Saturday, June 28, 2008

+the headless monk+

Men of all ages join the monastic community. I saw every decade in a man's life represented. I am sure brothers join the community at various places in their lives and are drawn to monasticism for reasons unique to each.

There are a number of older monks at Mepkin, a couple of which are in their 90's! You can tell which have been in monasticism the longest by how bent over they are. One brother is so bent over that, from the back, with his cowl draped across the back of his neck, he looks like he is headless! Though he is "bowed" in body, he bows deeper still in worship.

Patty told me that the reason some monks are so bent over is from their regimen of fasting in their younger days. I imagine the fasts were so severe that calcium depletion and osteoporosis were the results. Vatican II ended such ascetic practices. Now the monks must have the abbots' permission to fast. I wonder if the older monks think the new generation is "soft".

The older monks have responsibilities like everyone else, tailored to their abilities. Before each service one such brother slowly shuffles along the "desks", turning the pages in the Psalters to the correct pages, marking the various readings with the ribbons, laying the hymnbook open to the right hymns for the service, setting out the responsorial sheets. His gnarled and knuckled hands are as bent as the branches of the ancient oaks of the abbey. And as graceful and beautiful. They lack only the moss that hangs from the oaks' limbs. Give it time.

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