|Tom...you're way too cool.|
Overall the trip was great. It slowed me down. Introduced me to meditation that works for me. Reminded me of the eternal. Everything a good retreat should. But one day I had an encounter at 4am with Brother Alan. We had just finished 3:30am prayer. I was nursing a cuppa joe and reading through the Psalms in the library. I saw in the shadows this figure emerging. I didn't really know what to do, so I just nodded and smiled. He smiled back, and we had this special little moment.
Fast forward we finished the 5:45 prayers and were doing the Eucharist, and behold, Alan was the speaker that morning. He gave the sermon. I went down to breakfast, came back up for 7:45 prayer, went out for my hike, went to 12:15 prayer and when I sat down this poem came out. Granted...this is the second take. And then the story takes both a silly and sentimental turn.
|Brother Alan is the second from the left in front of the table.|
I copied the poem for Brother Alan and wanted to give him a copy. I had a hard time working up the nerve to approach him and there was the problem of silence. How do I tell him what this is? That he inspired this? After Compline at 7:30pm I noticed he was straightening the choir books. So, I kinda threw the poem on his hands, whispered, "I wrote this for you," and ran out of there. Real brave, eh?
So, I didn't know how he took it. The next day he didn't say anything. The day after however he caught me in the library. I saw him look around. He noticed we were alone. He whispered, "You wrote this?" I told him I did. He replied, "About me?" I again affirmed. Then with tears in his eyes he asked, "This is how you see me?" And I nodded and said yes. Then he whispered some words that will stick with me for a long time. "I try so hard." Those words caught me off guard. Why would a monk need to try hard? Why would a monk want to be seen a certain way? And then it was like my little light bulb moment. "This is your future...you're looking in a future mirror." I mean that not in the sense of being a monk, but as in, my issues, my concerns, my day-to-day things will continue just as Brother Alan's do. In some sense we are one in the same just as Michael Phelps (random much?) or Shane Claiborne or Maya Angelou also are. We are human no matter how far along the journey we get. And I think I knew that, but in that moment realization finally took hold.
Brother Alan and I talked for a couple of minutes. He told me how Merton had drawn him in as well. How he had served as a pall bearer at his funeral. It was really a sweet, sweet time. But as I got up today, I thought about that encounter and want to share this poem with you.
Our night watchman, awake from your sleeping stall
First prayers we have finished, more prayers yet to come
Alone we two in this library, silent but electricity's hum
Alone I sat, not quite caffeinated, not yet showered
There you appeared on your way in that holy hour
Not knowing rules, I hesitate...nod...smile
In your grace you return them, confirming it worthwhile
Little did I know, oh humble man of cloth
That this grace was only the first you'd give.
For today you'd present us the sacrament
Today you'd teach us to live...
In purity, full-hearted in our vocation
Though I may not know what that is
Your words helped create an awakening
That I can rest knowing I will
You in your cassock, me in pearl snaps
Us once divided by Luther, united again in Christ
Happy little monk, head bobbing down the hall
My night watchman leaving your sleeping stall
Thank you for smiles, nods, bright eyes
That bestow on me grace, that reminds me that
It is more than the hustle, more than distraction
It is more than anything, residing in a king
On His holy hill, together with strangers we love.