Today I drove home from a meeting in Conyers, Ga. It was hot, ~ 103 degrees, and good day to be driving instead of out working in the woods. The meeting went well, but I have one more in Charlotte next week. But the other night my wife told me that there was a monastery somewhere around Conyers. So I Googled it, and sure enough it was nearly around the corner from where I was staying. Cool.
So after the meeting this morning, I let my GPS drive me to the monastery. There it was, a Trappist monastery in suburban Atlanta. And they have some of the nicest little (naturally) Bonsai trees you’ll ever see, Dawn Redwoods, Trident Maples, even Bald Cypress. I’ve always wanted a Bald Cypress Bonsai (it’s a Forester thing), but I didn’t get one. Maybe I can get one for Christmas. And they make fudge there, oooh… I didn’t buy any though, it was over 100 degrees. I didn’t think it would make the 4 hour drive in any recognizable form. It would have been a chocolate and nut puddle in the floor board.
I had some birthday money left, and picked up a couple of books (like I needed another book, or an excuse to BUY a book!). I picked up “New Seeds of Contemplation” by Thomas Merton, since my original “Seeds of Contemplation” is so old that it is falling apart when I open it up. And I also picked up a biography of Charles de Foucauld by Robert Elsberg. I’ve been wanting to read about de Foucauld since finishing Carlo Carretto’s “Letters from the Desert”. From what I understand, his was such an approach that he should be so Christ-like that his neighbors would be attracted to his Master. He may have been that, but he was eventually murdered for suspicion of being a french spy. My purpose for reading about him though is to understand the passion of a man who will give up everything he owns in this world in order to share Christ with the poorest of the poor. Whatever mistakes he may have made along the way, such a man is one beautiful soul, a jewel in heaven’s crown. I was tempted to get the book, “Caryll Houselander, Essential Writings”, but figured since Penni was telling us about that I might read it later.
And I found a cross to replace the one I lost in the woods several weeks ago, must have snagged it on a bush. I’d worn it for nearly 30 years. The new one is called a scripture cross, it’s a celtic design covered with minute depictions of gospel stories. As I was checking out, the Abbot walked by, and the woman helping me called him over. She asked if he would like to bless it. He was delighted, prayed over it, and anointed it. I was very moved by his gesture. He was a gentle man, you could sense that in his voice, see it in his eyes. And this simple act brought me a moment of peace, of clarity.
I want to be monastic, but not in the full sense of a cloister, of a solitude apart, of celibacy. I want to be in a monastic community that puts itself back into the world, that is strong enough to live that way in the midst of the craziness of this life.
I think the more I hear Him, the closer I follow Him, the better I’ll find it.
Next time, Monk Fudge.