Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Playing to the Wall - By John Forbis, OHC

Br. John Forbis, OHC 
Almost two decades ago, I did a presentation to a group of people who came to our monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa for a week-long immersion into the Benedictine world. My subject was the mutual influences of monastic music and monastic spirituality upon each other. In discussing Gregorian chant, I tried not to get too technical but focused on the searching, dynamic, even restless quality of the melodic lines. They were always seeming to probe something more than themselves, trying to get at something intangible, ineffable, reflecting often the architecture of monasteries in the Middle Ages.

I then decided to take the idea a step further. I tried to trace the influences of chant forward into musical history all the way to jazz. I finally ended up discussing John Coltrane. He made his greatest and most adventurous recordings in the 50s and early 60s and died too soon after them. 

"My Favorite Things" 1961

The recording I played was his famous interpretation of "My Favorite Things". The saxophonist was certainly influenced by the technical elements of chant using the church modes, which were the musical scales, the building blocks of chant.

But even more so, I wanted to emphasize Coltrane's same restlessness. In many ways, he is not easy to listen to. To me, his playing sounds like he is never satisfied, has never found home, always trying to probe, penetrate through to something beyond him. And he had much musical talent and genius with which to do this. Often he played the same melodic patterns again and again, slightly modifying them, sharping and flatting notes here and there, changing rhythms, beginning the pattern on a different beat or offbeat. His playing was as unnerving and mysterious as prayer. At the same time, in that discomfort and mystery, I have always heard a great humility. His prayer was never settled and never finished.

When I presented this idea to the group, I went as far as to say that because of these reasons he displayed the values and passion of a monk.

Then one time, I read a poignant portrait of Coltrane written by Tom Dowd, the recording engineer for the Atlantic Record sessions. Dowd's description of Coltrane's routine before recording sessions brings me right back to my original conviction of which I won't hesitate to express again. He writes:

"...He would stand in a corner, face the wall, play, stop, change reeds and start again. After a while he would settle on a mouthpiece and reed that felt most comfortable to him, and then he would start to work on the 'runs' that he wanted to use during the session. I would watch him play the same passage over and over again, changing his breathing, his fingering, and experimenting with the most minute changes in his phrasing. Once in a while he would go back to the mouthpiece he had abandoned earlier. He never lost control: every step had a reason and almost everything he played was acceptable to everyone but him. Until he felt comfortable that he had exhausted all of the possibilities, he would continue to play the various permutations.

As the rest of the band members started to arrive, he would nod a greeting but never stop playing. He was deep into another world. He set the atmosphere for the sessions ... "

What I hear in his playing combined with the passage above speaks volumes to me about faith itself. He is the living example of St. Augustine's statement: Our heart is restless until it rests in you. Coltrane's heart was restless and because of that, he was one of the most creative musicians of the 20th Century. I believe faith is the one thing that keeps us from settling for anything less than resting in God.  Monastic life is sometimes a restless life for me, one of constant searching and when I feel that I have found what I am looking for, then, I know I am exactly at the point where I need to start all over again.

The great Trappist monk, Thomas Merton writes about contemplatives in this unsettling way, “The contemplative is one who would rather not know than know. He [she] accepts the love of God on faith, in defiance of all apparent evidence.”

I can now look to Coltrane's example for a source of courage and strength to travel that "dark and unknown path" of not knowing and to keep searching even when I know I will not find what I seek. Writing poetry for me is a contemplative act. In some ways, I am writing the same poem until I get it right and at the same time hoping I never do. Below is my "permutation" of that life-long poem that is never finished inspired by Dowd's tribute above.

Playing to the Wall

He comes
an hour early,
faces the wall and blows a column of air
through furious fingers
and snapping keys.

Others arrive
and he acknowledges them
with a nod, not breaking
his endless patterns.
He clamps down on that reed

tries to bore
inside concrete,
see its own patterns and play them.
But notes bounce hard
against glass and acoustic panels.

If he finds the scale,
the harmony
that shatters the glass
he will have
nothing else to play.

He will have to wrench
the sax from his mouth
and lay it down forever.
So he continues
to pelt the wall.

It caves
just enough
to give room
to breathe
into another voice.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany- Year A - Sunday, January 29, 2017

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Roy Parker, OHC
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany- Year A - Sunday,  January  29, 2017

This morning I'd like to share with you an interpretation of the passage from the prophet Micah, an interpretation indebted to a sermon preached by Harvey Guthrie at the National Cathedral in October, 2015, on the occasion of the dedication of the Jonathan Daniels Carving in the Cathedral's Civil Rights Porch.

Jonathan Daniels was murdered on August 20, 1965 in Haynesville, Alabama for registering illegally disenfranchised African-American voters.  The selection from the prophet Micah happened to be appointed for Evening Prayer on the occasion of the Cathedral's dedication service, and we may regard it as a pairing for Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, today's Gospel, as well as a tribute to Jonathan.

To reiterate Micah's words: "(God) has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Our tribute this morning is a little lesson in the key Hebrew words of the Micah passage.

"Justice" - the Hebrew word is mishpat. "Kindness" - the Hebrew is chesed. "Walk humbly with your God" - the Hebrew is hatsna' leketh 'im eloheykah. Let's unpack those words.

Mishpat, justice, is what results when a shophet, judge, shaphats, judges. "There is strong evidence that . . . originally . . . mishpat referred to the restoration of a situation or environment which promoted equity and harmony in a community." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary)

"Justice" is introduced in Micah with ,"(Our God) has shown you . . . what is good." And what is good is defined in the preceding verses in terms of God's rescuing people from the oppression of slavery, God's caring for them as homeless refugees in the wilderness, God's provision of a home when they were homeless.

For the Bible, justice involves things like that - and so often in the psalms and elsewhere, equity for widows and orphans and the poor. Biblical justice is not retributive justice. It does not have to do with the protection of those in power through the use of violence. It is not about punishment.

Biblical justice is distributive justice. It has to do with recognition of, and provision for, the needs and rights and dignity of every human being. It has to do with being kind rather than correct. It is what God's people are supposed to do.

Which brings us to the second word of our text: chesed, "kindness." "Kindness," "lovingkindness," "mercy," "steadfast love" have all been used to translate chesed in English Bibles. No one English word captures its meaning. It seems basically to have to do with loyalty in relationships, loyalty that is considerate of and affectionate toward the sharer of a relationship. It is not used in Hebrew of "kindness" in the abstract. It bespeaks actual, steadfast, loving, merciful, kind loyalty toward another.

It is rooted in God's commitment to God's people, in God's steadfast, loving, merciful, kind loyalty toward God's human colleagues in the doing of justice. It is about the kind of relationship God wants people to have with God, and with each and all of their human sisters and brothers. It is indeed about sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs and rights of others, indeed about respecting others, but, at root, it is about affectionate, unswerving commitment to others. I propose it be rendered "compassionate solidarity."

Mishpat, "justice," chesed, "compassionate solidarity," and, finally, hatsna' leketh 'im 'eloheykah, "walk humbly with your God." In the Hebrew "humbly," hatsna', which introduces the phrase - is emphasized as the key to what the phrase is about - "humbly walk (or "go along with") your God." Not only is it put first for emphasis; it is a word that occurs only here and nowhere else in biblical Hebrew. What it actually means is pretty much up for grabs. The guesses, on the basis of sparse evidence, include "modestly," "secretly," "cautiously," "carefully." Since the oldest English translations chose "humbly," subsequent versions have fallen into line - with nary a footnote about its obscurity.

But what if Micah chose and emphasized an unknown word on purpose? The medium can be the message. How something is stated can convey as much or more than what is stated. Maybe here the point is not the meaning of a word that is obscure and unknown, but that such a word is used. If so, the verse could go like this: "What does the Lord require of you but to do mishpat, "justice," and to love chesed, "compassionate solidarity," and experiencing hatsna', - unbargained for, scary unknowns as you go along with your God." Or "to go along with God in doing what is right toward all, in having a passion for lasting human and humane relationships with God and all our sisters and brothers, and to be open to new and unknown and surprising, devastating things all that may involve.

In his study and reflection at seminary, Jonathan Daniels had learned about, and grown in commitment to, God's call to do   "justice" and to have a passion for "compassionate solidarity." That led him to respond, along with seminary colleagues, to Martin Luther King's call for people of good will to support with their physical presence, on the weekend of March 10-12, 1965, the struggle for civil rights under way in Selma, Alabama. Jonathan had gone along with God for the weekend.

But as the weekend unfolded, justice and compassionate solidarity were joined by unbargained-for hatsna' , in the form of increasing conviction that going along with God had to involve not just flying in and demonstrating, and then flying out, but staying in compassionate solidarity with African-American sisters and brothers in the struggle for justice. And so it was that doing justice, loving compassionate solidarity with God's black children, and going along with God led to Jonathan's unplanned, unbargained-for staying to share life and work with those brothers and sisters, and finally to being killed by Tom Coleman's shotgun on the porch of that store in Haynesville. He is a martyr in whom response to words like Micah's was lived - and led to death.

God is calling us to do justice that frees the oppressed and cares for all. God is calling us to compassionate and caring solidarity with all our human sisters and brothers. God is calling us to be alert to new, maybe upsetting and life-threatening, places to which doing justice and loving our ties to all may take us. Maybe such a place now is, once again, Alabama, where, having been given permission by the Supreme Court, that state seems to be dismantling the voting rights for which Jonathan and others died.

Maybe such a place now is facing up to what "Black Lives Matter" is all about - yes, in terms of police brutality, but more deeply in terms of the racism in our hearts and culture and social structures that gives permission to, and feeds, police brutality. Maybe such a place now is the hijacking of our national moral backbone by the National Rifle Association with regard to dealing with campus blood baths.

One of those weird passages in the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible, pictures the final defeat of the ultimate evil one by God's faithful servants. "They," it says, "have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life in the face of death." The Greek translated "the word of their testimony" is ton logon tes marturias - literally, "the logic of their martyrdom."

Jesus' death and resurrection reveal a logic inextricably woven into the fabric of the universe. In that divine logic unjust and uncompassionate powers have reached their limits when crosses and shotguns have done their worst. They can go no further than death. But the meaning of Jesus' resurrection is that God can.

When a servant of God does not cling to life in the face of a cross or a shotgun, the logic of oppressive empires and racist cultures has run its course; their power and its weapons have done all they can do. But God's logic persists; God's powerless weakness - whose weapons are justice and compassionate solidarity and love - continues its patient, persistent, non-violent subversion of oppressive empires and racist cultures. Jesus does not conquer Rome, but Jesus outlasts Rome.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Br. Roy Parker’s 50th Anniversary of Ordination

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Sr. Janet Ruffing, RSM, Ph.D.
Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle -  Wednesday  January 25,2017 

Jubilee’s are a time of renewal, celebration and joyful gratitude for a life lived faithfully in response to God’s continual interior presence to one in both monastic life and priestly ordination. No life is without challenge, and at times, great suffering. Vocational responses once made must be continually renewed, re-chosen, and responded to in each present moment as our lives unfold.

When we look back over 50 years, we gain a perspective we do not have along the way. For Roy, these two vocations, which many experience as distinctly different--monastic life and presbyteral ordination have always been intimately connected and mutually enhancing to one another.  Over time, he gradually realized that his monastic vocation included this particular service to the monastic community and the church at large as he matured in his monastic life.     

In preparation for this sermon, I sat down with Roy who so often a man of few words, and in one sitting, shared with me his vocation story from being an engineering major at MIT in response to considerable parental pressure to his final vows in Holy Cross and subsequent ordination to the priesthood which we celebrate today.  Hearing his story over this sweep of time was such a gift of sharing his life in God and in community that I was really happy that I had accepted his invitation to preach today. And it seemed to both of us that much of his story may be unknown to a number of the current members of Holy Cross, so he gave me permission to weave it into my remarks.

Our first reading from Acts is one of two accounts of Paul’s “seeing the light” and falling from his horse” on the road from Damascus.  Today’s text is Paul’s court defense of his life and ministry before King Agrippa, the highest Roman ruler outside of the jurisdiction of Jerusalem where the Pharisees and High Priest were demanding he be put to death. Paul, a Roman citizen has appealed his religious case to a more favorable Roman jurisdiction, having appealed all the way to Caesar. Giving this speech in chains, his very life and continued ministry depends on the outcome of his appeal.  While he fails to convince Festus of the truth of Jesus and Christianity, nonetheless, his courage, wisdom, and rhetorical skill save him from a planned ambush were his case to have been returned to Jerusalem, and he continues to Rome in chains. Agrippa is knowledgeable about Jewish customs and theology and easily recognizes that Paul has committed no punishable crime according to Roman law.  There is no horse in this account, only blinding light, apparently causing all of them to fall to the ground whether on horseback or not.

When I asked Roy about his vocation story, immediately, he said, “I can tell you my equivalent of falling off my horse.”  He described his faith journey while still at MIT. Around 1955, he discovered Anglo-Catholicism at Church of the Advent in Boston and was taken with its practices.  While sitting in his apartment on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay, writing his senior thesis, he as yet, had no clear vocational idea.  He had an ordo calendar on the wall, which had a photograph of the three sacred ministers at Eucharist, priest, deacon, and subdeacon. Looking up at the calendar, he wondered if that is what he should be doing?  Simultaneously, he was struck lightly on the back of his head, accompanied by a strange, warm feeling.  Perhaps, “a sign” that he was on to something.  He said he was startled, but peaceful, grateful for the sense of direction, despite his feeling of inadequacy about his stutter which plagued him for years.

A year later, while working for Pratt-Whitney as a tool designer and sharing an apartment with his sister Charlotte in West Hartford, he came to Holy Cross for a retreat. Still seeing no clear way forward, in the context of the monastic community, he thought, “If I give myself to God in a religious community, the community would direct me through this confusion.” And so he entered Holy Cross in 1958 on Epiphany as a postulant despite his speech impediment.  Clarity did not come soon or easily. And although he realized much later he could have told Father Whittemore the whole story of his sense of call and what seemed like an insurmountable impediment, he left Holy Cross without an explanation. At that time, he did not understand the underlying psychological issue behind the speech impediment which prevented him from seeing his way clear to follow this vocation. 

It’s a bit hard to keep Paul’s story and Roy’s on a parallel track among this set of particulars. Both are clearly illuminated by an unexpected and unexplainable faith reality, but Roy remained hesitant compared to Paul’s confident boldness.  Yet both were deeply immersed in calls unfolding over time that irrevocably changed both of their lives and their roles in the church.

Shortly after leaving Holy Cross, Roy went to the Cowley Fathers, similar to but different from Holy Cross and began seminary at EDS. While at Cowley, he experienced another graced “breakthrough” in relationship to his anxiety about his speech impediment as diaconal ordination approached. He described an awareness of experiencing a radical sense of his interiority existing in God, and that he had to trust this sense of call he found deep within this faith reality. And he was ordained to the diaconate right on schedule. 

Yet as priesthood ordination loomed ahead of him, he felt certain he was called, but was still concerned about his public speaking and delayed that ceremony until he felt more confident he could manage what would be required of him.  This time, though, he talked with John Coburn who knew the prior at Holy Cross, having been one of Fr. Whittemore’s directees.  Roy had matured to the point where he believed Coburn enough to go forward with his ordination shortly after that. This feast of the conversion of St. Paul was the closest appropriate feast to his decision to proceed to ordination that fit Bishop Anson Stokes and the SSE community’s calendars, also falling on a Wednesday that year. Lloyd Patterson who preached his ordination sermon reframed Roy’s delayed ordination as having much impressed other EDS students because of the care he had taken in this discernment.  By this time, Roy had learned some different strategies of dealing with his speech difficulties and presided at his first Eucharist without a stutter. He became able from the depth of his sense of being grasped by God, to remind himself to whom he belongs in this priestly ministry before and while presiding.

In Matthew’s Gospel for today, the envisioned challenges to evangelical ministry are primarily presented as external ones, like sheep in the midst of wolves—persecution, public trials, betrayal unto death, and family rejection.  And certainly, Paul experienced all of these, but so too, did many first generation Christians as well as later ones.  Yet, even here, “Matthew comforts such disciples with the promise “when they turn you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit speaks in you.” 
In order to embrace his priestly vocation, Roy learned to trust in this grace and overcame his anxiety around speaking as well as earnestly working through some of the psychological issues which had created the stutter, in the first place. If we stay within Paul’s story, it might have been more like, “my grace is sufficient for you,” when Paul prayed to God to take from him the thorn in his flesh and in the Gospel, “do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given you at that time, for the Spirit speaks in you.”

While at EDS, Roy excelled in his studies, learned the Biblical languages, and enjoyed his theological and scriptural studies. This all gave him a solid basis for his preaching.  But his faith journey had yet more challenges awaiting him.  A couple of years after ordination, Roy went to Japan for 3 years where he basically studied the language and served the Episcopal community at the nearby military base.  There he began to feel that his life was somewhat “bigger” than his life in Japan.  And he went through another crisis about how and where he was to exercise his presbyteral ministry. 
He learned through John Colburn again, that Holy Cross had begun a path of renewal of monastic life, paying more attention to the full humanity of its members on the journey. And so a short while after leaving Cowley, he entered Holy Cross in 1972 and made vows in Holy Cross, in 1976.

As he grew and deepened in his vocation to priesthood within and at the service of the monastic community, he also developed a variety of what one might call the monastic arts. He has long been a cantor both for the chanting of the office and for the Eucharist. In this context, priesthood serves the community. He appreciated Christian Swain’s presiding when on special occasions he would extemporize on the Eucharist Prayer.

During his Berkeley years at CDSP in the ecumenical community experiment of Camoldoli and Holy Cross brothers, and his studies at JSTB, he discovered fresh possibilities around liturgical styles, expanded his sense of creativity as allowed within the prayers, and increased his confidence to use his creative, literary gifts in the service of both the liturgy itself as well as in his preaching.

For him preaching is a spiritual process, in which he invests research, time, prayer, and reliance on inspiration. Yes, “what you are to say will be given to you” often happens alongside the careful preparation that elicits a fresh response to the word of God.  It was also at that time, that Roy became a bread baker and a very gifted calligrapher, displaying artistic gifts of a different sort than his earlier work as a draftsman.

It was in Berkeley that we met as I began my Doctoral Studies and became friends.  In many smaller, more intimate liturgies we shared in retreat settings and other small group gatherings, Roy’s spontaneous prayers, emerge from some deep place within his heart and soul in exquisitely beautiful language that never ceases to amaze and touch me. And many people beyond the Holy Cross Community are attracted to his deeply spiritual qualities which manifest so easily and deeply in these contexts beyond the Holy Cross Community.

He concelebrated at my silver jubilee at Fordham, and nine years later he anointed my Dad when he was dying in California and preached a beautiful homily at his wake, and he presided at my Mom’s Mass of Burial three years later. So many have experienced grace through his priestly ministry-- the Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and WestPark Holy Cross Communities, the students and faculty at CDSP, others in his ISW class at JSTB in those Berkeley years, the guests in the two retreat houses as well as the quiet days he has led in local communities in all those areas.  For a few years, he also served as a Chaplain at Manhattan Plaza in New York City in a challenging aids ministry while living in the Absalom Jones Community in Harlem.

Reflecting on and celebrating Roy’s 50 years of priesthood today, I believe it impels each one of us to a similar deep fidelity to our own particular vocations and the particular grace upon which we rely in times of struggle, uncertainty, and challenge right along with the inner joy and gratitude that accompanies all of our graced lives. We rejoice with you today, Roy!  Happy Jubilee!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anglican and Roman Catholic Religious Communities Make a Covenant.

Here at the  Monastery we will be observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18 - 25. But this year's  observance will be a very special one for our Order, as it will mark the  forty year  anniversary  that the Order of the Holy Cross and the Camaldolese monks ratified a formal covenant. 

All will agree that the ecumenical landscape has changed dramatically. But it still goes on. And in our own small ways, so do we and with an ever-growing sense that whatever the structures that separate us, it is the deep reality of our common Christian faith and monastic practice that unites us. In this we reflect the world at large, Christian and non-Christian, religious and secular.  

What follows  is an article  written by Br. Bede Thomas Mudge , originally published in  the December 1977 issue of  Ecumenical Trends, the journal of the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute.

Br. Bede Thomas Mudge, O.H.C.

Anglican-Roman Catholic Religious Communities  Make  Covenant

By Br. Bede Thomas Mudge

The increasing exposure of Christians of diverse traditions to each other, which the ecumenical movement has made possible, has not infrequently awakened a desire in a particular group of Christians to understand and penetrate the tradition of another church or communion. This attempt can bear fruit not only in the discovery of how Christ has been perceived and revealed to those who see from a different perspective, but also in the illumination of the understanding of one's own tradition. Religious communities of the different churches, because of their common experience of prayer and apostolate in a community setting, as well as of their commitment to religious vows, could occupy a special place in this process, as groups who share a considerable amount of common ground and yet reflect diverse ways of understanding the Christian mystery.

Impressed by the number of Episcopal and Roman Catholic parishes now forming covenant relationships, some members of the Order of the Holy Cross, an Episcopal religious community, began to wonder, a few years ago, if such a covenant relationship might be possible between two religious communities as well. A number of problems were encountered as we began to explore the possibility, one of the first of them being variance in size. Most Anglican religious communities are very small by Roman Catholic standards, and it was difficult to visualize any meaningful relationship between a community of somewhat less than 100 members with, say, one of 10,000 members. The smaller community could easily be "swamped" in such an arrangement, while only an insignificant percentage of the larger group would be able to participate meaningfully in that sort of relationship.

There was also the problem of divergent traditions within the religious life itself. Most Anglican religious belong to communities that are traditionally "monastic," with a roughly "Benedictine" pattern to their lives. The greatest number of Roman Catholic religious, including many of those most committed to ecumenical endeavor, come from an "active" tradition whose spirituality and outlook are quite different. While not a contemplative community in the strictest sense, the Order of the Holy Cross, along with most Anglican communities, has retained a fair amount of the strictly monastic form of life. Therefore, some "active" Roman Catholic religious, especially those who have recently gone through a process of renewal in which many outward forms of monasticism have been changed or rejected, have questioned the value of a relationship with such a seemingly "traditional" community as Holy Cross.

Recognizing these difficulties, Holy Cross nevertheless continued to explore ways in which the idea of a covenant might be realized. The actual realization finally came through one of those historical "accidents" that the Holy Spirit provides from time to time. During a visit to the Roman Catholic Camaldolese monastery at Big Sur, California, in 1975, the prior (or superior) of the order's motherhouse at Camaldoli, Italy, also toured a number of different religious communities in the United States. Holy Cross was included on the prior's itinerary because the monk who acted as his interpreter had once been an Episcopalian, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. The visit was pleasant, but did not seem particularly significant at the time. Only later we realized that there were deeper possibilities for our two communities: a letter arrived at Holy Cross thanking us for our hospitality and expressing pleasure in the discovery that our two communities "were so similar.”

This remark was at first a considerable surprise to the Holy Cross brethren. However we have conceived our ethos, it has never been as Camaldolese. Our image of their community was largely formed by Thomas Morton's description of cloistered hermits who were so severe and ascetic that they were the only order to which a member of the Carthusian order, one of the strictest in the Roman Church, could be transferred! Nevertheless, it seemed there might be some benefit in further exploration. For one thing, the numerical strength of the two communities is quite similar, and they were the first interested community we had found of whom that was so. Inquiries were sent therefore, and they met a positive response.

In the nearly-two years that have elapsed since then, several more "accidents" have occurred to deepen the relationship. A number of Holy Cross monks have been able to visit Camaldoli on their way to conferences in Europe or on trips to Africa, where Holy Cross has mission work and a novitiate. The Prior General of the Camaldolese monks has toured several Holy Cross houses during a visit to the Camaldolese hermitage in California, and was able to be at Holy Cross's motherhouse in West Park, New York, during our 1977 annual Conference and Chapter, thus meeting nearly two-thirds of our members. Such visits have confirmed the initial impression of the Camaldolese monks that our two communities are very similar. While it is true the American Camaldolese house is exclusively an eremetical foundation, the community in Italy has a much broader range of life. St. Romuald, the Camaldolese founder, was deeply influenced by Greek monasticism, and the Camaldolese have inherited a pattern somewhat broader than that of most Roman Catholic contemplative communities. Though a majority of the monks live either at the monastery in Camaldoli or in one of the Italian hermitages, several monks also teach in Rome, one is engaged in missionary work, and others in parish ministry.

Our mutual discussions have revealed that the approach of the two communities to the issues raised by renewal have been remarkably similar, and the communities have dealt with these issues in very similar ways. In addition, Holy Cross has been developing a community house in Pineville, South Carolina, where the monks live in individual huts, giving us an approach to the Camaldolese life in that way as well. We have discovered that the communities have a similar range of interests, similar approaches to problem-solving, and a similar spread of life styles, though the Camaldolese community, naturally, leans much more heavily toward the classic contemplative style. Those monks who have been able to visit houses of the others' community have noted from the very beginning that the language barrier was not the problem we had expected, and this was because we have such basically similar approaches in so many areas of our lives. Obviously, deeper conversation will require a common language, and several members of both communities are working on this challenge presently.

Handmade paten presented to
The Order of The Holy Cross
by the Camaldolese in 1977
From the first visits, it seemed to many of us that a formal covenant would be not only a possibility, but also very desirable. After joint work on a covenant document, it was ratified during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January 1977, with the expectation that it will be reviewed yearly during the initial period and adjusted according to the insights gained from the experience of the previous year. At present, the covenant document contains most of the provisions that can be found in covenant arrangements be- tween parishes: the communities bind themselves to pray for each other and for reunion, to make formal prayer in public worship for each other, and to involve members of each community in one another's liturgical worship as seems suitable and possible. We also pledge to do as much as we can to make the reunion of our churches possible and not to place roadblocks in the way of union.

The covenant also contains some material appropriate to the special nature of our relationship: each community observes the principal feasts of the other; we exchange all of our informational material - newsletters, minutes of meetings, and so on; and each community has opened itself to the possibility of having members from the other group live with them for various periods of time (and there has been considerable interest expressed in this phase of the covenant). Currently, one Holy Cross brother is spending a month at the California Camaldolese hermitage, and other plans are being discussed. It will be some time before any statement can be made about the results of our covenant, because it is still very much in the opening stages. But the nearly tumultuous welcome accorded the Prior General of the Camaldolese during his visit to Holy Cross indicates that each community is embracing the covenant with much enthusiasm, and that there will be profound effects in our individual and corporate lives.

One definite result has already emerged with the promise of some significance. During meetings in the Spring of 1977 the two communities announced the founding of the Fellowship of St. Augustine and St. Gregory, membership in which is open to all who are interested in working for the reunion of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. 

Handmade Chalice and Paten presented to 
The Order of The Holy Cross
by the Camaldolese in 1977
The Fellowship will have the shared prayer and life of the Order of the Holy Cross and the Camaldolese monks as its foundation, and members will pledge themselves to serious prayer and work for the cause of reunion. A definite plan of action will develop as we come to see where the members' interests and strengths lie, but among other areas we hope the Fellowship will assist parishes who have entered into a covenant relationship and need guidance in implementing a meaningful program to express that relationship. Conferences, meetings for shared prayer, and suggestions for shared apostolates will also be considered.

Even though no formal publicity work has yet been undertaken, the response to the idea of the Fellowship has been surprisingly large, and letters have begun arriving from people who have heard rumors of its establishment. Among those who already agreed to be patrons of the Fellowship are the noted Roman Catholic theologian, Gregory Baum; Bishop Arthur Vogel of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri (Co-Chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States); Archbishop Theodore Scott, Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada and a Moderator of the World Council of Churches; George Maloney, S.J., from the Pope John XXIII Center, New York; and Cardinal Michael Pellegrino, the recently retired Archbishop of Turin, Italy. Holy Cross and Camaldolese monks thus have reason to hope that sharing their common consecration will have significant repercussions in efforts to reconcile our two churches.