Wednesday, April 8, 2009

(1) Summer

Chapter Two. SUMMER

Happily my reputation as "Master Alan" from Paris had proceeded
me, and I was made welcome as a novice at the priory. I was in
for a year of training towards understanding the "Rule of Saint
Benedict" as well as undergoing the practical learning of the
Benedictine lifestyle. But first I was given a thorough tour of the
layout of both the priory and the cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral was also deemed an "abbey," in that
the monks served as its choir and serviced its sacred activities.
Overall, however, the cathedral was under the aegis of a selected
archbishop who basically was the abbot--and the priory was led
by a prior.

The priory buildings were separate from the cathedral, and were
mainly situated north of the cathedral. The monastic house
consisted of cloisters, a common room, a chapter building, but
the kitchens and dining halls were located even farther from the
cathedral. There were also hospitality sections for visitors as
well as an infirmary and a building to service the poor. All in all
the priory, including the cathedral, amounted to a big operation.

As a near 40-year-old novice, I had to quell any pride I might
have. It was a strict year, not only learning but engraining
personally the major elements of the Rule. They included
Stability, Obedience, Conversio Morum, Hospitality, and Ora
et Labora for beginners.

Being a priest long under Church authority, I had no trouble
understanding obedience to the prior. As for stability, remaining
all one's life in the same Benedictine house, well at the time I
savored the prospect. I had long languished for a "home," so
I was anxious to settle in and stay at Christ Church Priory for
the rest of my life. As for Ora et Labora--Prayer and Work--I
was more than willing to enter into that part of Benedictine life.

It was Conversio Morum--slowly developing a true Christ life--
that most concerned me. Of course the Benedictines were
reasonable people and realized that Conversio Morum was
the work of an entire lifetime. But inwardly I was still beset by
guilt. I had never told anyone about my affair with the young
maiden, not even in confession. I was afraid that I would be
dismissed as a priest, and now as a monk. Hence I kept my
secret, but it tainted my being a monastic from the very beginning!

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