Saturday, October 23, 2010

Morning mewsings

After Vigils and Lauds each morning, we typically have about 75 minutes for silent prayer, reading, reflection, and attention to personal needs before Mass begins at 7:30. Each of us has his own little routine. I usually duck into the Blessed Sacrament chapel for a few minutes directly after Vigils and Lauds, check the bulletin board for prayer requests and other announcements, and then yawn and stretch my way into the refectory, where we eat breakfast casually and in silence. Without really watching each other, we know what everyone else usally eats: one has toast, another yogurt and a banana, this one prunes (not moi), and that one a sweet roll. I usually opt for a bowl of cereal--two-thirds bran flakes and one-third a combination of granola and Cheerios, with blueberries on top.

After breakfast, I pad into the calefactory, grab a cup of coffee, my Bible or other spiritual reading, and a chair near the window. For the next 15 or 20 minutes (sometimes longer, sometimes not), I do lectio divina--usually with the upcoming Mass readings.

Rinsing out my cup, I then usually head outside, if the weather is favorable, for a short walk. No particular goal or destination. It's really an extension of lectio for me; I observe the slowly rising sun, the cloud patterns, the rustle of leaves in the slight morning breeze. I try to notice something new each day, something I've seen before a hundred times, but revealed in a new way through the dawning light. The sandstone, the steeples, a rosebush, the surrounding hills slowly shaking off sleep.

I listen to the manner in which the birds greet the coming day, and in my own way, inwardly join in their song of praise to our Creator. Occasionally, some cows from a distant pasture will chime in, or a howling dog. If I am fortunate enough, I will see a deer springing across a nearby meadow. Sometimes a guest will walk by, and we may chat a little, but usually a nod, smile, or simple "Good morning" is sufficient.

On this particular morning (when I took the above photographs), I found Socks, the unofficial monastery cat, in her customary hangout spot--the guesthouse porch. Socks--a black cat with white paws, chin, and chest--showed up out of nowhere a couple months back as a scrawny but friendly little kitten. She gets plenty of attention--among other things--around here from monks, guests, and students. So, she has stuck around, and has grown in the process. Every once in a while, she'll be seen strutting about with a mouse in her jaws. Good for her; we certainly don't want them.

This morning, she wound herself through my legs, mewing and purring, at one point hopping up onto a chair to inspect my coffee cup (I had two cups this morning) and ruefully noting that it contained no milk. Curious at first about my camera, she eventually lost interest and curled up against the sandstone wall of the guesthouse to doze.

On the way back to my cell, I stop in the laundry room. One of my daily little chores is to sort through and shelve all the numbered packages of laundry for all the monks to pick up later in the day (each monk has an assigned number for the outside laundry service, which returns the clean clothes early each morning). I read each number, and if I remember, say a little prayer for this or that monk as I shelve each package. Returning to my cell before Mass, I brush my teeth and busy about with a few odds and ends (how's that for a euphemism?).

Sometimes, I'll have a few more minutes to spare and will read a bit more or simply sit in the quiet of my cell before the bells summon us all back into the church for Mass. There for the next 30 minutes or so, we join and lift up our hearts to the Lord before stepping out into whatever the day has in store for us, nourished anew by our good and gracious Creator. Thanks be to God.

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