Men in Black Dress

For reasons that are often beyond me I feel a kind of beneficent breeze every time I go out to St.Peter’s Abbey, in Saskatchewan.

monastery441 (46)

But there is nothing romantic about this monastery. Most of the twenty five or so monks who remain are old, many are tired, and a couple are infirm. Young monks enter, but it’s unlikely their numbers will overcome the attrition rate.

Brother Pius

Sometimes it feels to me that perennial winter has set in on the Abbey. And yet they remain, living together, wearing their black habits, working at their given tasks. And then at the sound of the bell, five times each day, from Lauds to Vigils, they drop what they are doing and walk to the chapel for another half hour of chanting and praying the Psalms. And it is prayer they hope to be shaped by.

Brother Francis, afflicted with Alzheimer’s towards the end of his long life, was, until his death, always wheeled to the chapel by the brothers for prayer. He would often startle visitors by suddenly shouting out bits of the Psalms. The Psalms remained when everything else was gone.

It’s this counter attitude that attracts me and keeps bringing me back to the monastery. I am more than curious by their belief that being cloistered within a monastery, while sharing everything and owning nothing, is a freer way of life, and that before anything else it is a good way of living the gospel.

I too long to be schooled in love and service, as St. Benedict rejoins in his Rule. I too long for emancipation from the unspoken dictates of culture and its slavery to fashion and "correct thought". But I’m not that stable, open to conversion, or obedient (the three vows). Just thankful for the guys in black scapular’s who are.

The monasteries black-capped (of course) chickadees love peanut crumbs

monastery441 (12)

monastery441 (31)

monastery441 (14)

monastery441 (26)

With Father James in his hermitage
Fr James and me440

My mentor, Father James OSB
father james

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


  1. I’m not stable, open to conversion or obedient either, at least not anymore, and not anywhere near as much as you are—but strangely I hardly value those things anymore. I was all those things for many, many years, and I now wish I’d been much less that way. We shared an hour with my non-religious, permissive, rough-around-the-edges former brother-in-law last night, and I was struck by my level of regret, and his complete absence of regret, and the hours of carefree laughter me and my kids missed out on, and the burdens my children carry that his don’t—all of which is directly related to my being stable and obedient and afraid to be my own person. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis, or maybe it’s new kind of conversion, but I’m embracing being my own person now, unstable and disobedient, and it feels freer, holier, infinitely more right.

  2. Connie, sounds to me like yours is a new kind of conversion.
    Thomas Merton called ‘conversatio morum,’ that is, ‘being open to conversion,’ the most mysterious vow. Being obedient to being open maybe the most stable thing we can do.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *