Thursday, August 2, 2012

First day


I plop down onto my bed at 10:30 and feel like it was only minutes ago that I was emerging, slightly hesitantly, from it to go back down for some breakfast before mass at 8am. That, of course, was after the lauds at 6. I woke up at 5:30, emerging from a heavy sleep into the cold, misty morning, and walked with Lacey to the small wooden chapel five minutes away. As the high school senior and I sat down, Mother Prioress, an elderly mother smaller than me, walked in. She didn’t say a word and I dared not say one in fear of disrespect or breaking her seemingly ancient rhythm. Besides, she had walked over and was looking methodically at a small book she had picked up from one of the pews. And then, after locating the page that had seemed to have been eluding her, she came over to us, placed the book in our hands and said “this should be the right page.” It said Monday lauds at the top. Welcome to my first attempt of Gregorian chant and true Benedictine spirituality.

One by one, the sisters trickled in over the next several minutes, bowing to the sacristy and the altar respectfully as they have done for decades before sitting down on the other side of the railing. They are technically cloistered, after all. And then the chanting began, only it was not like anything I had been used to.

First, it was in Latin. The psalms and responsorials and verses were connected to each other—halfway between being spoken and being sung.  I followed along as best I could, scanning the words the sisters seemed to be flying through and fumbling through the unknown pages. Next thing I knew it was 6:45.

Back at the guest house, I needed to lie down before mass. I almost don’t know what to say about what happened between those moments getting out of my flowered sheets to these getting back in. I went to mass at 8 after coffee and toast with butter and jam.After mass I met Mr. Dilecta at 10:15 in the barn to help her feed the cattle. I then did gardening/weeding until lunch time when the Catholic youth group of about 30 teenagers came in and set up for their weeklong stay (became even more grateful for my own room after seeing their tents.) We had sandwiches for lunch around 12:30 and then got a tour of the grounds and unloaded one of the trucks that had wood and roofing supplies. I joined team “Merbodo,” one of about 5 teams named after an obscure Benedictine saint, who is going to be taking down an old roof and replacing it this week. We played a lot of games outside after, including the human knot and one about being and egg, a dinosaur, a princess and a king or queen, then had an early dinner around 5:30 (spaghetti and salad), had an “adult meeting” that I was somehow a part of followed by team “challenges” and praise and worship. We won one of the challenges—a food relay race where we had to quickly chew and swallow things like gummies, jerky and saltines before the next person could go. Then a group leader gave a talk on temptation and we broke up into our small groups to talk about it. Finally hung out outside and talked to Emily, a teacher who just got married and mingled with people until now. I’m exhausted.

The funny thing is, that description doesn’t even begin to sum up my day.