St. Benedict tells us that he wrote the rule in order that by observing it, we can show we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life. If, with Christís help, we keep this little rule for beginners, he assures us we can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we learn from Scripture and from those who preceded us and that under Godís protection we will reach them. As we celebrate our 50 years of existence, we can admit to some degree of virtue and yet qualify as beginners in a way of life that has existed over 1500 years.
This year we will celebrate Dedication Day on 19 August with Mass at 10 AM and a brunch and music afterward. Joseph Gerry OSB, the Bishop of Portland Maine and the former Abbot of St. Anselmís Abbey in Manchester N.H. will be the celebrant. He knew Fr Damasus and the community since our beginning so it is a special blessing to have him with us.
That the then Abbot Primate founded us and not another monastery and that we became autonomous in six years seemed like a minor miracle at the time. That we have existed for 50 years, only adds to our wonder and gratitude. One outstanding expression of the miracle has been the cooperation of laity, clergy and ourselves. Fr. Damasus wrote that one of the reasons for the founding of Mount Saviour was to bring the monks and the laity together to the extent that it was beneficial to both parties. Guests and visitors have shared our worship, our work, our anguish and our joys over the years. They have been an inspiration and a moral support for many of us on various occasions and generous benefactors as well. There have been times when an unexpected bequest has been our salvation. Christís help, our own efforts with those of others, and Godís protection are truly accomplishing what St. Benedict said they would. We are still far from the summit and sometimes even finding the trail seems difficult. Nevertheless, confidence born of the experience of the past 50 years and faith in Godís promise to be with us, enlightens our darkness and that of the unknown future with an odd and joyful light. It is the light of Christ and the joy of the Lord who is our rampart and strength!
Religious Life has been compared to the treasure hidden in a field of which Our Lord speaks in the gospel of Matthew 13,44. Out of joy the person who found it sold all to buy that field. At the same time we realize the future of Religious Life in Western Europe and the United States will be very difficult. There are a number of reasons for this and I havenít the space to develop them here. Besides, you are probably familiar with many of them. However, a surprisingly encouraging development is the qualitative deepening of the virtues of faith, hope and charity among many religious. Without discounting the present discouragement and fatigue of their members, and the fact that people continue to leave Religious Life, many have been able to get beyond a static, unrelieved and pointless anguish, and see a kind of journey that seems to have had a clear beginning and is moving toward some kind of resolution. The suffering and diminishment are real but seemingly not destructive. This would not be the case if Religious Life were simply disintegrating. It has been pointed out that there may be an analogy between John of the Crossís Dark Nights of purification and growth in holiness of individuals and the present situation of Religious communities. As an analogy, I think it has considerable merit.
Something similar is found often in the psalms. Psalm 76 (77), for example, is a wonderful account of God dealing with Israel and the anguish of the psalmist at their present distress while remembering Godís guidance and presence during the Exodus from Egypt. ďÖwhen your way led through the sea, your path through the mighty waters and no one saw your footprints.Ē One advantage our 50 year experience gives us is that, though we donít see the footprints of the invisible God either, we do see the footprints of those in our monastic and Good Shepherd cemeteries who followed Christ to glory. So we have good cause to anticipate many more 50 year Anniversaries!
We invite you to join us in preparing for the next 50 years a year or two at a time. First of all, do join us in prayer that we ourselves respond to Godís love for us by living so as to follow Christ to glory. Join us also in our prayer for vocations and for the many guests and visitors who come to seek that peace which the world cannot give but which God in Christ gives abundantly. We gather daily around the statue of Mary, Queen of Peace, to pray for these intentions as well as for world peace.
We are concerned to prioritize the cost and timing of repairs of buildings in a responsible stewardship. To help with this, we ask your financial help. We have had to delay the partial reroofing, structural up-grading and window replacement in the East Building. The bids for nearly $70,000 will go out in January of 2002. The two guest cottages need about $7,000 each to bring them up to date. A cider press for $1,000 would be a great benefit since fire destroyed the commercial one in our neighborhood. Choir books for monks and guests need replacement and that will be $750. Plans for St. Gertrudeís Guest House are in progress and we need to replace some of the kitchen equipment in St. Josephís Guest House that has been there since the 1950ís as well as a new carpet. May God continue to reward your generosity and our mutual effort and joy in believing.