I see a lot less tattoos and piercings than what I’m used to in the US. They seem to be upbeat, optimistic, jolly. A word I’ve heard a lot is “Bellisimo!” (most beautiful) And I love the sing-song accent of their phrases. It’s so charming. 

Switching gears a bit, Trappists tend to love farm animals. I would discover that in informal conversations over meals and during breaks, etc. One night at supper I was sitting next to the delegate from the French region, Fr. Bernard from Citeaux. We realized that 30 years ago we were both milking cows in Cistercian monasteries in different parts of the world – he in France, I in Utah. Sadly, many of our houses have had to sell their cows and change to more profitable industries like fruitcakes and candy. For centuries, our Order was agriculturally based, but now, due to economic pressures and lack of personnel, that’s slipping away. There’s a part of us that’s slipping away with it. Also, with the passing away of family farms, and the transition to agribusiness, fewer people are growing up on farms. I have sat at table a couple times with Dom Celsus of Bethlehem in Ireland and Mother Marie of Glencairn in Ireland. All three of us grew up on farms and used to milk cows in the monastery. Mother Marie was even still milking them when she was an abbess. We shared the sadness of seeing the cows go. The two nuns from our priory of Klaarlands in Belgium assured me very sincerely that their cat, Domino, is a very special cat. He’s named that because he’s colored like a domino. Sr. Tamar was delighted to show me pictures of all their cats, and also their two donkeys. I was happy to hear, in a conversation with Dom Malachias of Echt in Holland, that they raise pigs in their monastery. I think Wrentham, in the US, still has sheep. It broke poor Sr. Robbie’s heart when they sold the cows. I remember how hard it was for Fr. Joseph when we sold the cows at Holy Trinity.

Fr. Stephen, Genesee